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The more I thought about the concept of fromness, the more convoluted it seemed. “Who we are is made up of a compilation of our origins and experiences,” I continued. “Our origins represent the parts of ourselves we can’t control, while our experiences are a by-product of our choices and circumstances. When I say I’m Irish and Italian, there are thousands of years of history and culture attached to two little words. I come from that. I am that, to an extent.”

“You are only that because you have chosen to embrace that,” said David. He had a point. My “Italian” mother is actually half Greek, but since that culture never seeped into my upbringing, it is always left unsaid when I answer the ethnicity question.

“I suppose most people take some comfort from belonging to a place or tradition,” David said. “It’s like an anchor for them. But I guess I prefer a broader worldview. Next time someone asks me where I’m from, I think I’ll just say Earth — or perhaps I’ll elaborate and say, ‘You know, the part of Earth where they eat lots of paprika.’”

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DoktorDave July 1, 2009 @ 8:46 p.m.

I'm from Escondido. I live in the house I came home to when I was born.

My answer depends on where, why and whom is asking the question. If I don't think they'll recognize Escondido, I'll just say San Diego or Southern California.

I disagree with the idea that everyone asks the question just "...for information to help you shape your opinion of them.". Simply because your opinion of someone develops as you spend time around that person, regardless if you talk to them or not and regardless of where you're from.

In my opinion, the minimum reason to ask the question is to show an interest in having a conversation. It's an ice-breaker...everyone comes from somewhere.

As far as judging people without the facts? People do it all the time...without a care as to where they're from.

We start judging others as soon as we see them. We see how they look, how they walk, their facial expression, their color, their demeanor. When they get in range, we smell them, detect their pheromones. All this information constantly affects our assessment of the person. We use stereotypes as a reference...they are often wrong and typically apply to everyone at some point, but we use them anyway.

The evaluation continues as we interact with the person, even if it's someone we've known for years.

It's a basic survival instinct to be aware of our surroundings, whom we're around and judge our situation. To know where someone is from is just "interesting".

Just sayin' ;^)


catty1 July 2, 2009 @ 1:49 p.m.

I was born in and remain a citizen of an island in the West Indies. When people ask me where I'm from and I respond the very first response is, "oh, you don't look . . ." Because I'm "white."

Then, if/when they find out I've lived in SD for most of my life and I'm not an American citizen, the next question is, "why not?" Assumption is that every person is willing to reject (yes, reject, US doesn't allow for duel citizenship with my homeland) my country of origin.

In other words: it's complicated. I like having that connection to the place I was born and the place my parents grew up; while there is much about me that is American there is just as much about me that is influenced by my West Indian roots. Hard to let that go.

Nice question, Barb.


jerome July 3, 2009 @ 1:49 p.m.

i usually ask>do you live here? the doors seem to open that way....hmmmmm? thats just me. love ur column kiddo.


BradInCA July 3, 2009 @ 3:43 p.m.

It can be a really thought-provoking question "Where are you from ?". I often see it asked when someone appears to be a mixture of races, or have an accent that can't be placed, and at that point it becomes a little more than a WHERE YOU'RE FROM type of question.

For me - I say, "I'm from Ohio, that's where my family is. I lived in Phoenix for 17 years as well, and ended up in San Diego, where I love it." It seems a short enough answer, and leaving out even one element seems to limit the connection I might have to the questioner. One day, I met someone who had followed the same path - Mansfield to Columubs to Phoenix to San Diego - and that common denominator made for a long and interesting conversation.

It does sometimes depend a little on where you are. While vacationing in Australia, for instance, I often say simply "San Diego, California". Maybe I shouldn't - maybe I should elaborate. I think where we are "from" shapes us, but doesn't define us. It's usually just a fun question, and I never take offense. I think saying "planet Earth" sends an unfriendly signal though - you might as just well write "JERK" on your forehead.


David Dodd July 3, 2009 @ 5:17 p.m.

It has always been weird for me.

"Where are you from?"


"I mean originally?"

I could tell them I was born in San Diego. But then, I was raised in Los Angeles. And now I've lived here for seventeen years, more often than not more years than they have lived in Baja. I generally just motion toward the border.

"On the other side of that big metal fence over there."


Joe Poutous July 7, 2009 @ 9:54 a.m.

I was born in La Mesa... so usually I point in that direction and say "bout 3 miles that way"..

Alot of my friends know me as SanDiegoJoe.

  • Joe

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