For about a year, I worked at a local Thai restaurant as a waitress. One night, I was serving customers who I was having small talk in between writing and serving orders. However, at the end, when I was cleaning up their table and they were about to leave, this conversation below occurred:
Customers: "Oh I also wanted to ask, where are you from?".
Me: "I was born in High Point but I live in Thomasville".
Customers: "No, I mean where are you really from?".
Customers: "No, I mean where are your parents from?".
Customers: "Ohhh, so you're not Thai?".
Me, trying not to sound sarcastic: ... "No, I'm not…, Well have a nice evening and come back soon".
If you don't have the appearance of a Caucasian person, there is a huge change that someone has at least asked you ten times "Where are you from?". It's honestly a common question that is asked when you're in a country where you are considered the foreigner based on your skin color, accent, or even what language you are speaking. For me, I am Asian with a Vietnamese ethnicity. However, I was born and raised in North Carolina. If you asked where I'm from, look at the above conversation. Some people are shocked when I tell them I'm from North Carolina. I can usually tell from the confused look plastered on their face.
To someone who has never had to experience this to asking "Where are you really from?", is just inconsiderate and arrogant. It may not be obvious at first glance, but don't just assume that you know the difference between someone's ethnicity and what the person actually identifies with. It may seem like an innocent-sounding question but it just shows the ignorance that society has. It's better to ask the question, "What is your ethnicity?". Also, don't assume that if someone is Asian, that they are Chinese.
When my family landed in Rome we had just found a cab and we were walking out of the airport. An eager local was speaking to us in English, trying to get our attention so we would use his cab service. Obviously, we wanted to be left alone so we responded that we already had a cab. Since he didn't respond to politeness, he started speaking different languages and first words that came out of his mouth was, "Nĭ Hăo". First off, how can you honestly assume that we speak Chinese? Second off, the best part that happened was my mom going off on him because it offended her.My mom's reaction was not the best way to react. I know it's difficult to not react in a certain way since we live in a whitewashed society. However, we have to be the bigger person because we are the underdogs in this situation. It's better to come up with a response like, "Do you mean my ethnicity because I'm actually Vietnamese?". Nevertheless, we should all stop the stereotyping based on race vs. ethnicity - so stop asking the question "Where are you really from?".