CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER GELORMINE

My husband and I grew up in different states, and when we moved to Germany together after getting married, one of the first questions people asked us was, “Where are you from?” I always answered, “I’m from Connecticut, and my husband is from Virginia,” because even though I’d attended college there and my brand-new driver’s license with my brand-new last name said Virginia on it, that’s not where I was from. I was from Connecticut.

German flag

The question has gotten significantly more complicated the more we move around. Yes, I was born and raised in that New England state, and yes, my husband was born and raised in that more southern state, but our children weren’t. My daughter can more easily say that she’s from Germany, or South Carolina, or Colorado, or Okinawa than she can from either of the states her parents used to claim as home. My son was born in Colorado, but has lived here on Okinawa for a greater percentage of his life than he was there. Does that mean he’s now “from” Okinawa?

This is all new territory for me. I used to be able to answer that question without a second thought or a moment’s pause, but not so any longer. My once simple answer grew longer when I got married; does it now mean that it should become that much more complicated, now that my two children can claim different regions of origin?

Colorado pic

I asked my daughter this very question the other day, and she answered without hesitation and with all the conviction of a five-year-old, “I’m from Germany.” And what about her brother? “He’s from Colorado.” Nevermind that she remembers nothing from her first year and a half of life there; she associates Germany as where she’s from. But then, it’s easy to have such a concrete answer when you’re that young. Where you’re born is where you’re from.

But what about when you’re older, when answers like that aren’t so black and white? When you’ve lived in state after state, and country after country, making a home for yourself everywhere you go? I wonder what my daughter’s answer will be when she’s ten, or fifteen, or twenty. I wonder what answer she’ll give to her own children someday, when they ask her where she’s from? Will it still be Germany, her birthplace? Or will it be some other place that she’s connected with and where she’s put down roots?

Will her answer eventually be, “I’m from everywhere”?

Earth

What about you? How do you answer this question? With all the moves and all the places you’ve called home, how do you determine where you are from?

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26 COMMENTS

  1. i love this post! my husband and i are also from different states he from Ohio and my self from Michigan both my kids were born in NC but my problem is i say im from Michigan because that was my home of record when i joined the marine corps but i was born in Hawaii and spent more time in California and North Carolina then Michigan. i was a marine brat then joined myself and now im the dependent again! so when some one asks where im from im not sure what to say.

  2. Nah – I’m from Jersey (NORTH Jersey, thankyouverymuch) and he’s from Boston…makes for great baseball seasons…LOL. That’s what we tell people; the kids tell people where they were born and then launch into all the places we’ve lived. I like that I grew up in Jersey, went to college there and earned my stripes/scars in the Garden State…and yes, the Sopranos was filmed in my hometown (where Tony’s mothers “house” was; his house was up the road about 10min) — and yes, I can be a bit…feisty…when necessary…LOL – as my DH says “it’s the Jersey in her”

  3. I have so enjoyed reading these posts. I’ve always just told my kids (who are thankfully too little to question it much) that they are Jacksonville children. This is due to the somewhat complicated fact that I gave birth to one in Jacksonville, NC, and the next in Jacksonville, FL. Off topic, I have threatened divorce if another move to anywhere called Jacksonville comes up.
    As for where we’re from… I’m from Miami, but born of a New York family. Raised in Miami, though. The Man was born and bred in Texas. And of all places, we met in Korea. I still hold Florida residence, and he has his Texas residence. My daughter is a traitor because she claims to be a Texan, but my son thankfully has a Florida birth certificate, so he can’t defect to the dark side!

  4. Have to post again, too. This is such a great string. Kids totally complicate the issue! I lived 28 years in one place, and it was such a unique place that to say it’s not ingrained in me is crazy talk. But my baby knows nothing of that. He lived there until he was 2, he moved here and has been back at least 2x a year since (this last time, for the last 3 months). But does he really KNOW what OUR home is? I don’t think so.

    Will he consider Okinawa to be “home?” Maybe! & how cool is that?

  5. aahhh…this post brought tears to my eyes. I never thought about the trouble my kids would have answering this questions. For my husband and I its pretty simple born and rasied in the same town until we were 18 and he left and joined the corp and then me when I married him. We lived in So Cal for 6+ years and NC and TX…but because i spent the most time in CA and loved it the most…i always say i like to call San Diego home…knowing the small lil town in KS will always be home…damn it! But my poor kids….My son was born in San Diego and we left when he was 3 then to KS for 2 years while dad was in Oki then to NC for 2+ years and now in TX 2+ years and then onto OKI….I had to run to his room and ask him “When we get to Oki and kids ask where are you from…what are you gonna tell them?….he answers… “um…the US” (my little smart ass!) he giggled and was like “California” so i guess kids do associate where they were born as where they are from. We werent sure where to go after our 3 years in Oki but now I want to come back to TX so at least when our baby girl who was born here can answer without hesitation “I am from HERE!” Great Thread!

  6. I spent several years on Okinawa in the late 80s and earyl 90s. Was born and raised Air Force. I have found that a lot of brats like myself actually enjoy answering this question. I usually start with…I was born at Vendenberg AFB and my dad was in the Air Force so we moved a lot.

    This is followed by either blank stares as people that are confused try to figure out what to do…or by follow ups of where else did you live? and what was it like?

    I have made many friends once my dad retired by just talking to people about where I am “from”.

    And for me “home” is whereever my wife and choose to live at that moment in time.

  7. My husband & I are both from Hawaii, born and raised. He is of Russian/Polish/Norwegian descent, and my family’s background is primarily Chinese, German and Hawaiian. Our son, who was born in Hawaii, is 5 years old and has lived in Japan since he was 2.

    He likes to tell people – wholeheartedly – that he’s Japanese.

    Or, on a trip to Thailand, he introduced himself to an English couple from Singapore as being Russian. & that his Daddy is from Russia too.

    We’ve since sent him to Hawaii for the summer. Hoping he, like any child whose grown up away from what his parents consider to be their collective roots, picks up just a little bit of HOME.

  8. I’ve been asked where my husband and I are from many times. My husband is from Alaska and I’m from Texas. I was living in Mobile AL when Erik and I met, though, he was stationed at Fort Gordon, GA…how did we meet, you ask? We met through a mutual friend and Myspace. We were married after only 6 mths of dating. I constantly call Erik a Yankee as he is from the North but he says that he’s not seeing as Alaska became a state after that term went out of fashion…lol…

  9. People ask me where I’m from strictly due to the accent. I actually was asked that question a lot during our stint at Camp Pendleton. Most native Californian’s seemed fascinated with it. But where I’m “from” is not “home” to me. I no longer live there. Home is where the Marine Corps sends us because that’s where my husband is.

  10. Have to comment again after reading everyone’s thoughts (which I love!). After spending my first 10 years on the east coast, my second & nearly third 10 years on the west coast, traveling around the world for a year and then moving to Hawaii to date my future husband, I remember struggling with the question of whether he was THE ONE. And one day, while he was on a short TDY I drove past the Home/Furnishing Store near Pearl Harbor and it hit me that Brent was HOME to me. That was the day that I knew. Home would be where he and I were together. So am I from Brent??

  11. I hate answering questions with “Its complicated” as it scares off potential friends until I ask them the same question!

  12. Ah, that. I’ve always cringed when the inevitable “where are you from?” is asked whenever I’ve moved somewhere new. Home has always been wherever we were ordered to be at the time; I’ve never felt “at home” anywhere. The Army saw me into this world, the Air Force watched me grow, and I don’t doubt the Air Force will see me out of it prematurely (I swear I’m going to snap one of these days when I’m being treated like a 2nd-class citizen because I’m only a Dependent. 26 yrs of that has gotten old… but I digress, sorry).

    Anyway. I’ve always just told people my family’s from Fargo, North Dakota (people seem to accept my insane moments easier once that’s said), but I’ve moved around too much to claim anywhere. Hubby’s always had an easy answer: San Diego, from babe until Basic Training. Sigh. The grass is always greener….

  13. What a deceptively simple question.
    I have never felt that I had a straightforward answer for this. My dad is from the UK, my mom from eastern NC (I dread the thought of being stationed there). My brother was born in the UK. I was born in the US (PA) just a few months after my parents moved there from Germany. A few years later we relocated to Northern VA/DC area. A few years after that we (minus my brother) moved down to FL, where my parents still live. Beyond that I have lived in the mountains of NC, then down to Charlotte, then over to Raleigh. Even though it doesn’t really pop up on the map, I spent half my childhood in the UK. The Village Farmhouse, Harlexton. I also lived with my brother for a season in Chevy Chase, MD, just outside of DC, once again. Now I live in Okinawa. But those are simply the places I’ve lived. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I was from some of them. When we ask, “Where are you from?” it has so many more connotations than simply where you were born. I have always lived in some sort of grey middle ground where I’m always a little too much of one thing but not enough of the other. But not nicely half and half either. Maybe something along the lines of a 60/40 split. I lived in FL for 15 years (the longest, by far), but it wasn’t until I spent a week in a canoe in the Everglades that I started to identify with it. I have a lot of roots there, but I wouldn’t say that was where I was from, either. When all this moving around is finally said and done with, the only place I hope to end up is back in the UK. It is where the heart is.
    But now I am here. I am not Japanese nor Okinawan. That is made abundantly clear to me at all times. At the same time though, it is abundantly clear to everyone else around me. While I am here I am a gaijin (just like you), and it is a relief. No more pretending to be a round peg to fit in the round hole in the shape sorting bucket. Over here, there is not a shape sorting bucket that I am expected to fit into. I am not even a peg anymore. I am just an outsider- what I have always been.
    So, I suppose where I am from is just that grey area of the in-between places. But that’s not really an answer I can give in an introductory conversation. 🙂

  14. I wrote virtually this same post on my own blog. It is actually one of the things I worry about most for my kids. I want my kids to have a “from.” It is so important to me to be able to say where I am from – such a HUGE part of my identity! I know that the experiences they are gaining are amazing and they are learning a lot of life lessons, but I feel like they are missing out not having their own “from.”

  15. I am from London, UK. Met hubby in NYC. He is from Brooklyn, NY. I am half Irish, but have never been there. He is Puerto Rican and spent his youth between NY and PR. Daughter was born in San Diego, Son was born in London. She says she is American and he say’s he is British, but that changes from month to month depending on where they feel like being from that week! I think we have to say we are from the world! I will always consider myself a Londoner though! Maybe that’s because I am here right now and you become where you are or maybe because I grew up consistently in London until I was a young adult. It will be interesting to see what the kids say when they are adults since they are a lot more transient as kids than I ever was. Interesting post and cool to see where everyone is from!

  16. I say Im originally from California but Ive lived all over. DH is originally from New Jersery. Its more complicated as you said now that we have children. Our oldest was born on Camp Pendleton but our youngest was born here. She even has a Japanese birth certificate. Im not quite sure how Ill explain to her where shes from.

  17. I think for us military folks, this one little question can turn into a great conversation starter. My husband and I always have fun explaining, “Beth is from Florida, Orlando’s from Puerto Rico, but we’ve both lived all over the place, and still call Florida home.” Well, except of course for right now, when I’m waiting for him to return to Okinawa after this deployment….when I say, “Get home!” I mean here. 🙂 We have a dear friend whose daughter insisted that she was, in fact, Japanese, because she had spent most of her life here in Okinawa. She said, “People who spend a long time in the U.S. call themselves Americans!” So really, I think it’s where your heart is. And I’ve got pieces of my heart all over the place!

  18. Where your from is where you call home…wherever you grew up is where your from…I was born and raised in California…so Im from California although I am now a Florida resident after living there for 5 years….home is california. Now if someone asks me what I am…it’s a different story…I’m not a Californian…I’m a Dominican….100% hispanic

  19. I’m from CT too…the “quiet corner” area. I say that I’m from CT or New England and that I prefer to be from North Carolina. Although I spent my entire childhood in CT, NC was where I got married, bought my first home, and had my two babies. It’s also where my husband and I would like to return. So that’s what I say. “My childhood is from Connecticut but I call North Carolina home”

  20. I grew up in the Army and after 3 tours in Germany (then West), including being born there, I actually got really frustrated with kids who said I must be German because of where I was born. (Imagine an 8 year old explaining to a child who has never left their county in MS and thinks North Carolina is another COUNTRY that she’s still an American because of her parents’ citizenship….oy. To say I got defensive about that is putting it lightly….)

    Anywho, these days I just tell people Washington state because it’s the place I lived the longest between being a military “brat” and a military spouse. But I don’t really consider it home any more – and I’ve never felt like I had a “hometown” per se, even when I lived in one town for 5 years. So to civilians, I’m “from” Washington; to other military folks I usually say “I grew up in the Army; no real hometown”. I usually get nods of understanding from the milspouses. LOL

  21. My husband and I have the same discussion. I was born and raised in Connecticut but spent the past 9 years in New York before coming to Okinawa. He was born and lived in Australia until he was 25, then Virginia, boot camp in South Carolina, then North Carolina, then 5 years in New York, and now Oki. I think the “everywhere” response is the best but my husband says he is going to always be from Australia.

  22. The short answer for me is Oregon but usually I say I was born in California but grew up in Oregon…I haven’t lived in Oregon for 17 years but I still call it home.

  23. We have paintings on the wall of each place we have lived since we got married. My oldest often makes a point of referring to the England pix and saying, “That’s where I was born. But Quinn wasn’t, he was just in mommy’s tummy.” I think they love being able to differentiate between their “from” stories. I love it. In fact, I’m going to get them “Made in the UK” “Italy” and “Japan” t-shirts!!! I love that instead of just answering with the local town, they’ll have exotic answers no matter where they end up…

  24. I really like this post because my husband and I have had the same conversation many times! We’re both Texan and that’s such a hardcore, ingrained thing that I don’t think it’ll ever change….but it’s true that the more we move around, the more we feel that we’re from “everywhere” now. Every place we’ve lived has influenced our lifestyle and attitudes in ways that will stick with us forever. And as for kids…my oldest daughter insisted for years that she was half Japanese because she was born in Misawa, and that my youngest was half Italian since that’s where she was born. It’s taken a while, but we’ve started to explain it all to them in a way that they understand a little better. Though they still don’t buy the whole “you’re a Texan because we’re Texan” argument 🙂

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