When you live in a small town, you kind of master the art of small talk. Every day you meet new people at the supermarket, at the gym, at the Startbucks next door, and you always stop for a chitchat, while waiting to pay for the groceries or after a session of Pilates, or while waiting for that Tall Vanilla Latte! And asking THE question: “Where are you from?, seems inevitable! For some reason, we all become curious to know this information and wait on it, as if it will somehow reveal a hidden side of that person standing in front of us! And once we hear the answer, we rush to open all the files in our brain, and see where we can categorize this person based on his nationality and tons of clichés. A little bulb lights up in our brain the minute we hear the answer and an image pops in, almost instantly, if it is “American” then we see Mac&Cheese and Barak Obama, If it is “French”, we see “La Tour Eiffel”, “Egyptian” then it is Pyramids and Koshary, Moroccan, then it has to be Couscous! In less than a second, we shrink hundreds of years of civilization into a dish, and a whole person and his perfectly structured identity to a place! Then we toss the whole thing into the bin, because yeah it is small talk after all and who cares anyways! Right?
So when someone asks you “where are you from?” What should your reply include? Where were you born? What passport do you hold? Where have you lived most of your life? Where are your parents from? I would say: Morocco! My case is easy because I was born and brought up in Morocco, I lived there about half of my age, my parents are from there, and I proudly hold a Moroccan passport. But I guess if you ask my son, it will be a little complicated, he was born in New York, USA. To a Moroccan mother and an Omani father, and he lived all his life in Bahrain! So where is he from?
This question always somehow bothered me, because it kind of deletes the person’s identity and makes him fit into one of the mean boxes (some of them are really mean). And most people, tend to treat you differently, if you were American than if you were Indian (at least in this part of the world). Do not get me wrong, this is definitely not my opinion and I am absolutely not saying that it is right, but this is the world where we live in! Myself, I have experienced very unpleasant scenarios, where I simply was judged, fitted in a small mean box, categorized into a Moroccan Wh#$%, just because I am one of the 33.573.292 people of the great kingdom of Morocco! It sure used to bother me so much, that I would rather say I was from “Azerbaijan” than say i was Moroccan -because in what world will I meet someone who is actually from Azerbaijan and can figure out that I am lying lol- just to avoid nasty comments from nasty people! With time though, I realized that there will always be narrow minded people in this world, who will judge every move of mine, so I chose not to entertain them and I managed not to care anymore. I am who I am, period!
While it is true, most people are just trying to strike a conversation by asking: “Where are you from?” I find the idea of pairing my identity with where I come from is terribly wrong! We do not choose where or when we are born, and can never change it. I can only hope that my son will live in a world where he wouldn’t be judged by his skin color, nationality or religion!