Where Are You From?

Living in London means that we should feel right at home. According to the 2011 Census, less than half of residents in the capital describe themselves as “white British”, which, if we understand this BBC article properly, means that they were born in the United Kingdom.

As expats living in London, we are regularly asked: “Where are you from?” Actually, let’s go back even further. Living in New York, where a good percentage of residents are from elsewhere, we also were asked that question a lot. So we have somewhat of a basis for comparison.

Because we come from different parts of the world and also because we’ve lived in different places, answering this question becomes somewhat complicated. Add a dual citizenship for one of us and we don’t even know where to start.

Back stateside, we answered the question depending on where we were. If we were traveling outside New York, our initial reply would be: “We live in New York.” If someone inquired further and asked where we’re originally from, we would reply that one of us is from Philadelphia and the other from Malta. When asked the question back in New York, we would explain where we’re originally from. If we’re talking to another New Yorker, we might go even more granular and share the neighborhood where we live. And other Yanks took the same approach—start with the state, then perhaps share the city, and if the other person is familiar with that place, give more details.

We noticed that things are different here. While we still take the same approach and normally tell people we’ve moved here from NYC and explain further when prompted, many Brits tend to name the town or village they’re from, no matter how small and unknown to us foreigners it is. It’s only when they see our blank looks, or if we ask, that they will tell us the county or the closest city.

One of the amazing things of living in another country is getting used to these small nuances. You won’t find this written in the guidebooks, or at least none of the ones we’ve read. You simply need to live in a place to start to understand the people and how they think. It’s all part of the adventure.

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