"Where Are You From?": A Third Culture Kid's Worst Nightmare
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Politics and Activism

"Where Are You From?": A Third Culture Kid's Worst Nightmare

Some say you can still hear their shrill cries ringing through the hallways.

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"Where Are You From?": A Third Culture Kid's Worst Nightmare
Katrina Rbeiz

Every time I’m asked the question “where are you from?”, I can hear the tormented cries of every Third Culture Kid echoing in my ears. Before I have the chance to respond, my mind races with each and every scenario the situation could present. Sure, we can uproot our lives every couple of years without any sweat, but once the dreaded question is asked, it's like we transform into a bundle of nerves.

I try to tailor my response to the individual I am speaking to, as if I can deviate from the script I have worked on for years. Once I’ve come up with an appropriate response, I immediately regret opting out of the simple answer, as the person’s eyes either start to glaze over or widen in shock. In a matter of seconds, what should have been a simple question morphs into a wormhole of regret and confusion.

The Expected Response:

Hospitable Human: “Hey, where are you from?”

Me: “Oh, I’m from Austin, Texas.”

Hospitable Human: “Cool.”

Wouldn’t that be the ideal situation? If only my responses were that simple. Instead, the conversations tend to go something like this.

The Actual Response:

Friendly Fellow: “Hey, where are you from?”

*intensely calculates the proper format and order I should present my identity

Me: “Um...So that’s a complicated question *nervous laughter* (this is the point where the other person begins to suspect that something is off)

Friendly Fellow:

Me: So... I’ve never actually lived in the United States (this is how I choose to preface my answer, amazing right?)

Friendly Fellow:

Me: I’m actually half-Lebanese, half-American. My dad’s Lebanese and my mom’s American.

Friendly Fellow: Oh interesting, where have you lived?

Me: *laughs anxiously* Alright, this is going to take a while. Let me know if you want to escape now before we really get into it (I don’t say this, but I should probably add the disclaimer).

Friendly Fellow:

Me: Well *begins counting on fingers* I’ve lived in Lebanon, Syria, the UAE (Dubai), Bahrain (a small island off the coast of Saudi Arabia- I always mention this even though it’s not like they asked me if I knew my geography), Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

Friendly Fellow:

Wow, that’s very interesting. So...Where’s your favorite place been?”

This is merely the abridged version. Feel free to buy the extended version for $5.99 a month, provided you play the curious Friendly Fellow role.

While still a struggle, this question feels simpler when asked by International Students, because they either

a) Understand the distress that is associated with this question, for they grapple with the same identity crises.

b) Interject with a personal anecdote about a particular country I’ve mentioned because they’ve been there or they’ve actually heard of it.

I think that our main issue with this question is that it’s broad, yet it typically only asks for a narrow answer. With the chaos that is our lives, it’s almost like we’re forcing a building into a small suitcase.

“Sorry ma’am, your luggage is extremely overweight.”

“But… I can’t leave any of this behind.”

All jokes aside, I really do enjoy when people take an interest in the places I’ve lived, even if it’s difficult to answer the question without going on long tangents about how my nationality, my home, and where I’ve lived are all different concepts in my mind. I know that I am not alone in saying that although the sound of “where are you from” brings on a sense of panic in the hearts of every international kid, it’s wonderful to know that we're not alone in this identity crisis.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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