When was the last time someone asked you where you are from?
The other week.
What happened/how did they say it?
Him: So where’d you come from?
Him: Oh nah I mean where are you REALLY from?
Him: Nah like you weren’t born here, what country mate?
Me: ‘I was born and raised here.
Him: Oh yeah but your nationality.
Me: Lol, Polynesian and European.
Him (getting a little frustrated with my answers): Oh yeah you looked like one of them Islanders, are you Maori or Samoan?
Me: I’m Indo-Fijian.
Him: Oh so you’re not even Fijian?
He didn’t drop it and we ended up talking for a couple more minutes, he was quite persistent trying to get to the bottom of what my heritage is; it was quite invalidating and unsettling.
What was the person like?
Uncomfortably curious, caucasian.
How did/does it make you feel?
I understand that people are genuinely curious and most don’t mean any harm by asking, but sometimes when they ask in an off-tone like that it makes me feel like I don’t belong anywhere. Being mixed is tricky because whichever motherland I visit I feel either to white or too brown, I’m fortunate to live in multicultural Melbourne, and for the most part I feel a sense of belonging, but when those questions are raised I can’t help but feel a little alien.
What connotations do you think the question has and what do you think it says about Australia in terms of the way we understand cultural identity/ nationality?
It can go both ways. I’ve had positive experiences with this question, some relating to me being from the same motherland, but on the more negative side - usually when Caucasians ask - when I’m subjected to this question, on many occasions, I’ve been met with almost their disapproval/disappointment. They tend to reword the same question: ‘where are your parents from’; ‘what is your nationality’, and so on. Because it seems like most cannot fathom the idea that I am from here. Melbourne is such a rich-multicultural collective of people and I understand that some are curious but when the question is targeted directly at me, It’s hard not to feel different.