“I was born in India, but spent most of life in the United Arab Emirates.”
Do you also tend to answer the question “where are you from?” without mentioning just one place? What do you expect when you ask someone else where they are from?
Picture this: you are at an event and several keynote speakers are invited on stage to give talks. The announcements go on … “American economist…”, “… from Bangladesh will be speaking to us about…”, “Coming from Nigeria…”
Did different attires, genders, possible topics, standard of living, personalities, and even credibility of the talk pop up in your mind depending on the geographic introduction of the person?
Maybe not all of them, but some criteria might have differed based on that introduction. But, how do we come to the assumption that a person’s nationality is a good indicator of their personal attributes and the circumstances that we cannot see?
How does a set of printed papers (passport) and artificially created world borders provide answers about someone without taking into their life experiences in context?
The answer is rather simple – they don’t. When we create assumptions about someone based on just where they are from, we are reflecting our prejudice, stereotypes, and the hierarchies we believe that their nationality falls in.
I have observed many such incidents through my cross-cultural interactions in the past year. On one occasion, a team member attended our meeting with the background of the average urban city house interior. It would be a surprise to some later that they were attending the call from Iraq, not through a clay house but in a safe and furnished apartment like the rest of us.
In other conversations, I have seen that my introduction as someone from Uttar Pradesh surprises them that I am pursuing education in the Middle East instead of tending to rice fields back in India.
On other indirect interactions, I’ve observed that the creation of fake news on WhatsApp in India involves backing claims allegedly made by people who almost always have a westernized name or some sort of affiliation with a western organization.
Your life is more than your nationality
In today’s globalized world, a person’s geographic background is becoming lesser of an authentic indicator about them. As people experience drastically diverse circumstances by travelling frequently, or having others travel to where they are or via online experiences or even print media, their experiences, choices, thoughts shape their life journey differently.
How often have you had assumptions about a person and what they have to offer based on just their nationality? What does using your nationality in an introduction really mean?
It’s time to reflect so we can amend our identities and perceptions about people to be more realistic, respectable and true to the current circumstances, and honor ours and other’s life journeys and experiences.
What a wonderful read. Honestly, I have been thinking about this for quite some time. I feel that including our location and nationality in our introductions isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It paints a more definite picture. Unfortunately, part of that picture is the stereotypes that we have. Personally, location is one of the boxes that I fill in my head when someone introduces themselves. In a way, it provides some clarity in my mind, helps me remember that person.
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Yup I get that as well. Sometimes it’s also just small talk so things aren’t awkward and depending on the context it could even be a conversation prompter. I’m definitely not saying that we should stop including these things in conversation because ultimately in many cases they do help cultural understanding and memory but it calls for reflection on the other cases regardless.
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I grew up learning that judging a person by their race or appearance will never show the true identification of a person but the “way” or “manner” the person talks or what the person talks “about” gives the main image of the persons philosophical thinking.
This was very well said, I’ve been in situations where I get judged upon just because I am from India or South India. I’ve often been called racial slurs and some people tend to think I’m poor because of my nationality when they have no idea who I am or what I do. Some people tend to judge others by their nationality or skin color.
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I totally get you! I should be planting rice but here I am replying to you instead. On the brighter side, more and more people are realizing this so that’s good 🙂 I hope you face less of those discriminatory person’s though or can stand up to them confidently ❤
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