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Kate Torgovnick May

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For people who have a hard time answering the question: "Where are you from?"

In Pico Iyer's talk from TEDGlobal 2013, he looks at the complex nature of the question: "Where are you from?" Because while his family originally comes from India, Iyer himself grew up in the United Kingdom. He spent the next 48 years living in the United States. Meanwhile, his heart resides in Japan. He calls these the "pieces of a stained glass self."

As he notes, in our increasingly global world, it's not uncommon to be a half-Korean, half-German woman in love with Paris or a half-Thai, half-French man in Canada.

And so we're curious: what are the pieces of YOUR stained glass whole? Share here and you may see your answers on the TED Blog soon.

I'll share first: I am a half-Italian, half-Polish Jewish-Christian with a Russian last name, who grew up in the Southern United States and now calls herself a New Yorker.

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  • Jul 23 2013: It seems that no matter where I go or where i live I am constantly asked "Where are you from?" And this is how the conversation typically unfolds:

    STRANGER (checking out my dark skin and my contrasting Western demeanour): Where are you from?
    ME (hesitating and wondering how to simplify the answer): Ummm... Bangladesh.
    STRANGER: Oh, so where do you live in Bangladesh?
    ME: I don't live there....
    STRANGER, (a bit confused): But you were born there?
    ME: No, I was born in Iraq.
    (Stranger furrows brows)
    ME: You see, my mother is Iraqi and my father is Bangladeshi.
    STRANGER: Oh, so you are mixed. So where do you live?
    ME: Costa Rica, For the past 10 years, that is.
    STRANGER (trying to understand how Costa Rica fits into the picture): Where did you GROW UP?
    ME: Bangladesh till I was 7, then England, then Pakistan, then the U.S...
    STRANGER (still trying to fit me into some idea of belonging): So your nationality is Bangladeshi?
    ME: No... British...
    STRANGER: British....? ....How did you end up in Costa Rica?
    ME: I married a Colombian-Indian and we lived in Curacao for 11 years, and eventually we moved to Costa Rica.....

    I do not have a home country, nor a culture, nor an ethnicity, nor a religion that I wholly identify with. As one friend put it "You are a foreigner wherever you go." Another friend summed it up more poetically: "You are the daughter of the wind." Yes, true.

    Life has orchestrated it such that I am not fettered by crystalized notions of "belonging". Thankfully.

    Operating under the assumption that such people are the minority, the more interesting question, in my opinion, is how do such people impact their environments? What can they /do they offer the world?
  • Jul 18 2013: Hi Kate,
    Are you familiar with the "third culture kid" phenomenon, a.k.a the condition of being "terminally unique"? ;)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_culture_kid

    The world is more accessible than it has ever been, and I am, like so many others, a product of my parents desire to explore the world, and help me to become a global citizen. Nowadays, my accent no longer gives me away, but I am also more comfortable with my roots. No matter what my passport says, I am who I am, regardless of where I 'come from', and I try to help people understand that first and foremost.

    At the same time, being integrated into a culture doesn't automatically turn you into a native, nor does it grant you acceptance. It took me a very long time to feel at home here, but often times, I truy, wonder if I would feel at home anywhere at all. I am a nomad by nature, and proud of it!

    Our roots don't always define who we are.
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      • Jul 19 2013: Hey TED Friend!
        To me, 'fitting in' and the feeling 'at home' are two very different things.
        I am an adapter, can fit in anywhere on this earth. I love to dive into a culture, assimilate, integrate, be an active part of the society.
        Feeling at home for me, has to do with emotions attached to roots and background. I don't feel 'at home' in America because I've been away too long, but I don't necessarily feel 'at home' in Holland either, because I was imported, so to speak.
        It is hard for me to understand why people remain in the same town their entire lives, but at the same time, I see that they clearly have a strong sense of feeling 'at home'. To me, remaining in one place and never experiencing the beauty and excitement of what is beyond where you came from, is sad.
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          Jul 20 2013: Ditto........
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    Jul 22 2013: I almost cried listening to Pico's talk because he understands one of the biggest challenges in my life: defining who I am geographically. I am a college student, so I am constantly moving. In the past two years, I have had over five addresses. I grew up Ohio and always spend a couple weeks there during the year, but I go to school in Illinois. Spring semester, I studied abroad in Wales and spent more time traveling through European countries than actually studying in Wales. Last summer, I worked in Alabama. This summer, I'm working in Houston. I have no idea where I'll be next summer or after college is over.

    Wherever I go, even when I was traveling through Europe, people wanted to know exactly where I was from in the United States. After a lot of thinking about this idea over plane and train rides, I decided my home is not where I lay my head down at night, but where I know I could lay down my head. It's about people and community, as Pico said. I have homes across the US from California to Minnesota to Massachusetts to Georgia because there are people there who care about me and would be happy to make their home my home too.
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      Jul 22 2013: Morgan i feel for your plight and amazed to know your answer which i believe can become a catalyst of change. " I decided my home is not where I lay my head down at night, but where I know I could lay down my head".
  • Jul 18 2013: Have you ever seen the IMAX - The Blue Planet ?

    No imaginary lines - no borders - no countries - just one amazing planet.

    That is where I am from.
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      Jul 18 2013: ME TOO !!!!!!!!
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    Jul 17 2013: Physically I would say I'm totally African; as a filmmaker my training makes me lean towards the Hollywood model; as an artist I'm in love with the impressionism/NeoClassiccism & Romanticism era.
    As a writer I'm a follower of C S Lewis, Wole Soyinka, John Steinbeck, Leo Tolstoy and Chinua Achebe
    In terms of music I love British acts more than other nationals; I love African cuisine and Indian cuisine. Spiritually I believe the God of the Bible, that Jesus is Lord over all.
    I would say my stained glass is more ideological than physical.
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      Jul 17 2013: I like how you say your stained glass self is more ideological than physical. I think that is true for a lot of people, but they don't see it and appreciate it.
  • Aug 10 2013: re: Daniel
    think of yourself as a rainbow in reverse
    all those beautiful colors came together to create one white light
    this one light has been broken by the prism of geography
    the angle of light is your culture which makes you red, green, or even pink maybe for some
    soon the pyramidic prism will be put on its head and the colors will meet again
    any questions
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    Jul 31 2013: I am from a tiny little cell that kept dividing and growing for nine months now to 28 years. From Earth?
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    Jul 31 2013: Born in Quito, ensemble in USA from (15 states), develop by Austrian, Germany and Swiss, tested in France,Portugal,Sweden, confirmed in Spain. Programed to live in Sweden.
    My heart feels like a patchwork art and my soul a collage of spirits and cultures, I have exchange my heart and I have replace it with little pieces from each single one of my experiences..
    I come from Earth.
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    Jul 30 2013: At first reading of this question I thought it very simple to answer. Then reading the answers of others I see that it is not simple at all. I am a New Zealander with New Zealand parents and grandparents, and if someone asked me my origins that is how I would reply. But the person I am is from the experiences I have had as a human, and my perceptions of those experiences. The person I am is continually learning, growing and changing. I am from the human race and am unique.
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    Jul 28 2013: I'm from here because I'm not there.
  • Jul 23 2013: I was born in Germany. I traveled and lived all over the world only to find many places i'd call home. At the moment i live in Canada and can't imagine being anywhere else.... until i do:) But there's only one place i can really call home! That place is In myself....... wherever i am on Mother Earth!

    Thank you for this question!!!
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    Jul 18 2013: The exact term for this situation is like what Lizanne has mentioned "third culture kid". But I have quite the same view, but not exactly, as Scott Armstrong. If we have so many people like this, there is no point in defining where you come from. Some people might need that to make sense of themselves and where do they fit in in this world.
    However, I believe that it does not matter where you start but how you finish and what have you gained along the way. Knowing where you come from may not be as important as how the different cultures shape you the person who you are.

    I want to share with you all a story of a French girl called Tippi who was born and grew up in Namibia. For me, it is an amazing story in discussing about this topic. Tippi did a good job in bringig Africa closer to the western society, especially among the young generation.

    http://www.boredpanda.com/tippi-of-africa-real-life-mowgli-girl/

    The advantage of a third culture kid is that you are multi-culture, meaning that you are more understanding towards people from different cultures. However, the downside of it is that some cultures get eroded. Take yourself as an example Kate, which culture influences you the most? The problem is that the children would only follow the dominant culture and leave out most of the rest. They may know a bit about other less dominant cultures, but that is not enough to keep a culture alive.
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    Jul 18 2013: it's always been a "global world" so i'm not sure why people think it's a recent phenomena.

    but considering it's a trendy new catch-phrase, then surely people should be claiming to come from the planet earth rather than one particular corner of it.

    I understand that this is one way people try to define their identity but, again, I've never subscribed to that old chestnut "to know where you're going, you have to know where you're from". To me, that's a sure way to keep yourself firmly in a rut.

    In the end, it's just a way of gaining confidence in who you are.

    In reality, knowing where you're from just indicates where you have to pay tax.
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    Jul 18 2013: Nice question and trend of comments.
    Fortunately this is a community with mostly people with a good sense and education. Therefor the answers and reflections you got so far.

    I lived abroad and when asked I proudly answered "Portugal", where from? "South, right near the corner of Europe". Was I born there? No.
    I was born in Lisbon but grew up in the south, my mother's family (the one I am emotional closest to) belongs to the oldest known families in that town and I always felt that feeling of belonging. Is this the main reason I answer I am from there? No.
    I say it because there I understand the Nature... the wind traits, the ocean currents and waves, the sun cycle all year around, I understand the atmosphere and its micro-climate, I know the food and water sources, the different lands and its compositions, I know the architecture and building, I know the people and its diversity.

    About heritage well I think it says something but little to influence my answer to "where are you from?"
    For me would be a mess... my father is from Mozambique and part of his family from Mozambique other with origins back to Norwegians vikings, mother raised in Angola but her family is from South Portugal with origins in Mediterranean pirates..
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      Jul 18 2013: Dear João,
      Very nice to meet you on TED again....I have always appreciated your insightful comments:>)

      I feel like I am from everywhere and nowhere...now here! Born of mostly Irish decent, with a little bit of German and French in the mix.

      That being said, however, I feel like I connect so easily to very ancient cultures in various parts of the world. As I think you know, I believe that we are all interconnected, so my feeling of connection does not surprise me:>)
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        Jul 18 2013: Dear Colleen,

        Lately I have been more participative in what concerns commenting talks and conversations. Thank you for the complement, likewise I always even when not commenting follow yours on different talks.

        On other level which I think is not what Kate intends this conversation to go at, I agree with you. I do also believe on a common ground and good between every religion, culture or nationality: Earth.
  • Jul 18 2013: My question is , what is the real motive of asking that question? I am often hesitant to answer the question where are you from, because I am not sure if the question is being asked from sheer curiosity or a subconscious attempt to place me in a well meaning labeled box. People tend to gravitate, like, trust people like themselves. I believe I am like everyone from all cultures, so I like to say that I am International(which I am). I love all people from all cultures, and I am genuinely curious. So, when I ask you, where you are from, it is sheer curiosity. I want to learn more about you, your people, your country.
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    Jul 18 2013: Great question!

    "Where are you from?" is a cliche question. When people hear my accent and want to show an interest, but don't know what to ask, they ask "where are you from?" To which I say "from Beaverton". Apparently, this is not what they meant, so, in order not to seem rude, I add, "but I grew up in Ukraine". Which is, still, not the whole story, because I was born in Russia and speak Russian at home.

    The next cliche comment is "Your English is very good!". I say "Thanks!" but I think to myself: "Yeah, right. If it were really good, you wouldn't even hear the accent and ask me 'where are you from?' in the first place."

    Well, I'm being facetious here. It's good when people show sincere interest in each other's background and culture. I like when conversation goes beyond the "where are you from" question.
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      Jul 18 2013: I like how you reflected on the question. And that you, like me, feel that it is important to take sincere interest in other's background and culture.....and to go beyond 'where are you from'.

      Many times that is the only question I get asked.

      I always answer it the same...."I was born in such and such a country, but I am a citizen of planet Earth"

      I usually add the last tidbit to get a reaction from my interrogator.
      They usually laugh, and say "me too".

      I find most people feel very vulnerable speaking about where they are from.

      Here in the US, everyone comes from somewhere else.

      I was born in Cuba, but came to the US when I was a little girl.
      And I have lived in three different countries as an adult.

      I consider myself a human on Earth.
      I do not identify myself with any culture, or country.......not in my heart......not any more.
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        Jul 18 2013: I never had a strong sense of national identity. I moved from Russia to Western Ukraine when I was 4. I remember living in Russia very vaguely. However, we spoke Russian at home, and I never identified myself as Ukrainian. But I could not call myself Russian either because I did not live in Russia for most of my conscious life. Now I live in the U.S. and, actually, appreciate the culture. I would call myself an American even though I am not a citizen yet. Especially, considering that I left Ukraine 16 years ago and Ukraine is a totally different country than the one I left back. So, the question "where are you from?" is truly perplexing to me.

        It's a question of identity. Recently, contemplating religion and the nature of conflicts raging today in the world, I came to a conclusion that strong sense of identity with race, religion, ethnicity, ideology, or even a brand name (like "iPhone user" vs. "Android user") leads to creating walls between people. It divides the world into "us" and "them" where "we" are, usually, rational, peaceful, and moral people and "they" are the source of trouble. This worldview is everywhere and is a source of much grief and evil.
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          Jul 18 2013: Arkady, I couldn't agree with you more.

          It seems that many of us have arrived at the same conclusion.
          There are many walls that are put up to separate us, and we are all humans.

          Let's hope more people start to Wake Up and realize that Unity is much more powerful than Division.

          Why do you suppose people fall into the trap of separating themselves into a bubble and wanting to be apart from the rest?
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          Jul 19 2013: Agreed.

          I sometimes wonder how people would define themselves or place themselves in those intertwined, perplexing knots of cultural or religious threads if I asked a simple question - "Who are you?" Some would say "I'm Bob", others would say "I'm a Muslim", some would place their gender or roots first, some would have other answers. All of them would say a lot of how strong ties they have with their ancenstry, ethnicity, choices, experience and more.

          How about "I'm just a human being, just as you and Bob and all the others standing there"?
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        Jul 18 2013: Why people do it is understandable. It starts with self-awareness - defining "self". It starts from the question "who am I?". This question is answered, typically, in terms of things people associate with. And defining it is impossible without defining what people do NOT associate with. Tribal mentality - the need "to belong" somewhere.

        But it's important to realize that these borders and definitions are subjective. Fundamentally, there is no difference between two banks of a river. I'm referring to the Zen story where one man shouts to another man on the opposite side of a river: "Hey, do you know how to get to the other side of the river?" and the other man replies "You ARE on the other side!".

        The question "where are you from?" implies that the person who asks perceives me as a foreigner, an alien - someone he does not associate himself with. In many cases it does lead to discrimination. People who come to America do want to be perceived and treated as Americans.
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          Jul 18 2013: I get a lot of discrimination.....from my own countrymen........they feel I am no longer one of them.

          And, I do not fit in with Americans in general.....because I am not one of them.

          I have spent many hours within the last 5 or so years coming to this awareness.

          I personally feel at home everywhere I go.....because wherever I go....there I am.

          But, I often get the feeling that others do not think I belong....it might be me.....but I don't think so.
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        Jul 18 2013: Mary, interesting experience.

        I, generally, don't feel discrimination from anyone. I don't know why. I know people who feel that others discriminate against them because of the accent. I hear from many people that they think Russian accent is cool and some people at my work have fun imitating it (sounding more like Italians than Russians). But I don't feel discrimination. May be, I just don't notice. In Western Ukraine, there is a lot of nationalism and negative sentiments towards Russians who were perceived as occupants by locals since 1939, when Stalin annexed Western Ukraine. But I never felt any hostility from anyone. It could be because I speak Ukrainian without an accent. And by my last name and my nose, I could as well pass as a Polish or a Jew.

        Re: "I personally feel at home everywhere I go.....because wherever I go....there I am."

        Yes. This is the attitude I try to adopt myself. Being unhappy about what and where I am... makes me unhappy. I see a lot of people adopting this attitude. Some time ago, there were popular bumper stickers saying "I'd rather be fishing/golfing/dancing/scuba diving/etc. now". These days, I see a few stickers imitating those, but saying "I'd rather be here now"

        I also saw a sticker showing a straight face :-| instead of a smiley saying "Have a day". I liked that idea. "Have a nice day" implies that my day is not nice enough. It also makes me think "Is my day nice?" and I often have to conclude that it's not or, rather, I prefer not to even think about it. For this reason, I never know what to answer to the cliche American greeting "How is it going?". I usually answer "It's going - that's what matters" or "Slowly" or "It's more important, where it is going" or "I don't know - I haven't opened my email yet" or something similar.
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          Jul 20 2013: Hi Arkady....sorry for delay in response.

          You know, as I read my comment again, I realized, that perhaps discrimination is not a very appropriate word......I think a lot of it is just my perception.

          I have never felt hostility, it's more of a feeling like they feel I am not one of them.
          It is hard to explain.

          And, yes, it is interesting how we can fall into routinely asking questions, not really caring what the answer will be.

          In Spanish often people ask "como andas?" "how do you get along".....I usually reply..."with my feet".......and the other person will laugh....but they do not come back and ask anything further. Just asking how you are doing out of formality, and obligation.

          I think sometimes the shallowness in face to face conversations is a worldwide epidemic.....I personally enjoy delving into conversations with anyone, anytime.

          Yesterday I spoke to a woman from Haiti, who speaks French criole, she was so kind, we enjoyed a short but meaningful conversation.
          Today, I spoke to an Indian woman with her kids. She is from Gujarat state.
          Really pleasant lady.

          The TED community allows us to be exposed to so many cultures and trains of thought, it is very unique. An intellectual, social playground for those of us who enjoy interacting with our fellow Earthlings, if you will. :D
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      Jul 18 2013: Yes, my father with his prominent accent was frequently asked where he was from, which should, perhaps, have been obvious from the accent.

      He always replied "Los Angeles," fully knowing that was not what people were asking.
  • Jul 17 2013: I tried to answer this and ended up deleting it all because in truth I am an American first and foremost. My background is just a hodgepodge of European mixology that contributed the DNA to who I am. However my upbringing in an ethnically diverse community had as much influence if not more on who I would become.
    I have lived all over the U.S. and discovered each and every state has a culture of it's own. I am grateful for my life experience because I think it gives me a much better understanding of our country and enables me to be far more tolerant and/or compassionate toward my fellow citizens.
    So where am I from? Here. Right here. If we speak you will hear undertones of accents from places I have lived. People tend to hear the accent they are familiar with, so when they ask me where I am from, they are actually telling me where they are from. They are seeking common ground.
    We all have something that makes us like those we meet. If we spent more time looking at those things we have in common, and less time trying to define ourselves, and others, as different, we might be better able to work together toward goals that would benefit our communities and our country as a whole. The more we focus on our individual uniqueness, the more divided we become, the less we are able to accomplish and the more negative energy we seem to be expelling into the world around us.
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      Jul 20 2013: I will have to disagree about the more we focus on our individual uniqueness, the more divided we become, ect...

      It is two different things here. Excepting differences is key.

      Can you tell me what this negative energy kicker or expelling thing is? I hear this term here and there. I just don't understand. I just get the image of Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka movie. Is this right? I don't know, it's very broad and open for interpretation. Maybe this is the image you are displaying in my mind at the moment? Oh, I hope not. This world does not need ANYMORE Veruca Salt(s) both male and female versions of that character.
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    Aug 11 2013: Born in Seoul, grew up in Paris, while my heart resides in Norway. Also, I am preparing to study in US. That's what I got just from the first 15 years of my life: I wonder where I am going to be from when I'm an adult
    • Aug 14 2013: Hello Hong Min:) It's great in that I meet my country man in TED conversation. You have experienced a lot of countries so you maybe have a certain preference which is kind of standard of your own life. I was born in Seoul too, now preparing to studying in China. No experiences do harm people. The more challenges we face, the more patience we get. Cheer up for both us:-o !
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    Aug 5 2013: I have always dreaded the "Where are you from" question because I don't always know how to answer.

    In person, it might not be a bad thing as I express "Half Pakistani, Half Kuwaiti, Part British, Part Indian and grew up in California since I was 3 but born in Pakistan" and usually it'll lead to an interesting conversation. It's nice to be able to explore and discuss the different places we all resonate with one way or another.

    On paper (for the census, college applications, internships, jobs, etc.), I absolutely hate this question for a few reasons.
    1) I am multiracial so I can't simply choose one location without feeling uncomfortable.
    2) Even if I am allowed to display my multiracial background, it doesn't do justice to who I am or what that means.
    3) I don't believe that where you come from should define where you're headed.

    Something I enjoy doing on questions that ask your ethnic background and leave an other option is check off the other option and write in "human." At the end of the day, I am loving hearing about everyone's cultural backgrounds and their stories but we all really do share the commonality of being human and that I think is beautiful.
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    Aug 1 2013: Great question. Yes, I too sometimes find it hard to answer this question. I consider myself a global citizen. I was born in Lithuania, lived in the UK for five years, lived in Nepal for some time and now live in India my second year.

    Although I was born in Lithuania, India is the country that feels closer to my heart. That however, doesn't mean that I consider myself Indian in any way!

    I think when people are particularly proud of their country of birth or residence, it puts limitations on them. They themselves may start viewing others through their cultural lens. Others, on the other hand, might view the patriots as extreme or "different" from them.
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    Jul 31 2013: I am a mutt.

    But aren't we all?

    When does the line stop? The territories of Europe, South America, Africa and everywhere else were not always what they were 100, 200, or 500 years ago.

    Technically, I am African, and so are you.

    ;)
  • Jul 31 2013: I'm half Hungarian half Mexican, living Sweden. I've lived in 4 other countries, and I take a piece of each place with me every time I move. When I want to give a short, quick answer, I simply say that I'm from Mexico because I was born there, but makes me feel a bit wrong inside (or like I'm hiding something). Thinking about my identity has been a bit troubling and confusing sometimes, but I generally feel very lucky that I've had the opportunity to travel and learn new things; I am who I am because of it! :-)
  • Jul 31 2013: I'm from a small town in Alberta, Canada. However, I moved to the States when I was five and grew up all over the USA (including Utah, North Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico, Kentucky, Illinois, Florida, and currently Texas) and am now a US citizen married to a Colombian. I love my parents' hometown (I can't even really call it my own because I wasn't even born there) because people whom I've never met will stop on the streets and say, "Oh, you must be so and so's daughter." And due to economic stagnation in the farming industry, there's no new construction so it doesn't even look different every few years when I get back. And I'm glad about that. It gave me a sense of stability as a child. There are definitely some places I don't culturally identify with (I hate the South) and some I do (the Intermountain West is my home culture I would say), but even the physical landscape has a huge impact on me. I never truly feel at home without mountains nearby. And I do think "Where are you from?" IS a relevent question, because at least for me, it is so much of my identity and roots.
    However, the greatest sense of home I have is with my family. I've never lived where my parents currently live, but getting together with them and my husband and kids and siblings and their spouses and nieces and nephews and eating good food, now, that IS home.
    The other thing that helps me feel at home wherever I am is my church (LDS or Mormon). Anywhere I am, my church is the same and that does give me a wonderful sense of belonging whether I've just moved to a new city here in the US or if I'm down in Bogotá with my husband's family. Here in Houston, there are many women in my congregation that have lived all over the world (oil jobs) and they've shared the same sentiment with me. Also, it is extremely comforting to know that even if you're in China, Indonesia, Kazakistan, or Nigeria, etc you have an automatic support system and people you can connect with through our religious culture.
  • Jul 31 2013: ...I am becoming a complete human...these pieced are coming together and developing a beautiful picture of unity and oneness...there are more similarities, less differences...stages may differ from ones position...

    If try you see the water of ocean from source, it can't be ocean but as a together it is...and this is happening in global society only...from a river, pond or a well, we are becoming oceans...oceans of relations, empathy...

    ...as a mature I have developed with age, I never say this is my childhood, this is my youth but this is I am...so why should I take my different pieces as different only...why stained???

    ...this question would be a challenge till I bind myself in boundaries...boundaries of any type...religion, geography, language or anything else...

    regards

    Manish Kumar Aggarwal
    The Mindfood Chef
  • Jul 30 2013: I am half Jamaican and half African-American. My father's father is a french ex-pat. My mother's father is a Cherokee Native American. Though I'm from many places and have family all over the world, I most identify with being from New York CIty. Having a puzzle piece identity is not uncommon here. Instead of being asked, "what are you?" or having people assume my heritage isn't complex because of the color of my skin, I can say, "I was born and raised in Brooklyn," and open up a conversation about who I am, rather than place my identity in a box.
  • Jul 30 2013: I think people think that "where are you from" is something that doesn't generally change during our lives, but for me it has. I was born in Canada, and then lived in Egypt, India, the Netherlands, and San Francisco, before finally settling in Colorado during middle school. Before middle school, when people asked me where I was from ,I would say Canada- I was born there, and a Canadian citizen. But my family moved to Egypt when I was only a few months old, which meant I had absolutely no memories of Canada at all! If you had asked me any questions about it, like who is the prime minister, or fill out a map of the provinces, I couldn't have answered you. Now when people ask me where I'm from, I say I'm American and I'm from Colorado. I can answer any question about Colorado haha. I feel like the Colorado culture got into my blood, even if I didn't live here when I was young.
  • Jul 30 2013: I am a TCK (third-culture kid) who has worked with TCK teens in international schools and raised two more. I was born in the US and raised in Australia, where my parents worked with Aboriginal people. Home was a difficult question because I desperately wanted when I was young to be considered Australian, but wasn't. Then when I moved back to the US at 16 I had such a horrible time that I rejected that culture.

    My mother says, "Home is where you hang your toothbrush." There is some truth to this, I think. In my adult life since university, I spent 6 years living in the US, 10 years in France, and now 9 years in Belgium. I like living here--I know I am a foreigner, and I am comfortable with that identity. My accent is considered "charming." Any crazy thing I do is written off as the eccentricities of an "étrangere." But I can still love and appreciate the culture I live in, and have even been able to see the good in both my American and Australian cultural background.

    The important thing, as Pico Iyer suggests, is finding rest within yourself and a personal identity. For me, that has been found in a religious context, as well as relationships with and service to others.

    My son has written a song about the TCK experience in the title track of his cd, "Third Culture Kid." You can hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GdH8zaQlx0
  • Jul 28 2013: I sometimes point to where I was a few seconds previous and smile.

    The way in which "where are you from?" is predominately interpreted has within it an assumption that is means geographically and by extension, I can perceive, if not actually understand, the cultural, social-political landscape that has informed a least a part of your life. It is very similar to the question "what do you do?", meaning your career, as this gives many a sense that they can ascribe qualities and indeed value, from what you do in terms of employment or lack there of.

    Other quips to challenge the conventional assumption as it relates to the question of "where are you from?" can include pointing to your head/heart (this is from where my sense of truest self resonates), say "my mother" to donate your biological place of "from", or indeed point up...we have all seen "The Most Astounding Fact."

    With Genuine Interest,

    Paul
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    Jul 26 2013: I don't have such complexities, yet found your discussion bit funny and interesting