If you are, like me, an immigrant, or even thus you hold currently the UK Passport but were born in a different country or your ancestors came from different parts of this world, you will be asked or might be asked this question more than once in your lifetime. I have this privilege that most comments that are derogative about immigrants are apparently not meant for me. However, I stop “society” right there and point out that I am also an immigrant and that I find those comments rather offending.
The question “where I am from” has irritated me for many years until I listened to Taye Selasi’s Ted Talk “don’t ask me where I am from. Ask me where I am local”. I really recommend listening to her.
Before that, I took my partner’s statement “ I am a citizen of nowhere and only speak second languages” sometimes I would assert that I feel "international" (thinking more jokingly about the Popey episode "parlez vous woo" which made my partner and me laugh so much) – but people insisted in knowing what my passport said or even once I was shockingly asked where my blood was from or which land I belonged to! What the ....!
As if what your passport said determines who you are! I agree with Ms Selasi that certainly in the case of myself to have a German Passport meant more power but also getting higher prices quoted and making negotiation a bit harder and always having to hear the "H" word. So, in Kuala Lumpur I was even asked if I ever have heard of H. I am lucky that I have a quick-witted partner who has lived in many local areas himself and who knows an answer to everything, so we responded "who is she?". Seriously?
So, did I go for a walk with my British friend (who grew up in Kenya and came here to live here as a young woman) asking a man for a shortcut and of course was asked: “where I am from”. I told him from Hove, but he insisted to "no, where are you really from" (sounds familiar to some people grrrrrr). I reluctantly told him what my passport said (feeling pushed and forced) and he said “welcome here”. That comment made me so furious. I asked him where he was from, and he told me that he recently moved from some English city to Hove, so I told him “welcome to our community” (I don’t’ think he got it), but now having watched Ms Selasi I will hopefully never be feeling forced to answer this question to strangers any more.
Like Ms Selasi points out, “I am not married to the sovereign statehood state that is currently called the Federal Republic of Germany” and I am only local to the area I grew up, learnt some rituals (like not to cheat, be serious – which later on in my local experience of Jerez was challenged and I added some rituals, such as, a strong café con leche to survive the day – never mind my addiction to “vino dulce de Jerez” and living life more carpe diem and with “alegria” combining this with another local experience to queue up in front of the bus stop in London and saying “sorry” and “thank you” all the time. I have local relationships in some local areas in those statehoods, such as India, Spain, UK, Germany (all places I spent at least 1 year and felt connected and took on some local rituals and established relationships).
Brexit imposed a huge restriction on many of our localities, and COVID was a huge challenge for people who feel local to so many places.
To show this sensitivity to people who come from other localities will be a huge step into making humans more welcome! History has shown that countries can disappear, change their boundaries, or may even fail to exist. To ask an immigrant “where he or she is from” is asking “why are you here” and is not welcoming at all! So, I agree with this wonderful speech by Ms Selasi, if you are struck by curiosity ask a different question. In the example above, I was more local than this gentleman, so why does he have to welcome me?
This is a fundamental understanding of defining who we are in reality and not who we assume others to be (imposing stereotypes and clichés).
So, where do you feel local?
My yoga teacher training is not a simple yoga teacher training where you learn shapes. We go deep and unfold the layers of deep conditioning. This is not to say that I will not invite you to explore shapes that feel good and help you to discover who you really are. The next one starts in March 2022. Sign up now as places are limited.