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Where are you from?

by Martyna Dearing 6 months ago in Humanity · updated 6 months ago
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none of your damn business

Witamy - Welcome in Polish

You are not from here... where are you from?

You have a beautiful accent... where is it from?

You sound European... where are you from?

If I only got a penny every single time someone asks me that wonderful question... so far today I have been asked three times. Sometimes it's more, sometimes it's less but while it might surprise you, I'm kind of tired of answering the same question over and over again.

Just a warning, this is a rant because while it has always been quite annoying to me... today for the first time someone asked THE question without even trying to be polite about it.

I was chatting to a customer in the boutique I recently started working and after a few seconds of me speaking she made a face (people always do the "you sound different" face) and said:

You have a very strong accent. Where are you from?

I'm from Poland. I replied

More faces.

Your accent is very strong. You haven't been here for long?

This time it's me making a face. My eyebrows raise very high when I say:

I've been here for a few years.

Oh, it's very strong... I like it. - but doesn't really seem to be impressed with what she hears.

I spend the next 5 minutes in agony trying not to kick her out of the store or at least not to explain to her that she has no right to speak to people like this. I'm boiling inside with anger towards this white privileged woman who I assume speaks no other language than English and dares to comment on the way I speak. After my parents paid thousands of dollars for me to even have an opportunity to learn it. I have spent half of my life on learning how to speak English, and the last couple years on practicing my writing skills just to be at least half as good as native speaking writers. I would give anything for a day when my accent doesn't matter. And this lady dares to suggest it's not good enough. That it's too strong.

Finally, after she and her obnoxious companion (who just spent 10 minutes grabbing theatrically every dress and every top screaming Oh my god, I love it!) ) leave, I call my husband and tell him all about it. He doesn't get it. I mean, he says she's a b***h and all that but he doesn't get it. He never will.

Maybe you'll think I'm crazy but I don't see why it's okay to ask people where they are from right after hearing their accents. It's not an ice breaker. It's basically pointing out we don't belong. That we are different and it needs to be the first thing brought up in a conversation with us. Also, no offense but do you really think you're the only person who's asking us that question? If yes, you are very naive (or ignorant). If not, why do you keep on asking?

Imagine doing the exact same thing but based on people's looks or other characteristics. Would you ever come up to an Asian person and ask:

Oh, your eyes are a different shape, are you from Asia?

or even better

You're skin is darker, did your family come from Africa?

Believe it or not but some people might find it offending. However, how is it different from pointing out somebody's accent? We don't come up to girls with big boobs and ask them where did their big boobs come from: their mothers or maybe too much carbs? It's probably something out of their control, something that they can't change and it's also none of our damn business.

Answering the same stupid question every single day, sometimes a few times a day, simply gets old. It's annoying and frustrating and it keeps on happening. Yes, I have an accent. Yes, I wasn't born here and yes, my life is probably way more interesting than yours. No, I do not want to talk about it with every stranger I dare to speak a word to. Sometimes I feel like even my hi has an accent.

I pray that one day people will stop asking me THE question but I also know that most definitely I'll be answering it for the rest of my life. I'll also be confused with being German, French, Dutch, Norwegian and occasionally even Russian. On the good days I'm simply "European". I get Australian from time to time too. My favorite time is when I am suspected to be Irish or British. While those people clearly have no idea what they are talking about, I do feel like it's a bit of a compliment.

So let's turn this rant into a purposeful message. If you ever meet a person with an accent, don't ask them where they are from. Most certainly don't ask where their accent is from. Don't tell them they are not from here. And oh, dear god, I'm begging you, do not use I love your accent... line to pick up poor foreign girls. Just leave us alone. Let us be. If we want to tell you about our upbringing, I promise, we will.


About the author

Martyna Dearing

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