Kate Torgovnick May

writer, TED

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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.

Related Talks:
  • 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.
        • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
        • 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.
        • 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.
        • 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
  • Jul 24 2013: I guess I'm a third-culture kid, but add to that that I was internationally adopted.

    I was born in (South) Korea, and after having been rescued from the streets, I was adopted by a German mother and an American father to Germany when I was 3 months old. I oscillated between Germany and the US, throughout my childhood, finished high-school in Germany, did my undergrad in the US. While I understand both cultures, I don't feel at home in either of the cultures constructed on the larger nation-state-level; I feel at home in various subcultures that exist far off from the 'mainstream' culture. I really hope that the growing amount of cross-cultural people will draw attention to the silliness of the nation state concept.

    I currently live in Berlin, which is so different from the Germany I grew up in and which I thoroughly enjoy for that reason. I don't think I've ever felt so 'at home' in any place. However, I do have this restlessness that makes it difficult to stay in a place for a longer time. As weird as it might sound, I revel in culture shock, it actually makes me feel at home a bit. So I am moving very soon again: I am moving to Korea in one month. Partly to experience the culture I was born into (but never experienced), and partly to trace my biological origins. After that, who knows where life will take me?

    All I know is that I can feel very comfortable very quickly, wherever I am in the world, and I'm pretty grateful for that. I think this is way more helpful in life than being able to call a geographic location 'home'.
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    Jul 23 2013: I've changed "permanent" address about 35 times so far, so I figure I'm from the last place I left.
  • Jul 23 2013: This is a question I've been asked since as far back as I can remember because I have links to several countries but don't actually come from any one of them definably.

    As a youngster my school mates would tell me, it's where your parents are from or where you were born or the passport you hold. But none of the answers matched their impression of me.

    Let me explain; my birthplace is somewhere I lived only for the first 2 years of my life and I have no family remaining there, no roots except religion ancestry. I grew up in a neutral country to which there was no ancestral connectedonly myself and my immediate family. Looking different enough from the locals I was asked with regularity, where I was from...originally. Then eventually as an adult I moved to my parents country of origin where we have roots and a long history. My accent marks me out as someone different but it feels a lot like home.

    (For reference; born in Israel, moved to England and live now in New York)

    I ultimately consider myself a Londoner who belongs in the States because as Pico Iyer says, where you come from is the place where you become you and for me this is London.
  • Jul 23 2013: As a child born in Newark NJ durning WWII I had a difficult time with the question of my origin. We are Jews and although my grandparents were born in Poland, they were denied their Polish passports. My parents were born in Germany but were never allowed to be citizens. I always answered " I am an American belonging to the "melting pot" in which all are treated well and equally. I remained in New Jersey until my mother died, now I live in New York and in sunny Arizona. This summer I traveled to follow my grandparents' journey during the Holocaust and I find I am very comfortable in Frankfurt, the city of my parents' birth, but I love New York best.
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    Jul 23 2013: Pico Iyer was lucid as usual .

    I would like to raise some concerns around some possible losses of cultural values.And when that happens both the global citizen and his/her host country are not enriched culturally from the transplantation.

    Basically one sense of home is within oneself.Where one feels safe,accommodated, validated and accepted to pursue one's cultural values,one's investment or business acumen,one's technical expertise.

    We are all familiar with the third culture community and with the growing sub populations of residents/citizens of a given country who are foreign born. If a foreign- born or naturalized citizen/national of a given country happens to have originated from an economically/ culturally dominant culture[ let us designate these countries as A ] ,chances are high that he/she may preserve those aspects of his/her originating culture and hence enrich the cultural diversity of his/her host adopted country.If the same person was to have originated from a country that is of less dominant economically /culturally[ designated as B ] ,the opposite may be true .Hence there may ensue a loss of some aspects of that culture swallowed or diluted by the mainstream.

    I am in no way advocating that we stop global citizens from B from venturing out and or global citizens from A doing so ,similarly.My purpose is to raise awareness that conscious efforts be followed to make sure desirable/ exotic cultural values/practices be maintained and showcased to flourish into the fabric of host culture. For instance; It would be travesty if the Buddhist philosophy of harmonious living was to be sanctioned in communities that profess Islam or Christianity. We have regrettably already lost so many cultures in the developing world when the European or Arab colonizers ventured out into the New World We are also loosing more due to rampant " modernization'' and urbanization all over the world.

    Hopefully; we will learn from history !!!
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    Jul 23 2013: I am a decaying organism.
    • Jul 23 2013: No you are not.

      You are in fact a regenerating organism. That with age just can't regenerate fast enough.
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        Jul 23 2013: Don't tell me what I am, fellow decaying organism.
        • Jul 24 2013: I am not telling you what you are, I am telling you what you're not.
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        Jul 24 2013: Actually, you are. But thanks for playing.
        • Jul 25 2013: Actually I'm not, next you play, grab a book on grammar, sentence construction, it helps if you know the rules of the game.
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        Jul 25 2013: Just let it go, sug. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. C'est la vie.
  • Jul 21 2013: I am from New York City, but I have lived in Paris, Los Angeles and now, in the Himalaya mountains of India northeast of Delhi. My father was an artist, from a working class Irish Catholic family, who grew up in The Bronx. My mother was from an immigrant Eastern European Jewish family. She was a social worker and helped my father in his textile design business. She grew up in Brooklyn. After my parents' died, I met and married a man from South India, Tamil Nadu. He grew up in Bombay and after we married 21 years ago, we lived in Manhattan for over 15 years. We moved to India four years ago and are working there. I travel between the US and India, having not quite decided where home is anymore. We sold our apartment in New York City and live in a rented house in the mountains. We travel extensively and often "couch surf" as a way to meet people and see how they live in each country we visit. This summer, my husband traveled to Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria and the Ukraine. He stayed with families everywhere and we have a whole new set of friends to go back and visit together.
  • Jul 20 2013: Both of my parents familys came from Hiroshima and I was born and raised in Hawaii. I have lived in many places on the mainland for the last 50 years.
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    Jul 19 2013: I just ask " Where are your people from?" What makes me laugh is when other kiwi's ask me whether or not I'm from nz. Sometimes I might answer "A bit of Pom, A bit of Irish, Some Scots and a bloody Kangaroo but mostly Maori.
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    Jul 19 2013: Hi Kate!

    I love this question!

    And I love all the answers. Especially the first one, and even the reply that said it's not a good question. The beauty of this simple question is the variety of answers. It's an affirmation that "where" doesn't matter. It should be asked every time a large group of people get together.

    I am a German-welsh-french-american-indian, tree hugging-music loving-pacifist-feminist-atheist-econut
  • Jul 18 2013: It sounds like a simple question but there's so many aspects you can refer to in answering it, just like the talk described.

    You can think personally where you were born, which for me would be The Netherlands. You can think of your parents and deduce some percentages from there, which would still make me 100% Dutch. But I am not living there anymore, I live in Australia. So my answer depends on where I am too: if I'm asked where I'm from here, in Australia, I would say The Netherlands, but if I were in countries which are not Australia or The Netherlands, I'm from Australia.

    Your feeling of 'home' takes time to form, too. I lived for 3.5 years in Taiwan, but after only half a year I felt so good there, that was my home. I've been living in Australia for 2.5 years now, but it took a much longer time for me to make this feel 'home'. And maybe there are places which will never make you feel at home, thus when asked you completely skip that location and go back to your origins.

    How about going back further in your heritage? When they see my name, they don't associate that with The Netherlands, so they also ask 'where are you from', and in that sense I can't answer that. Yes, a very long time ago the name was in Germany, but before that, was it Czech or Polish?

    Thus, even though the question 'where are you from' relates to a location, time is involved and it might even result in a different answer than 'where do you live'.
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    Jul 17 2013: My stained glass finds its tones of colors from the dust of celestial homelands and shades of organic melts of internal struggle. I belong to a universe which some says resulted from a bang and rest always confuse it with religion. My glass is aged with the organic cycle of a planet which is renewable. I am wearing the cap of a region on this planet, which is known to you as South Asia. I evolved in the basin of great river Indus, an ancient valley of my ancestors. I am having a passport of a nation state which is 66 years old on the global map. Yes i am a human of 21st century who is living in a society where 7 million kids are out of school, (some bitter patches in my glass).
    I am in search of my north and trying to peel off all those layers which have shaded my glass. i believe my glass is pure as light and it reflects originality when enlightened.
    I always ask myself who am i at first place? A Pakistani who is shy to seek its reason of existence or a human being ready to escape the gravity of this planet. I am confused and inhaling the air of divide in every walk of life. I am struggling to show you my original glass which is same as yours.
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    Jul 17 2013: In 1790, the new United States, recently British colonies, was about 4/5 British (if you only count citizens - that is, don't count the slaves). But in the cities, new European immigrants were arriving from countries where they were used to a single culture. Their reaction on reaching the "new world" was often astonishment: The historian William Petersen quotes a late-18th century French immigrant’s letter home: an American is “a European ... whose grand-father was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons now have four wives of different nations.” (“Who’s What: 1790-1980.” The Wilson Quarterly. Summer, 1985, p.97).

    The movement toward multiculturalism in the U.S. came slowly and painfully. Every new group was at first met with skepticism or outright hatred and violence. Even now, ethnic or religious cultural groups often keep to themselves and voice low opinions of other groups, though this fortunately does not often result in violence.

    In Europe we're seeing a trend toward cultural separation and hardening opposition to multiculturalism. Nineteen new or changed countries have arisen in Europe just in the last 25 years, all but one of them because a cultural group (nation) has wanted to separate from other cultural groups. North Africa and the Middle East show many examples of the modern cultural separatism. So those who think that the future is one of cultures happily living together are likely to be disappointed.

    My own cultural background is Norwegian and American; the first by birth and rearing, the second by choice. Both have been valuable: I can appreciate the greater order in the more socialized country, and I do appreciate the lesser degree of order in the U.S., where I don't have to report to the police when I move.
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    Jul 17 2013: I have been struggling to put the pieces of my stain glass into order, and have made some nice progress thinks to the TED community. http://www.ted.com/conversations/19199/i_need_help_with_a_dilemma_wh.html

    I’m 100% pure Mid-West American, and for me that means I embrace all cultures and not only just my European mutt heritage. So although I have not called many places home, I see myself as a stain glass window. And will be seeking to find new pieces for the rest of life.

    To me home is not a place, but instead a state my mind.
  • Jul 17 2013: I'm Israeli (in of itself a troublesome issue to raise in some circles).
    My parents are both also Israeli, but I can trace my origins to seven different countries going only three generations back. I've spent three years living in the united states as a child, which further complicates things.

    I usually just answer that I'm from Israel unless anyone presses the issue however.
    Its not that I'm ashamed, its just that its not worth the hassle.
    • Jul 18 2013: So nice to meet you Nadav.
      I do not think that I have ever spoken to an Israeli person here on TED before.

      Welcome!!
  • Jul 17 2013: Is hanging a hat still definitive? Whilst most of my 'pieces' are areas of the UK, there's as much cultural diversity between Wales, Yorkshire and Devon as there is between neighbouring countries on the Continent. National borders are lines on a map, and I have more in common with cousins in South Africa, or in New Zealand, than some people who share my street.

    Where am I from? Probalby the answer I like is The Internet - a country of swirling ideas with infinite room for immigration where you are who you choose to be, and you can unfriend anyone who chooses to be antithetical.

    Proud to be a mongrel!
  • Jul 17 2013: I am an army brat...

    The answer is long and somewhat complicated, but I have it down to a quick spiel that tends to make people laugh. I have spent years hearing (when going to visit my parents) "Oh, you are going home". No, not really, I have never lived in the house they live in, I have never lived in the the last 2 houses they have owned, or the last 5 they have lived in. It is only a minor coincidence that I HAVE previously lived in the city they currently live in - although, truly, in a suburb of that city...

    So, there are many answers: where I was born, where I currently live, where my heart is, where my parents are, where my family is from... I am a citizen of the WORLD.
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    Jul 17 2013: Kate, The question where are you from ... are you from around here ... all has a foundation. So the question I associate with is what are they really asking. Are you asking because I have a accent? My skin color? My attitude? Do you want directions? Local attractions?

    If the eyes narrow .. jaw clenches .. etc ... he ain't from the chamber of commerce welcoming committee.

    I am reminded of the New Yorker in Arkansas joke ... The NY man says you hicks could never make it in the big city just not smart enough ... the country boy said your probably right and dunked a used milk bottle in the mineral water and charged him 20 dollars.

    One considered the other a country bumpkin ... the other thought he was a pompous fool. In this case the where are you from made no difference. The attitude immediately separated them. We have become more divided than ever before in my life time. The media has ensured that if you are not for me you are against me. The days when I could not like you because you are a horrible person are gone .... now if I don't like you I am a racist // bigot /// sexist /// anti gay /// or some other brand.

    Labeling is in .... to bad.

    Remember ... a stranger is just a friend you ain't met yet.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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    Jul 17 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.
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    Jul 17 2013: I rather like Feyisayo's answer, Kate, his stained glass is more ideological. Why exactly does it matter what our ethnic components are, we didn't choose those, what seems important is who we are inside, what we've made of ourselves.
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      Jul 17 2013: That is what the question is asking. What parts of you, whether they are the parts you were born into, raised with, or sought out on your own, are most important to you? What makes up who you are? It doesn't have to be ethnic, but it can be. What's your stained-glass self?
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        Jul 17 2013: I don't know, Nia, she does really emphasize ethnic type stuff in the explanation of her question. And I think slightly overemphasizes the importance of countries and regions. I mean talking about people who are from India, but grew up in the United Kingdom and United States, but whose heart belongs to Japan, you know, it's not talking so much about the inner person, it makes it seem like the principal aspect of a person is where they physically were or what country they like the most. Those things do matter, but a person is a lot more than those things, too.
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          Jul 17 2013: I think she just wants to know what makes up our mosaic, without implying that the "ethnic type stuff" is anyhow more important than "who we are inside" and "what we've made of ourselves."
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          Jul 17 2013: I concur with what she emphasizes and overemphasizes. I don't think it's that people are answering the question wrong, but its the wrong question or needs to be unasked and re-asked in a different way. I think other things matter in where your from than are intended by the question as it stands.

          I responded in more depth above.
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      Jul 17 2013: I couldn't agree more. I responded to Feyisayo and then read your comment and saw you said pretty much the same thing. To your notion of what matters is who we are inside and what we've made of ourselves, I would what has influenced us (perhaps for better or worse).

      As John Donne wrote:

      "No man is an island,
      Entire of itself,
      Every man is a piece of the continent,
      A part of the main.
      If a clod be washed away by the sea,
      Europe is the less.
      As well as if a promontory were.
      As well as if a manor of thy friend's
      Or of thine own were:
      Any man's death diminishes me,
      Because I am involved in mankind,
      And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
      It tolls for thee."
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        Jul 18 2013: Yes, I agree with your other comment, she needs to show why it matters "where you're from." I don't believe she does that in the explanation of the question as it now stands. Technically I should watch the TED talk, but a lot of times when people host these conversations and include a link to a TED talk, I don't want to watch the TED talk, I just want to talk to the person hosting the conversation.
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          Jul 18 2013: I can dig that. You don't want to the interference. It's like joining a table of people at an outside cafe all discussing the lecture they just came from. It isn't necessary or even preferable that you went to the same lecture, just for you to be able to contribute. Thanks for replying.
  • Aug 16 2013: i am made of parts: south african/austrian/slavic/english/welsh/scottish...and more bits....
    Ive lived 20 years south africa, 10 in ireland, 3 in new zealand and two in australia many smaller bits in other places....currently in greece then SA then the caribbean...then im buying a boat and really going to start travelling :)...in other words a mix......
    Of course i struggle with the question, where are ya from? .... i say south africa, and i hear back: ya cant be, you are white...ish! i say europe, and im told: you cant be, you wernt born here....i say NZ, but in an irish accent hmmmm
    Personally i think of all of these places as home....first i am human,and i can call anywhere on this planet home :)

    I live by this story:
    My mother is from Austria and she was travelling through africa towards south africa....now south africa in the 70's had a very odd (for want of a better way of saying) take on the race issue...
    she crossed over to SA from namibia at this lonely dusty borderpost that was nothing more than a boom across the road and a fat old man sitting in his booth surrounded by his forms
    Now this form had the usual questions, ie name, age, etc....and being the place and time it was it had the question: RACE: ________
    So my mother, the pot-stirrer she is, filled in: HUMAN
    Fat borderguard says: No madam, you must put in: WHITE
    My mother has fairly-dark skin and after months travel was well tanned
    But look! she says: i am BROWN, but besides this, thats not the question on the form! it asks for RACE, and i am HUMAN :)
    So this little dialogue goes on for a while, backwards amd forwards, sweaty-borderguard frantically failing to get his point across.....and eventually caving in to LOGIC!

    So for me its easy, if i get asked what race i am.....HUMAN, thats it, nothing less, nothing more :)
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    Aug 15 2013: Ohhh what an interesting combination indeed!

    Hmmmm let's see, I am a human living in my home town, planet earth. I am what I do every day and my life is happening at this particular moment.

    Thank you for your interest in us!
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    Aug 15 2013: I'm a gay born again Christian turned agnostic with a devout Christian family who grew up in Alabama but now lives in Brooklyn but desperately wants to live on a large organic/humane farm.
  • Aug 14 2013: I have this problem almost every time I meet someone.

    I'm half-Japanese, half-American (Swiss, Sicilian, German, French, Austrian .... etc. = mutt).

    I was born in Boston, lived there for 4 weeks, lived in California for 2 years, Tokyo for 10, and Connecticut for 8. Went to college in Baltimore for 4.5 years while living in Connecticut, and moved to New York also during that time, 5 years ago. I now live in New York, but out of all of those places my heart resides in Connecticut.
  • Aug 10 2013: Seems like the question 'where are you from' helps form other's basic identity.
    We can't help being curious about where the person we're talking to is from, but at the same time we get bored with this lame, cliche—while expecting the follow-up questions would be about the place I am "from"

    It'd great if a person doesn't define me based on his shallow knowledge on the place I'm from.


    About this common question, “Where are you from”..
    Gotta think it through at times, right?

    Wonderful question, Kate! :)
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    Aug 10 2013: sometimes, it is only the peope who just wanna talk to you to start a converstation:)))
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    Aug 10 2013: That's an excellent question. I daydream to the point of anterograde amnesia and have no idea where I am or where I came from or where I'm going. I feel like Guaguin everyday.
  • Aug 9 2013: I'm from Poland (Europe) and I have never been abroad :).
    To Kate: You have Slavic beauty, so It's easy to say than you have got Polish roots.
  • Aug 7 2013: its never WHERE you are its WHO youre with
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      Aug 10 2013: What if I'm a stranger in a strange land?
  • Aug 7 2013: Brooklyn jew genius biologist baby from the black sea
    and its not where people are from its who they've met
    that affects who they are in reality that is why most
    are uncomfortable talking about this
  • Aug 6 2013: Born in Indiana, grew up in southern California, northern California, southern California. Lived in North Carolina, Scotland, Texas, Alaska, and now Nevada. The world is huge, the world is small. There is much to see and to experience.
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    Aug 5 2013: IN MY VIEW: We never belonged to a single country or culture or even family. We tend to associate ourselves with such out of comfort, compulsion or at many times to show obedience towards a force which we decide is bigger and better than us. The only place we really belong to is the time and space we occupy during our existence. We are from that time and space. The only thing we need to care about is how we justify our occupation of this time and space. Making our existence meaningful for us is the best thing we can do.
  • Aug 5 2013: This has been a tough question over my lifetime. I was born in Oklahoma and raised in Ethiopia. My Mother is Comanche and My Father is American. My biggest problem with this question is for the longest time no one would believe this Comanche Boy could have possibly traveled to Africa. The question would more often then not lead to criticism or total disbelief. I was safer making up something.

    Now that I am older and people tend to have a broader world view, being from Ethiopia is a great conversation started. As time passes I am able to enjoy answering "Where are you from?".
  • Aug 4 2013: I moved to rural North Carolina, where everyone around me has accents. Of course I do not.

    And I was constantly bombarded with, "You ain't from around here, are you?" and it was meant as a putdown. I quickly learned to say, "No, but i got here jst as quickly as I could." Talk about taking the sting away from their barbs!
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    Aug 4 2013: This a hard question to answer for me since I am half Chinese and half German. I was born and raised in Michigan and taught great values from my parents. I moved to Huntington Beach, California 12 years ago. When people ask me where I am from, I hesitate to answer because Huntington Beach is in Orange County which has a certain stigma of snobby self center people.
    I agree with what Simona Rich posted that when people are particularly proud of their country of birth or residence, it puts limitations on them. I myself am very proud to be an American, but I am very open minded and love to travel the world while meeting and talking to new people. Doing so has only expanded my mind and opened my eyes to different cultures.
  • Aug 3 2013: He little knows of England who only England knows.
  • Aug 2 2013: And here I thought I was the only person with this feeling of being from a few different places all at once.

    I was born in Florida and moved to Selma, Alabama (the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement in the United States) in the early 70's. The time period in which I lived there was in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement and things were still in a state of change in some ways and unchanged in others.

    I then moved to San Jose, California (the Silicon Valley) in the early 80’s. This was a real culture shock! Going from a place that was very backward in many ways to the place where the technology and computer revolutions were happening was incredible. I went from a place with very little ethnic diversity to one of the most ethnically diverse places in the United States. Living in and going to High School in the Silicon Valley in the late 80’s was pretty amazing.
    After High School I joined the Army and for the next 22 years I travelled the world including living in Germany for 6 years. Serving in the Army and going on multiple deployments opened my eyes to a great many things. The opportunity to live in Germany for 6 years was priceless; I still love Germany and would like to return one day.

    For the last 5 years I have lived in Texas, and when asked tell people this is where I am from. I give this answer because that’s where I live and explaining that I have lived all over the United States and Europe is just too complicated.
    I think that a person can choose to define where they are from. It is up to the individual to determine their “locational identity”.
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    Aug 1 2013: I tend to associate myself, and my origin, with the places I was brought up in AND places that have a special meaning to me. I was born and raised in North Carolina USA and I've spent half my life in Chicago because that's where my dad is from. I also like to associate with India because my mom was from there even though I've only been there twice.
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    Aug 1 2013: A "hard time" answering the question??
    How I wish I could have had a longer story about where I come from, what an awesome conversation starter that can be!
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    Jul 30 2013: Hi, I am from Iran, I live in Kuala lumpur nowdays, last week we were in a dance club with a couple of freinds...to answer the well-known icebreaker.."wr r u from?...".....my answer was Italy...because i simply have got a better reaction by girls becasue of that......to me .....there is no true answer to a question...but what ur addressee wants to hear...!!..?..
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    Jul 29 2013: STATELESS!

    Although I was born in Iran, I seriously think of myself as "stateless", against my will. I believe that just like what Pico Iyer has said:

    Home; it's not just a place where you were born, it's a place where you BECOME YOURSELF.

    My home is a place where human rights in general are very well respected. I hope soon I can proudly say I am a Finnish!
  • Jul 29 2013: Hi Dear Kate Trgovnick.when a other countries' person asked me I would say:I am from china.when a chinese asked me I would answer my province,if a chinese who lives in the same province I do then I would answer my city.And the last I think I should answer:I am from my home...Lol.

    But does it really mean we got the answer for'Where are you from?Not really.Sometimes I have been confused a lot too:Where I am from,what do I live in this world for?who I am?Sometimes it sounded been enlighten:I am just a little grass or flower or a leaf,from the land,back to the land eventually.
    • Comment deleted

      • Jul 31 2013: Heheheheh..Dear Mary,I never read Bible,one of friends who is chinese american,he is trying to spread bible spirits around.That's quite good I read some words and sentences he shared with us from Bible.
        "From dust we are,and to dust we shall return" that is so great words to enlighten us:).Thanks for the sharing to us.
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        Jul 31 2013: Hi, just seen that u liked my comment here,I feel glad u showed it by giving thumbs up , so where r u from???????:-) he he he
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      • Jul 31 2013: Hi Dear Mary.M.Thanks for caring the topic from Anna:).I did read her topic in TED.Maybe it is too professional to answer.I didn't get what I can talk about the topic:Teachers' socialization'.Maybe it is from too academic issue to challenge me.So I have better to keep reading others TED friends comments to learn more from them.

        Thanks Mary:)
      • Aug 1 2013: Yes,I can't get it clearly.
        Yes,I guess Anna read some materials in chinese,and she wanna know more about it.I am supposed it is professional to talk about.
      • Aug 1 2013: yes,so sorry for that.

        By the way,Mary M.Are you on summer holiday now?I am on my summer holiday.It is relaxing.How about yours?Did you ask your daughter about penfriend with my daughter?I asked my daughter,she said she would like to have a try .
      • Aug 2 2013: Never mind:),that's good girls enjoy what they are doing.
  • Jul 29 2013: I am korean(South Korea) with few trips abroad. And from upcoming month, I am going to study in China and there will be where I have to reside within next four years. Where your mind resides, you can call the place as a home.
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    Jul 29 2013: Well, If the question is "Where are you from?", i believe that there is two location you should keep in mind YOUR birth place and where YOU live.
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    Jul 25 2013: I am a half Guyanese half Jamaican born in Brooklyn, NY, whose heart lies in Geneva, Switzerland.
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    Jul 20 2013: I'm from the armpit of North America, they call it New Orleans for some reason related to the French I believe because of the word "new". I am a mut of mostly French and Italian displayed in my name here. It does not make me who I am as a person.
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    Jul 19 2013: Hi Kate!

    Thank you for your question!

    I can subscribe to what Arkady says in his comment as I get the question "Where are you from" a bit too often, so often that it becomes not only tedious but also irritating. I frequently get this question before I hear a usual "Hi" or a "How are you doing" or "What's your name". Actually, I get this question before I even get the chance to speak just because I just do not look or feel nordic - dark-haired, brown-eyed, don't use the same brands or clothes, do not ski...

    Sometimes I answer simply - "I live just round the corner.", sometimes I say North Poland which is actually a pun in Norwegian. Said in Norwegian it's the same as to say The North Pole. I find it funny at times, the people I converse with don't always get it... Sometimes I have to verbally fight prejudice that either ignorance of the inborn or some of my "landsmen" created (often - a combination). It can be difficult to name the country of your birth when what you get on mainstream media are stories of Polish people smuggling vodka into the country in specially made cars and not wanting to or being able to learn the language...

    It's a great talk by Pico Iyer, a lot of great points. Maybe where home is is...only in our heads?

    When I came to where I live now that I often call a home for a number of reasons I only had a bag full of clothes and notebooks, I slept on sofas at some of my friends' flats because nobody wanted to rent anything to me (it took time to get a social security number, I was deemed unreliable). Now it's changed, but well, still - people can seem strange when they give you an impression that you're a stranger... I also agree with Mary - home is planet Earth. But at times I feel like I'm from Andromeda (which was one of my answers to the 'Where are you from'-question, caused a tidal wave of laughter ;-))

    I'm a similar mix to you and I can relate strongly to Pico Iyer, maybe because of his accent?

    Best wishes.
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      Jul 20 2013: Anna, why would you allow a simple question become irritating or tedious? Why let any stereotype bother you? I often do not start a conversation by saying hello, hi, or how are you. There is just something too programish (yep, I make up words) about it. I don't know if it is just me but I can remember a name better if I find out the persons name after I know a little bit about them first, I have something to relate or connect it to. I don't know, maybe I'm just cross-wired.
      Andromeda!? What system? I've been there before, KELT-1b, It's pretty. I love the giant flowers but the amount of fragrance in the air on KELT-1b is too overpowering for more than an hour there for me. I start to get a headache and throw-up sick and all. Are you from KELT-1b? I heard the reason why the flowers are so freaking gigantic there is because the nourishing greenhouse is blasted by six thousand times the radiation Earth receives from the sun. Geez, the bumble bees are just as big. I'm glad we can somewhat relate to this so far. Guess what I have connected your name with? LOL
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        Jul 21 2013: The question is irritating or tedious for simple reasons - it is asked too often and before more relevant questions come. If I start a conversation, it's often in a different way and I wish there were better ways than just this question because, as I often have experienced, both the question and reaction to the answer says 'thanks, I'll prejudge you as a person, as I have already done upon seeing you, because of where you were born". This doesn't summarise all the people I've met that has asked this, it depends on the situation, but a lot of them, unfortunately. Maybe I just met the wrong people? On the hand, define wrong ;-)

        When it comes to Andromeda - it was just a linguistic joke, thanks for your reply.

        I don't let any stereotype bother me unless people bother me with their stereotypes, that has happened.
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      Jul 20 2013: So, if you change out the names "Polish" and Norwegian" and replace it with other peoples names, I would say you will have the same result where ever one is? I don't think you're alone in how you feel. You're lucky Anna, you can hopscotch around Europe in a blink of an eye.

      What if you had to cross oceans of time?
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        Jul 21 2013: The result would not be the same, the devil is in the details, as they say.
        I don't know if I can hopscotch around Europe, but I can visit places. Does that make me lucky?

        Oceans of time and seas of Europe can be crossed whenever you want with your mind :)
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    Jul 18 2013: I hoped for a larger answer....
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    Jul 18 2013: Kate, Pico have you been asked any time

    Where are you from?

    And when will you go back to your country?
  • Jul 18 2013: what does the place you were born or the nationality of your parents tell us about you? there are great people and complete assholes in any country or group anyone can name, and having history in one group rather than another is no indication at all what kind of person someone is.

    i'm from earth, and so are my parents and theirs before them. how about you?
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    Jul 18 2013: Its pretty straight forward for me ...BANGALI from Bangladesh :)
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    Jul 18 2013: Re: " 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."

    Reminds me of the Beatles "Rocky Raccoon" song:

    "Her name was Magil and she called herself Lil
    But everyone knew her as Nancy."

    It always sounded funny to me :-)
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    Jul 18 2013: Home is where you are happy.

    When i am happy world is my home and earth belongs to me and i am thinking big.

    When i am low ,my world shrinks and i do not belong and i am thinking small.
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      Jul 17 2013: To be multicultural society there must be those whom embrace only a single culture.
      We need the blend of world travelers, single culture groups, and alien visitors.
      For if any of the cultures are lost, the shining light of humanity dims.
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    Jul 17 2013: Where are you from is a such a vague question. I have a question in return and you don't have to consider it carefully, but please don't find it offensive, because I'm theorizing about a non-existent person. Does it make sense to answer the question, Kate where are you from, by saying "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."

    Because someone else could give the exact same answer and it wouldn't mean anything. That individual could have just signed a lease in a New York neighborhood, far away from NYC, in a suburb not all that different when it comes to shopping malls and chain restaurants to where they grew up in Maryland which is south of the Mason-Dixon line, although all along their last name is the only Russian thing about them, because it came from step-dad whose gone now, and the Jewish-Christian thing is a wash for them, because they either believe in hell or they don't, they either think Christ was the Son of God or he wasn't, and equally irrelevant is being half Italian and half Polish, because they say that in answer to their genetic ethnicity, but haven't experienced those as cultural influences, since the family has been homogenized by a materialistic interpretation of the American Dream as it appears to them in TV commercials and newspaper ads.

    How do you keep people from playing the game of adding as many names of cities, states, countries, and ethnicities into their answers. Because one could add a whole string of them and not capture who they are or where they are from at all! In that sense, they might have well been asked to list what all labels others could peel off their impressions and stick on them.
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      Jul 17 2013: You raise a point that has struck me also in relation to this question. Those whose distant ancestors came from a place may show no effective cultural influence from that place. On the other hand, those who are immigrants or first generation may feel that they have one foot in each of two or more cultures- the one in which they are currently immersed and the ones that deeply influenced their home lives in youth by way of parents or grandparents from "the old country." The atmosphere of that upbringing may continue to be a lens through which they experience life where they live, work, or travel.
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    Jul 17 2013: This is a question I have a hard time answering not because there isn't a simple answer (I'm from and currently live in New York, and my heritage is entirely Eastern European Jewish) but because the answer is SO simple and easily stereotyped. I've often wished for a more obvious "stained glass self" to make myself harder to categorize. I can get self-conscious of this identity because it seems not only out of vogue, but also out of pace with a globalized world. In the end, though, as long as I keep a constantly open mind to understanding others' identities, I can be proud of who I am, stained glass or otherwise!

    On another note, I'm reminded of the scene in Casablanca where Rick is asked by Major Strasser what his nationality is, to which he responds, "I'm a drunk." Captain Renault then comments, "Well, that makes you a citizen of the world."