Where You From? My Little Social Experiment

“True wisdom listens more, talks less and can get along with all types of people. ” – Kiana Tom

Nice To Meet You, Where You from?

“Good government is no substitute for self-government.” – Mohandas Gandhi

In living abroad, one of the most common questions you will hear is “so where are you from?”. From this one little question people will immediately get an initial impression about who you are.

I am someone who doesn’t identify with any group or nation, but I play along for the sake of conversational niceties.

I always find this question to be very interesting when it is asked of me, because from just my external appearance, many people can’t really pin point where I am from.

I was born in the US but I am of Mexican decent. My name is Ivan Campuzano, so sometimes because of my name people assume I am Russian, Italian, or Spanish. I have also heard that I could pass as Asian and several other ethnicity’s. I now live in Korea and just the other day someone asked me if I was half Korean, but I think its mainly because of my glasses.

I think early on one of the reasons why I never felt any nationalistic pride, was because I grew up living between two different worlds. I eventually saw how foolish it is to be nationalistic, as it is one of main ways we divide and cause conflict in humanity.

So when people ask where I am from I will either say I am Mexican or American, but lately I am more likely to say I am from Mexico.

Now I want to tell you about my little experiment and some of my observations.

The first time I started saying I was something other than American, was on the trams of Prague. On a few occasions I did not want to be associated with the British people who where on stag party’s or belligerent loud Americans causing a raucous and disturbing everyone on the tram. Being one of the few sober foreigners, some Czech people would often ask me to please tell my friends to be quite. I would just politely say they where not my friends.

American or Mexican? What Did I Observe?

It was really interesting for me to see, that generally most people would respond in a more positive manner when I said I was from Mexico, they seemed more intrigued.

I figured this was simply because there where very few Mexicans in Prague and they found the culture to be more exotic. There is actually a big community of American Expats in Prague, so Czechs are quite used to being around Americans.

The general theme that emerged was that people seemed to be more interested in getting to know me, when I said I was from Mexico. They would ask more personal questions in effort to try to understand me and where I was from. Whenever I said I was from America, many times it would inevitability turn into a political or economic conversation. Not my idea of fun.

America Land of The….

The basic gist of my observations from these past few years, is that America is no longer the America that the whole world believed it to be. The word is out, America is in deep trouble. It really is quite amazing that in one decade, our government has essentially committed suicide, and it’s actions have negatively influenced the worlds view of the American people.

I am just generalizing but many people from around the world now hold the view that Americans are stupid, uninformed, violent, and only care about themselves. Please… I don’t mean to attack anyone, as I know for the most part this is not true, but because of our government and the corporate media, this is how many people see us.

I am also curious to hear about the experiences of other people who have traveled abroad. What reactions did you observe when people asked you where you are from? Please leave your comments below, I would love to hear about your own findings.

I am a Citizen of The World

“I have no country to fight for: my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.” – Eugene V. Debs

I think we are in a critical point in how we see our selves in relation to the world. I really feel that we all need to have a more worldly attitude. One where we do not separate ourselves by race, creed, color, national origin, sex, political affiliation, or beliefs, but simply see each other as brothers of the only race, which is to simply be human. This takes a tremendous amount of self understanding, its a huge jump from where we are currently at, but a jump we must make if we are to prosper in the future.

So next time someone asks me where I am from, you may hear me say “planet earth”, they may think I am a complete weirdo and walk away 🙂 , but hopefully one day they say “me too” nice to meet you.

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17 Responses to Where You From? My Little Social Experiment

  1. I too have long believed I am an Earthling first and foremost… I love being Canadian, with celtic roots …but truth be told a tree does not need a state…it needs air, water, sun and wind…I pledge allegiance to life…and states, and countries separate us…and we are all the same…and share this planet.. and I hope to live to see the day when we act like it!
    Peace my friend

  2. Interesting piece Ivan! From Americans there’s much drooling over my very British accent. Possibly i shy away from my birth place depending on circumstance. Not speaking anothers language also creates barriers & criticism (as Brits are renowned for being lazy!) People have been pretty receptive towards me in other countries;presentation i think is key here! Beautifully written,as always! Planet Earth indeed!!:) A.

    • i do love the British ladies accents as well :)…very sexy indeed :)..I agree presentation is very important….thanks for sharing my friend 🙂

  3. Hi Ivan,
    What an interesting observation. It is very wise to remove any labels that limit you authentic nature. Understanding your true nature allows you to eliminate labels that stand between you and your Authentic-Self – whose intelligence and power is beyond measure.

  4. This is a very thought provoking read Ivan, but then most of your writing really gets me thinking about my own life. Whenever I have been abroad and people ask I always tell them I am American BUT I also make sure and tell them about me. I am not my country and my country is not me and I think most people when you talk with them realize this. I may be American but yet I don’t agree with the vast majority of the things America is currently doing. I will admit that whenever the question of where I am from came up and I responded American the conversation almost always turned to politics which can be an interesting conversation because most people think you will toe the country policy line. When they find that is not the case the conversation can get interesting.

    I like what you are striving for Ivan. Would you say this is cultural relativism? I think there needs to be much more understanding, acceptance and tolerance in the world but it seems to me that there are many levels of ethnocentrism with not all of it being bad. This is definitely something to think about and reflect on.

    • thanks so much for sharing my friend :)…I am sure they are going to love having you in Indonesia 🙂

  5. As an Aussie I have been mistaken for just about every nationality on planet earth. Americans thought I was English. English thought I was South African. And in Ireland they were just grateful I wasn’t either! It’s a funny old world we live in but I’m still just so glad to be in it. Love your notion of being a global Citizen of the World. I think the internet makes our aspirations toward that end all the more doable. Go with it Ivan. I think you’re on the right track!

    • thanks so much for sharing…I have met some really fantastic Aussies.. :)..I have an Irish friend who I understand about half the time lol :)…take care

  6. Hey Ivan,

    I hate that my last couple have comments have been seemingly a bit combative, but I guess that just means your articles are that thought-provoking.

    While I agree with you that our countries do not define us, and should not, they are a part of our recognized conversation.

    I don’t feel the need to single-handedly defend America, and especially not the majority of America’s recent foreign and domestic policy, but it is home, and I am proud to be an American. I find that when abroad, I am proud to dispel popular mythss about America(ns), and try to give objective explanations of our country and it’s actions when appropriate.

    I realize it is only a social experiment you are conducting, and I am the last person to preach, but don’t forget where you come from, because I come from there too, and it’s a damn fine place if you ask me (even if we have lost our way a bit).

    Ciao Chico

    You may think you have a choice in the matter, but to my knowledge you are not a citizen of Mexico, and travel abroad on an American passport. I know your previous article was about distancing yourself from your parents’ expectations, but I wonder what they would think if you told them you were no longer identifying as American.

  7. Not only are we earthlings, but we are all thats “out there” quite possibly the scariest thing one can ever encounter is another terrified human being.

  8. im a filipino and i always get asked that question. i noticed that a lot of people are not familiar with filipinos. in some countries, they even have a negative perpception about us…

    being a filipino backpacker has a lot of setbacks as well, we can only travel to 60+ countries (visa free and visa upon arrival) and whenever we take our currency $1 = PHP43) out of the country it’s just like coins…

    the money isnt good as well, minimum wage is around $200 a month and a lot of people are even earning less. imagine if you have a family to feed…

    i also want to feel that i am a citizen of this world, but my limitation makes me think otherwise… noticed the gap of what other nationalities have compare to poorer countries like Philippines…

    nevertheless, im with you ivan, i am still a citizen of the world, regardless of what i have in my pocket or the number of stamps in my passport…

  9. Man, you have really come across an interesting subject. I personally believe that our nationalistic pride spawns from an inability to travel in the past. But seriously, if we were all somehow exposed as “humans” rather than mexicans or amerericans seperately we could solve many problems. As an American, I say that in reverence of what I am, rather that where I am from, there’s definitely something that makes me defined when I am somewhere away from home. hmmm, I believe psychological experiments or data can explain what causes nationalistic pride. keep it up my friend

  10. Good point, well written!
    I kind of think a little like you. I do not like to put labels on people, but I think a lot of people actually greatly identify themselves and also others with their nationality. Born and raised in Austria, I never quite feel very austrian when being home. Therefore I started traveling – one of my biggest journeys until now was living in the US for 1,5 years. My experience on this topic is that most Americans don’t identify themselves as American, instead they claim to be “1/3 Irish, 1/3 Italian, 1/2 x, 3/4 y and so on”. I found that pretty weird bc most never visited those countries identified with, nor do they speak the language (in case of Italy, German etc.) and they mostly don’t really know the country’s culture and costums either. However, to me identifiying with a nation means that you do know the nation’s culture and by that the costums – and you are even a part of it.

    Concerning what others think about America. I think a lot of Americans have a distorted view on what America really is, since a lot (of course there are exceptions) never really get out of the country, get to know other cultures in order to compare their country with others. When I told Americans that I am from Austria, the majority instantly thought that I am Australian – tho I do not even have their accent. When I clarified that I do not live in a country surrounded by the pacific ocean, but instead in the middle of europe, few even did not believe me that Australia is in Europe… Those who believed me, but did not know Austria would ask me questions about us having electricity and washing machines or if we still wash our clothes in the rivers.
    I do know that Austria is a small country, but hey let’s be honest what european country is not small compared to the US.

    Keep it up with those interesting posts! I enjoy reading your view on various subjects.

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