Where are you from?

I’m asked “Where are you from?” quite often these days. You’re bound to get that a lot when you’re new to a town. The trouble is, I don’t know how to answer. I’ve lived in a few different places…

Although I was  born and raised in the city and my parents still live there, I don’t like saying I’m from Miami.  I haven’t lived there in over ten years and, unless things get to a desperate state, I plan to never return. I generally dislike Miami, although being away from it has increased its appeal and  some aspects of it have changed in ways that are compelling to me.

Still! I don’t like saying I’m from Miami. But I do enjoy the look on people’s faces when they hear I’m from there– I don’t seem like someone who is from Miami, which is important to me.

I went to college at UF, but never intended to stay after graduation. I think the only time it was appropriate to say I was from there was when I attending Florida and was traveling with fellow college students.

Washington D.C.
I’d really like to say I’m from there. I lived there for six years. I voted there; rented my first apartment there; and I still read local news from there.  I have more friends in the District than I do in Miami. I’d definitely live in D.C. again if it ever came up.

New Orleans
I’m not from here, and the question of “What makes someone from here” is the central topic of this blog. However, when I travel away from New Orleans I can certainly say I am from here… right? If I’m still in New Orleans 20 years from now, I wonder if people will ask me where I’m from. It would seem silly to say I was from Washington, because at that point D.C. would just be a place I stopped along the way in my life’s journey.

Perhaps I will just say I’m from D.C. until it no longer feels right.

What do you think? How do you answer when someone asks you where you’re from?


13 thoughts on “Where are you from?

  1. I say I am from New Orleans and now living in VA. I could never say I’m not from NO. I was born there, am Cajun , educated there and live most of my life there.

  2. This has always been tough for me to answer, too. I was born in Florida, but only lived there until I was 5, and then again for college. I’ve lived in DC for the past 8 years, so as you said, if I travel now, I say I’m from DC. But in between Florida and DC, I’ve lived in North Carolina, Germany, Kentucky, Maryland, and Germany (again, different town). So I learned to answer more specifically. I could say “I was born in Florida, and a lot of my family is still there.” Or, “I’m an Army brat and grew up all over, but I’ve been in DC for the past 8 years and that’s home now.” Or, just DC. I like saying I’m from here too. And when my grandmother (who lives in Florida) told me about 2 years ago that she thinks I’m a “real Washingtonian now”…well, that pretty much made it real. Oh, and I’ve had people tell me “where you are from” is where your parents are. But my parents live in Texas, and I’ve never lived there! So… I think there is more than one right answer, which will probably be more of the norm for a lot of people going forward. By the way, DC misses you!

    • I miss YOU! I remember when we first met I was confused because I thought you were from Florida and then you’d mention your parents were in Texas. I just assumed they’d still be in Florida. What attributes do you think caused your Grandma to refer to you as a “real Washingtonian.”

      • Maybe because I’ve been here for so long. And because I don’t talk about having this longing to be anywhere else (my cousins started in other cities, like Chicago, but all ended up in Florida). But I don’t know exactly. I think I asked her at the time, but she just said it seems like where I fit. I take it as a compliment 🙂 even though she’s a Republican and so many of them think DC is the last stop before Hell.

        And seriously, miss you. Holding a clothing swap soon, but it just won’t be the same without you. xoxo

  3. What a great posting, my friend! A modern existential dilemma born of a small talk question! (And I LOVE your postcards.)

    I agree with Erin; there IS a difference between where you were ‘born’ & where you’re ‘from.’ And – as your post & her comment apply illustrate – many of us these days are ‘from’ more than one place. And we can ‘live’ in yet another. And then there’s local usage & context. (I would never say to any Texan that I am from Texas – they’d call me a liar, ’cause when they ask they mean ‘were you born here?’ But when I’m out of state & asked – in the context of ‘where do you live now & have for almost a decade’ – I’m from Texas.)

    And it just gets more complicated the older you get & the more you move, of course. So, I tend to answer differently depending on who’s asking, where I am & how short – or long – an answer I think would be appreciated. But it all comes from the same basic script: “Born & raised in New England, spent most of my life up & down the East coast, now live in Texas.” Then I see – to your fundamental point about different responses evoking different reactions – what gets a rise out of whoever I’m talking to & take it from there.

    • Well considered as always, Melanie! Texas and New Orleans are very similar in their fierce protection of who can say they’re “from here.” In New Orleans you had to have gone to high school here.

  4. I usually go with the “Originally from Indiana, but DC’s home now” line. Depending on where the other person is from, I’ll get more specific within Indiana.

  5. Whoa, small world. I landed here via Adam Taylor’s FB link, and now I see my friend, neighbor and former roommate of my fiance’ Erin knows you too! 🙂

    I clicked on here because I am from New Orleans, but haven’t lived there in 10 years and was curious to see what you had to stay about the way certain places impact you more than others. I’ve lived in LA, GA, CO, FL and now DC, but I’ll always say I’m from NOLA. I know NOLA has its flaws, but it’ll always be home to me.

    • I believe I met you at Erin’s graduation party! When you tell people where you’re from do you leave out all the other places you’ve lived and just mention one of them if the person you’re talking to has lived there as well?

      • yep – I do tend to do that, especially because I only lived in CO and FL for a year, so I don’t really “claim” them as my own. Even when I lived in GA for four years, it was almost all spent in Athens, which is a little world all of its own. 🙂

  6. I always say I’m from D.C., conjuring a feeling of (mild) indignation and betrayal in people who have known me for a long time when they suddenly discover that I’m technically from a Maryland suburb (Hyattsville) 10 minutes across the District line. Still, I continue to say I’m from D.C. It feels more honest than Maryland, which could imply anything from urban Baltimore to a farm in southern MD.

    When I lived in Toronto during university, I eventually figured out that the question “where are you from” was actually getting at ethnicity. The person asking usually meant, “where [is your family] from [ORIGINALLY]?” Anywhere in N. America was not considered a valid response.

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