Where are you from?

I was at an event a couple of nights ago and someone asked me “Where are you from?” I hesitated before I answered. Trying to think of the easiest answer and struggling to really find the right answer. So, I said “I’m from Illinois”. After I said it, I felt lame.

So, I have been thinking about how do I answer that? Do I say: “I’m from Palestine but my family left in 1967 after the war and settled in Jordan but I was born in the US and have lived here most of my life.”

I could say I’m from Jordan but that doesn’t really explain where I really am from.

The other question that comes to mind is, What is their goal with asking that question.

Do they want to know why a white looking girl is wearing hijab? Or do they just assume that I’m from another country?

I haven’t come up with a good answer, I’m not sure there is a right answer. So, I might go with my backup answer. “I’m from Jordan”

Where are you from?

8 thoughts on “Where are you from?

  1. One of the things I like to ask people about is where are they from. To break the ice in the first day in class, I tell my students a little bit about myself including where I was born and where I lived before coming the States and ask them to introduce themselves and tell us where they are from. I don’t think anyone should take an issue with this question. Even when I was in Jordan I used sometimes to ask students where they are from. My intention wasn’t to know if someone is originally a Jordanian or a Palestinian. Just where they live; Amman, Irbid, or Aqaba. But of course since in Jordan everything is complicated and many people take issue with such question I stopped asking it. Luckily, I am practicing my “where are you from?” question freely here. When someone tells me that he is from Saudi Arabia my second question sometimes, not always, is where from Saudi Arabia? And I do the same thing with people from India. I like knowing people’s background and cultures. I understand some people feel sensitive about this question and I understand their concern because some people may have an agenda behind asking this question. But some people like myself just ask for the sake of curiosity nothing more and of course not to base any judgement.
    By the way, in the old days it was common among Arabs to ask the question where are you from or where is fulan from. They wanted to know from what city is that person.
    A friend of mine who has similar background as yours told me that he stopped telling people he is from Palestine because people used to ask him about life in Palestine and how he and his family are managing to live in a war zone. He used to explain to them that he is originally a Palestinian but born and raised in Jordan. But this of course didn’t help because he just got more questions. He now tells them he is a Jordanian.
    Your case is even more complicated 🙂 Because you are an American as well so do you say you are a Palestinian, Jordanian or an American.
    I once had a long discussion with American students about why I am a Jordanian although I was born and lived in Kuwait for 15 years.
    Still, where we are from is an easier question compared to what we call home (Jordan or America) 🙂

    1. I like you approach to it. Turning the tables and asking them where are they from. I feel like it would take the pressure off me a little..and spread it around a little 🙂 I do agree, that asking someone in Jordan where they are from would cause somewhat of an issue. They might assume the wrong thing and that is not a good thing.

      Why did they ask where they are from? I’m assuming it’s similar to why we do it now. You can tell a lot about a person by where they are from…Maybe not so much anymore but back in the day.

      I might start picking a choosing…depending on my mood. 😀 I could be American one day, Palestinian another and Jordanian some days. Depending on how much the country is liked at the time…(Yeah, that might not work either)

  2. I struggle with that myself. Sometimes what they really want ot know is “why do you wear that scarf on your head?” I usually go into a long..”well I live here now, but I was born and raised in ……., but my is from……, and my dad is from……”

    I faced a minor fear of mine this week. I had a patient this week who was a really old white man veteran and came in with all those military pins that he’s proud of and I knew from the way he was staring it at me that he wanted to ask and I wanted him to feel like it’s ok. So I asked him where he is from first to break the ice, then he said “SOOOOO where are YOU from?” lol

    We ended up bonding cause I went to the same undergrad as his daughter and we both played racquetball. Although he’s an old man I got the feeling I might be the the first (or one of the few) covered muslim females he had significant meaningful interactions with.

    Maybe working in a VA won’t be so intimidating after all (petite girl in hijab working with veterans and soldiers who might not have the best opinion of muslims)

    1. Yeah, it’s not an easy task and when you wear hijab it just opens up another can of worms.

      I’m glad you had a good experience with the old man! Some guys can be really open and just find common threads and sometimes it’s not so much so!

      You know, I think it’s great that you are doing it because you are showing them a different side to Muslims and they will think twice before they judge or take that shot. It humanizes Muslims. Keep up the good work 😀

  3. Oh gosh this is such a familiar issue. When preparing my papers for the army last month, I needed to fill in “town of origin”. I asked the officer more info. He asked me where I was born, so I told him Kuwait. He asked: What about your father? I answered: “Jenin”. So he said Jenin is my town of origin. But how? I’ve never seen Palestine, only through Satelite TV and I came to Amman before I could even walk or speak! It’s confusing!

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