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Old 03.11.2011, 10:10
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Where are you from? When are you going back?

These two questions are things I ask and am asked often.

Where are you from? To me, this is a question that establishes a background for a person, nothing more. I was astonished when someone who I met here LIED to me about his origins, presumably for political reasons. While stereotypes don't hold for everyone, knowing where someone is from does generally give some clue about the range of things you may expect, including, and most importantly, what topics of conversation you may need to steer clear of.

When are you going back? A second question that seems simple to me and leaves me a bit dumbfounded when someone is offended by this question. Maybe it is because I've lived away from some or all of my family for most of my adult life, I take it more as a query of "when are you visiting home" as opposed to "when are we rid of you" question. Maybe I take it that way myself because that is what I mean when I ask.

So, a recent(ly locked) thread lead me to be curious about this. I'm not asking really these questions but rather, what do they mean to you when you ask? What do you think is meant when asked?
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Old 03.11.2011, 10:19
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

Good Thread.

Where are you from? I speak German with a very discernable English accent and I usually find this question is asked so as to enable the enquirer to launch into English (as everybody loves to practice their English no matter what the level!) or to tell me about the time they visited ... Plymouth/Canterbury/Chichester ... (insert any placename of any town in the UK I have never visited). On the flip side, when conversation is struggling, I sometimes deliberately introduce reference to my origins in the hope that we may discover a rich vein of reminiscence.

When are you going back To be honest, not normally phrased this way but maybe it is because we live in a very rural place and I rarely encounter ex pats in day to day life (unless I go into Basel). So the question is more "how long are you staying"... which I guess amounts to the same idea of "how long are you imposing on us" but I never thought of it that way. I also wonder if people want to know how much effort or time to invest in me (I don't mean this negatively - we all know how awful it is to have just made connections with someone only to find they are leaving). I usually find 2 facts, (my son is in the village school and yes, we have bought our house) settles the matter quite quickly. The reality is that neither of these two factors anchor us to CH more than they would, for example, anchor us to a part of the UK that I do not come from. Indeed .. we are moving next year so there we go!
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Old 03.11.2011, 10:23
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

Where are you from? One of the differences I've found here from the UK, is that when people meet my wife, their first question here is "Where are you from". Even if she answers "England" (which is true), there is often persistence "No, but where are you from originally"). In the UK, the question never arose.

When are you going back.There are people in my office who assume I commute weekly. They're quite surprised to find that I live locally.
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Old 03.11.2011, 10:35
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

Weirdest was a few years back.

I was in Italy, and my Italian was nowhere as good as it is now, and an Italian asked me "which part of Italy are you from?"!

I can only figure he thought I was from one of the German- or Ladin-speaking parts, as I certainly can't believe that he thought that Italian was my mother tongue.

I was asked yesterday if I was from England, though. Didn't get asked when I was going back, however. (of course, the person asking has known my wife since she was a child)

Tom
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Old 03.11.2011, 10:46
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

great thread, i agree

Where are you from?

being a third culture kid and having never been accepted as a local in any of the 5 countries i've lived in, i am used to these type of questions. so i am careful not to make any assumptions at all.
I now go by which passport the person holds, it simplifies alot of things.


When are you going back?

i can't answer this question unless i trace my hakka chinese roots back about 4 generations!
but the route so far is malaysia-hongkong-england-switzerland-singapore
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Old 03.11.2011, 10:59
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

Where are you from : France

When are you going back: never.. left France when I was 24 ( I'm now 40 boo) and will then spend most of life abroad.. my question is : where will I spend my old age and in which country will I die? probably Germany ) my husband is german and my kid are enrolled in a German international school, but I hope it will be somewhere else.
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:00
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

Good thread.

Where are you from? I'm never really sure whether they mean where did you live before Switzerland or where were you born/what nationality are you? When we moved here we had Belgian plates on the car and for some reason most of the neighbours thought we spoke flemish.

My French is pretty good but I was often asked which part of Flanders I was from when we lived in Belgium as my accent is obviously not that of a native French speaker.

When are you going back? To be honest I've never really been asked it quite in this way. People generally say 'How long will you be staying in Switzerland?' I think this is because they mostly associate Brits with ex -pat contracts which are often fixed term.
If going back meant going back to live in the UK then the answer would probably be never.
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:02
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

This is easy. (I'm so simple!)

1. UK

2. Was originally planned to be a few weeks ago; might stay for another year.

Edit: Pedantic swissotter pointing out the actual OP ...

1. It means where am I from, which in my case is where I was born and what my nationality is
2. It means when am I going back. I'm only here tempirarily so this queston poses no difficulties.

Last edited by adrianlondon; 03.11.2011 at 11:30.
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:11
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I'm often accused of being Australian. I'm told it's because my accent is hard to place. Those of you I have spoken to in real life might have a different opinion. Who really knows. When I tell people, especially Swiss people where I am from I normally get a "I've spent some time there why would you leave, it's so beautiful there?" or "I've spent some time there do you know a guy called (insert random South African name)?" Then without fail I get the "When are you going back because its so beautiful there?" question. Always shocks people when I say I'll visit but I'll never live there again.

One question though. If I moved to the US would I be able to all myself an African-American?
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:11
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

Most People don't believe me when I tell them I am from Canada. They also ask but where originally I am from. I have no idea what they imagine a canadian look like but apparently I don't fit in that picture.

The shock is when they ask me when I'll go back and I tell them never. People expect us to want to go back where we come from. I didn't leave my country with the idea to not come back. It was a two years thing, it has been 8 years now... I don't belong there anymore. I am too different and I am not sure I belong somewhere. I hope we will find a place and we will settle there for good. We have to, for the kids.
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:14
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

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I'm not asking really these questions but rather, what do they mean to you when you ask? What do you think is meant when asked?
just incase people didn't get what peg was actually asking in this thread
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:19
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

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I now go by which passport the person holds, it simplifies alot of things.
What if you have two or more? Just thought I'd throw that into the mix
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:22
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

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Where are you from?

When are you going back?

I'm not asking really these questions but rather, what do they mean to you when you ask? What do you think is meant when asked?
First one is a good ice breaker, conversation starter...

Second one is a good way to lose a friend / make some enemies... If anyone wants to ask me when I am visiting home they could ask more politely like "Do you go home often?" or "Do you miss it back where you're from?" but "When are you going back?" depending on who's asking, is asking for trouble...
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:23
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

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This is easy. (I'm so simple!)

1. UK

2. Was originally planned to be a few weeks ago; might stay for another year.
Watch out. I said that and I'm still here 5 and a half years later

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just incase people didn't get what peg was actually asking in this thread

Well spotted

To answer the questions, when someone asks me where I am from they normally have guessed I'm from England and want to know which city. I then get the whole "oooh you're from Oxford, how posh" (if only they knew ). I don't take it badly especially when I am talking to them in garbled Swinglish.

If people ask me when I am leaving, I normally take it to mean that their experience is that expats mostly aren't permanent fixtures. My answer depends on my mood. At the moment I would fly back to England tomorrow and never step foot back in this bloomin' country, but most of you know why
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:24
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

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What if you have two or more? Just thought I'd throw that into the mix
multiple citizenship is great!
i'm waiting for malaysia to allow dual citizenship then i can get my swiss one!
but for now i'll settle for id cards (i have collected 4 so far )
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:26
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

Where are you from? I was just take it as Where we have been living previously especially as lots of ex-pats in our village from various places.

I seem to get asked, Would you go back? I suppose would ask that to others rather than When because we are here on a fixed contract so we aren't intending to go back. I wouldn't take it as they want to know when you are going, get rid but just geniune curiousity, small talk...

Last edited by hayleyob; 03.11.2011 at 12:47. Reason: clarify
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:28
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

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What if you have two or more?
Good question.

I used to have two, my kids have three.

Tom
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:51
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

Where are you from? Most people seem to know I'm English after exchanging two sentences with me... Generally they want to know where in England I'm from. Depending on my mood I either say 'an hour from London' or I explain that I come from the oldest recorded town in Britain (which no-one here has ever heard of).

I've learnt to be careful when asking this question though - as someone else mentioned, I never ask 'Where are you from originally?'. I just accept their given background at face value.

When are you going back? I generally get the form of 'Do you think you should go back?'. For example, in the last fortnight, my social worker, psychiatrist, professional reintegration advisor, a careers advisor and another random person have all said this to me... Getting rather bored of explaining that I can't afford to go back!

I generally ask people 'How long are you here for?'. Seems to go down better.
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Old 03.11.2011, 11:58
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

Where are you from? Funny question. I always have difficulty answering it. Often the question is asked in order to pigeon-hole you but I don’t mean that in a bad way. The Swiss have often spent most of their life in one place and assume that other people have done the same. But I am some kind of west hemisphere nomad, starting from just after birth. The longest I have ever been in one place is the time I have been here and, although I have gotten Swiss citizenship, I wouldn’t dare claim to be Swiss. In the US, where I am “from” I also get the “yeah, but I mean originally” as my accent has clearly deteriorated from proper and easily recognizable American English. “I don’t know really” is not well-received as an answer but, if pigeon-holing is the purpose, I can only say I am from all the places I have ever lived, which, actually, is the case for many expats. The question can cause quite the existential crisis.
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I've learnt to be careful when asking this question though - as someone else mentioned, I never ask 'Where are you from originally?'. I just accept their given background at face value.
I do this too, knowing that there are so many possible reasons for giving the answer they give and/or not saying where they are originally from.

When are you going back? I don't get this much anymore. It is usually more "how often do you go back?" The answer to that (every 3-4 years) gets a very surprised reaction but most don't seem to feel they can ask any further.

Good thread. It is funny to think about these questions and why they are asked and how they are answered.
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Old 03.11.2011, 12:05
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Re: Where are you from? When are you going back?

Where are you from? Obviously I am foreign. I don't speak German very well, I don't sound Swiss, I don't understand the local dialect, and when I do speak it's a jumble of mishmash that isn't even grammatically correct. OK... fair enough. I'm American. Please don't hit me and please don't assume I love George Bush.

When are you going back? I've always felt this question was a measure of my commitment to integrating and becoming a part of Swiss life. And when I came here, I threw all caution to the wind and came with full-commitment to integrating and living here for the rest of my life as my goal. And that was my answer.
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