As a foreigner living in the European Union, life has its perks and also disadvantages.
It is so annoying and rude to be asked 10 times a day where I’m from. And the worst part is, often times it’s the first question I get asked when meeting someone new. From the local shop to pubs, restaurants, and basically any other situation you can imagine.
Ok, I get it.. I have a different accent than yours. But when I say “Hi, how are you?” And you tell me “Oh, where are you from?” it automatically makes me feel like you’re judging me based on where I was born. As if you sensed I’m not from around here and you rush to get out your stereotype catalog and fit me in there somewhere.
People are people, no matter where they come from. And just because my accent is different than yours, it doesn’t make me less valuable or less of a person.
As I came to your country, it seems to me very obvious that I like your culture, I love the people, I share your country’s values and I’m here to help build a better community and future – I’m here to help, not to break.
Getting back to my original rant… my point is asking someone where they are from is a very personal and intimate question, and it shouldn’t be brought up exactly the moment you meet someone new. It makes that person feel uncomfortable, like you already made your mind up about them, which is quite upsetting. It’s just as bad as asking someone of colour if you can touch their hair.
“Where are you from” = “Why aren’t we the same colour and why don’t you have my accent?”
Get to know them as a person first, based on the things they do, on what their interests are, on where they studied, what they do for a living, then we can get personal and I will gladly tell you about my background.
Human beings are so diverse and interesting, and they’re so much more than where they were born, that it’s a shame to put them in a box of preconceived ideas. So please consider this before (probably unconsciously) asking the next foreigner you meet where they’re from.