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Where are you from?

Updated: Jan 31

I never know what to answer to that question, do you?

Paris street with blue sky

Is the “from” referring to where I was born? To where I’ve lived? To where I’m currently living? To where I feel I belong? – Mind you, I also ask others – and ask myself. 😉

In France, people ask me about my origins. Origins? Where am I originally from before being from somewhere else? It often comes with my first name: “Feriel? C’est joli/original, c’est de quelle origine?” (That’s a nice/original name, of what origin is it?)

What should I answer ? Tell people my life story? Or is it the history of my 1st name they’re interested in? Oh, and by the way, what’s an “origin”?

It’s almost existential: where did I originate from?

Alger with a view on the sea

I sometimes answer Algeria because that’s where I was born (but not my parents although they’re Algerian). I sometimes answer France because that’s where my grandmother was born, I spent a lot of holidays in Paris, and I’ve been based in France for 15 years now.

But then there’s the issue of my sounding, and some say acting, American. I can’t answer “the US”, though. I’m not originally from there. I went to high school and college, worked there, and have many of the “cultural codes”, I love to go there and feel good there, but did I originate there? No.

I could answer Canada because I became Canadian - it’s actually the one citizenship I chose and worked hard to get. I studied, lived, and worked there, but it’s been a while since I’ve lived there.

New York City buildings
New York

Now, if people were to ask me where I want to live, my spontaneous answer is Spain. But I’ll never be “from” Spain.

So when people ask me where I’m from, I don’t know what to say... And then I received this video, and it blew my mind.

My Spanish language coach, Ana, shared it with me a few weeks ago. She told me that when she saw it, she thought of me; her exact words were, ”Por eso te lo envié. No podía dejar de pensar en ti.”(That’s why I sent it to you. I couldn’t help thinking about you.)

Ana got me 100%. And probably because Ana’s answer to the question “where are you from” is just as challenging to answer as it is for me.

And if you’ve made it through these musings of mine, then I know you feel it too.

So yeah, ask me where I’m a local; that would be great because I’d actually know what to answer.

Author: Feriel Temmar

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