Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Where Do You Come From?

I found this wonderful Ted video through Ken's site, ExpatAmericans.net.  

I used to hate the question, "Where are you from?" because there was no short simple answer.  Like Pico Iyer no one answer was satisfactory.  There was the place I was born (Seattle, USA), the places I sojourned (Tokyo, Japan), the places I worked (USA, China, Korea, Germany, Canada, UK), the places I pay taxes (France and the US), and finally the place I have lived in for nearly 20 years (France).

The problem wasn't the question - the problem was me.  I couldn't decide what I was and what place I could legitimately claim as "home."  I was born in Seattle but hadn't lived there for 20 years.  Did that mean I was no longer a Seattleite?  But Seattle is where I vote and have family (and let's not forget that I pay taxes to the US).

For most of those 20 years I've lived in France but I'm not a citizen and I wasn't born in the Hexagon.  So could I claim France as "home"?  I own a house in Versailles, I have family in at least three French regions, I worked for mostly French companies, I pay French taxes, I go to a French church and I spend most of my days speaking French.  About the only thing I can't do there is vote.

My error was in thinking that "home" can only be one place or that there can only be one definitive answer to the question, "Where are you from?"  On the contrary, it is entirely legitimate to answer "France and the United States."

Because I am "home" in Seattle and I am "home" in Versailles and the two are not (and never will be) mutually exclusive.

Enjoy the video.

3 comments:

Ken Smith said...

I had not visited your site for several days, so I read this post and your two most recent posts tonight. Your previous post, "Tales From The Homeland", is a wonderful, if partial, answer to "Where Do You Come From?"

Ellen said...

I agree with Ken, Victoria.
I've lived in Nogent sur Marne for 37 years. I'm from Nogent. Unlike you, I am a dual French and US citizen, so I do vote here. Yesterday, I encountered the maire walking his dog; he recognized me and we chatted (we've often had different opinions, but always friendly chats). This is home. But if a French person asks me where I'm from and I say Nogent, they'll pick up on my accent and say, "no, where are you from?"
I then say Philadelphia, which is where my parents lived when I registered to vote in the States. I was already attending college in California. We moved to Philly when I entered high school, so I only really lived there for four years. I grew up in central PA. I was born in Wilkes-Barre. Philadelphia, however, is easier to use because the French know, more or less, where that is. Plus I often wear a Phillies cap.
There's a Versailles, PA. If your ancestors had moved east instead of west, then you could have fun with the French, telling them you're from Versailles.

Blaze said...

Ellen, I'm also from Pennsylvania originally--small village in northwestern PA. I had no idea there was a Versailles Pennsylvania.