Where Are You From?

Where Are You From?

where are you fromQuick Link: The Dreaded Question: Where Are You From?

Today I’m writing at A Life Overseas about one of the hardest questions to answer for expats and especially for Third Culture Kids.

More and more I hear people asking my children where they are from. For now, for Lucy, the answer seems obvious. She was born in Djibouti, she has spent her whole life except first grade there. She is eight years old and sees things in black and white. But already she is picking up on nuances that counter her assumption. Like that people in Djibouti, Kenya, and the US greet us by saying, “Welcome home.”

For our teenagers the answer is also complicated and they are becoming more aware of the complications. Their responses to the question vary.

My parents live in Djibouti, where I still have a bed and friends and where I lived for 10 years. But I also lived in Somaliland. But now I go to school in Kenya. I also went to school in France for a while. But I was born in Minnesota…

Click here to read about our conversation on how to answer this question and to find out how I jet-laggedly responded to on inquiry about where I am from (after traveling for over 40 hours, through three continents): The Dreaded Question: Where Are You From?


  1. Susan Dewey January 27, 2014 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    Hi! You may be interested in my own blog post on transitioning “home” as an expat. http://beeberrywoods.com/FiberEtc/2013/12/re-entry-or-how-i-came-home-to-a-place-id-never-been/


    • Rachel Pieh Jones
      Rachel Pieh Jones January 27, 2014 at 4:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing this piece, Susan. Love that quote at the top from Ursula Le Guin, fits the experience so well, doesn’t it?

  2. John Nette January 28, 2014 at 9:39 am - Reply

    Hi Rachel, for me it’s not a dreaded question, and I wear it with pride, so to speak. I don’t have a simple answer and as you wrote on ‘a life overseas’ website it depends on what the question is – where I’m born, where I live, have lived, have grown up, what passports I carry, where I feel I belong, where my family live, it can be exhausting. Often the questioner gets a puzzled look when I ask “what do you mean?” and my wife rolls her eyes. People want a simple answer and there is no simple answer. Not fully belonging to one place or belonging to many is both frightening and exhilarating. This is a long conversation, but I love it.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones
      Rachel Pieh Jones January 28, 2014 at 10:57 am - Reply

      Glad to hear this John. I agree, though I used that word, the unique experience of living overseas can most certainly be worn with pride. I like that you ask people back what they mean.

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