I get this question often, I guess.
And I still don't know how to answer it.
On the bus ride to uni, my friend Sean and I sat opposite an old Asian man. He asked for help getting to the Clancy auditorium and after we filled him in, he asked where I was from. I always get kind of confused when people ask me this question. Well it kind of depends on who asks (Asian seniors usually want to know what I am ethnically), but because I have been approached in differing ways in several differing situations, with different kinds of people, I don't know what to say anymore.
So I asked him, do you mean where I live or where my parents are from? He obviously knew next to no English and I was bombarding his question with so many more of my own lol. He just repeated it again with a polite smile and I ended up saying, I live in Canley Vale and my parents are from Vietnam. He seemed pretty satisfied with that answer.
I only bring this up because I know a lot of people who, when asked where they're from, they say *insert country of parental origin*, instead of like Cabramatta or Canley Vale. It's always been the case with me where I say I'm from Canley Vale and they're like ".. No, like where are you originally from" and I'm like... Canley Vale LOL was born here m8.
I've made a few friends who live in the Northern Beaches and my first encounter with a guy named Scott was exactly that. But instead of asking where I was from, he asked what nationality I was. Being a little smart arsed b I said Australian. I know, I know, I know. They were actually inquiring about the origin of my parents and ancestors before them. I know they want me to say Vietnamese, but I never do.
It's not a snide thing on my part, like I think they're ignorant or being racist. I know they're just curious and they'd ask every person in the same way, but the honest truth is I've always felt Australian. So I decide to answer them truthfully.
In high school, a bunch of professional-ish actors came to our school and held play writing workshops with my drama class. On the very first day, they got us to sit in a circle and introduce ourselves by stating three simple facts: your name (something else that I forgot LOL) and where you are from. One of the actors started first. His name was Ken and he's from the Philippines (and I'm pretty sure he was born there) We went around the circle, everyone said their names followed by "Vietnamese, Chinese, Cambodian, I'm a mix ..." and when they reached me, I said, Jessica. I'm Australian.
If I were to be completely real, I only said Australian because I knew (having being taught in primary school) that we could identify ourselves as either Australian or where our parents are from (if we were born here) cos they both represent who we are and where we are from. And really, it was more the fact that everyone mentioned an Asian country or whatever and I wanted to be different and stand out so I said 'Australian'. Like either of the two didn't phase me.
Although, this does stem back to one of the many lectures I got from my year 6 teacher (apparently I was really annoying LOL). I said I was Vietnamese once in a conversation with some friends. She over heard and stormed towards me, "were you born in Vietnam?" and I said no, I was born here. And she proceeds to passively aggressively state "Then you're Australian, your parents are Vietnamese" I didn't think much of it then, but that conversation did pop up while we were going around the circle.
Anyway, they made a big deal about why I considered myself Australian while we were in that circle. At the end of the day, we had a few people in the hot seat talking/being asked various questions. I hopped up cos I didn't want to miss out and one of the actors, Kat, immediately asked me why I identified as Australian. I really didn't know how to answer. Cos I was born here?
So that poses the question, do you identify yourself based on where you were born? Cos I have a few friends who were born in Malaysia on a stop over flight from Vietnam to Australia. Does that make them Malaysian? Sure, she has Malaysian citizenship, but she's a bit more Vietnamese and Australian than she is Malay.
I guess I can say, retrospectively, the reason I identify myself as Australian is because I find that I have more of their qualities than I do Vietnamese ones. Other than looking the part, knowing the bare basics of the language I wouldn't have much in common with a girl who's grown up in Vietnam and who identifies herself as Vietnamese.
Anyway, this became very long winded LOL
But my last point is that if we're overseas or interstate, and people ask us where we're from, it's a unanimous declaration: Sydney. So why is it different, when someone in Sydney asks you where you're from. Am I from the suburb I live in or am I from the country I am bound to ethnically?
I suppose it all comes down to the way people ask and in which situation they ask. Cos if you're overseas and you're a clear tourist, they'd wanna know where you're touring from. And depending on the way the question is phrase "What's your background?" vs. "Where are you from?" they'll yield very different answers, from me at least LOL
I guess the reason I reply with 'Australian' now, is to make them feel uncomfortable. Like they've overstepped or were being a bit prejudice or ignorant. I get a little kick out of that, but it's not to spite them, they know it's just fun and games LOL
So how do you identify yourself?