No, I Don’t Belong To One Place
I’m being introduced to a stranger. Everything seems to go smoothly; we exchange obligatory smiles, I am complimented on my strong handshake, and as always the weather is mentioned first.
“How hot is it today, eh?”
I politely respond to this rhetorical question, since by now I’ve learned that an answer is always expected.
“Uh, yes… It’s like an oven!” I try to emphasise how much I agree.
This hilariously ridiculous small talk seems to be going on for ages, until finally the bomb is dropped.
“I can hear you have an accent…?”
It’s a half-question, half-statement, but then again experience tells me it’s time to disclose where I’m from. In the past, the conversation went something along those lines:
“Ah, yeah, it’s a mix of Polish and French”
The confusion written all over your face, was enough for me to guess the next question.
“So you’re, uh, French or Polish?”
By the way, there’s something stuck between your teeth. It’s very distracting. Unfortunately for you, the social conventions prevent me from disclosing that information at this point in time.
“Well, actually, I’m Canadian.”
I could see the steam rising from your head, as you awkwardly smile and change the subject back to the weather again. I go along with it, knowing you’re one of those people who just can’t compute my background, because you can’t assign me to one specific ethnicity.
Nowadays, when I get asked about my accent, things go a bit more differently. I came up with a one-liner, so I can quickly get it over with and move on to some more interesting subjects. Like the weather.
“Well, I was born in France, lived most of my life in Poland,” and before they can define where I belong to, “but I’m Canadian. Oh, and now I live here in Australia.”
Most people just smile and nod, unsure of how to respond or for some weird reason, become impressed with the number of countries I’ve mentioned. This method seems to have failed though, because other times people decide to actually argue my explanation (yeah, I was like WTF too).
“But you’re not really Canadian if you’ve lived there for only three years. Don’t you feel more French, since you were born there?”
“It also would make more sense if you were Polish, since you grew up there.”
“Well, I guess, but..”
“Anyway, that’s a weird combination. You just seem to be from all over the place.”
Yes, I am “from all over the place” as you very nicely put it. It’s interesting how people have the urge to place you neatly in one corner of the world. I need to be easily identifiable; after all we humans love to categorise. How else could we apply all those stereotypes we’ve learned, to one person?
All assumptions they grew up with, became too complicated to untangle and wrap around their heads. Surprise! I do not represent one culture, one nation, or one idea. I am a mix of where I lived, the people I’ve met, and the awesome and not-so-awesome things I’ve experienced. So can you please stop telling me where I should belong?
Thank you and have a nice day.