Making a seemingly simple question not so simple

I wrote this post when I was in a pretty snarky mood the other night.  I was well aware that my writing caught my current mood a little too well and decided that I wasn’t going to post this, but then I read this article and changed my mind.  Sorry if it’s a little too much. 🙂

“Where are you from?”

One of the earliest things I learned when going abroad is how to “properly” answer this question.  Everybody gets this approximately a million times when they travel, and it should be an easy answer.  But one of the things that I learned, and I have come to notice far too often now, is how people from the US answer this, and people’s reactions to it.

“I’m from [insert specific state or city].”

I understand when people say California or Miami, but are you really that confident that the person you’re talking to will know where on earth Delaware is, when you both are currently in Malaysia?  This is probably a follow-up question when you say you are from the US, but I’d rather not assume that this is an appropriate answer that everybody will know.  Americans get a bad rap for being ignorant and not knowing much about other countries, like where they are on a map, so assuming (or looking like you’re assuming) that people from other countries should know all the states and cities in America because it’s “important” isn’t good.


“I’m from America.”

South America?  North?  We are called Americans (heck, I used it in an earlier sentence), but “America” is so much more than the United States.  I have seen many people react to this answer like the person saying it was trying to be a snob about it, when they really weren’t.  I also saw an interaction between two people in Cuba a few years ago, where an American girl was asking a guy from Cuba how something in Cuba was different than in America.  Completely innocently, the guy from Cuba asked which America she was referring to.

“I’m from Canada.”

No.  Just no.  Americans have a bad reputation abroad for many reasons (we’re too loud, travel in large groups, don’t travel enough, etc.).  And I know people that have told this lie as an experiment to see how others reacted to them (surprise, they got a better reaction as a “Canadian”).  But your best chance to prove that most Americans are decent human beings (assuming that you are a decent human being) is when you meet and get to know people from all over the world while traveling.  Please take advantage of those opportunities.  We need it.  Especially these days.

“I’m from the United States (or US).”

YES!  This is what I have learned to say any time I am out of the country.  Overall with this answer, people know exactly what you mean, where it is on a map and you don’t sound like an ignorant jerk to anybody.  Yay.

Every once in a while, you’ll get that person that rolls their eyes like Duh, of course you are and asks where in the US, but honestly, they probably would have done the same thing regardless of what you said.