Author Topic: Deflecting hometown questions...  (Read 15337 times)

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camlan

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #60 on: December 16, 2009, 12:23:41 PM »
Well, today somebody asked me after I helped her at the library.

I gave the answer directly and matter of fact- but in a very stern tone and with a square face. She asked how long had I been here in the USA, and I replied "14 years and I am very happy here".

Transaction ended. We wished each other to have a nice day.

Maybe someone here thought I was from Cuba (euphemized as Lilacland) because in another thread I mentioned that I had cooked black beans and rice. I have been given other reasons for this assumption IRL- usually pertaining to my fair skin and Masters degree leading the person to assume automatically I am from the most affluent of the groups in the umbrella category.

I thought you might be from Cuba not because of the black beans and rice, but because of the language (Spanish is very widely spoken around the world), the reference to the tropics and the bit about women swaying their hips, which is sort of a Caribbean stereotype. Add in the men having issues with where you came from, and my top guess was Cuba, partly because I just didn't think anyone would have issues with someone coming from PR. I think I may also have been influenced by things you've said in other threads, as well, but I can't remember specifics.

In my experience, lots of ethnic cuisines cook beans and rice--Mexican, Puerto Rican, Spanish and probably others that I can't recall right now. The only thing "beans and rice" would suggest to me would be Hispanic, and since that covers Spain, most of South America, parts of the Caribbean, Mexico and Puerto Rico, it doesn't help much in narrowing things down. And there are also a lot of non-Hispanic people who cook beans and rice. I do at least twice a month and I'm Scotch/Irish.

Your accent makes you stand out a bit, especially if, as I gather, it is also influenced by some other language/country that one of your parents is from? Unfortunately, people ask about things that make you different. My nephew gets asked about his wheelchair and why he has one. I have a scar on my chin and sometimes perfect strangers ask me how I got it. The questioners aren't always polite, either.

I do think that most people are just curious about where your accent comes from. I'm sorry you have to deal with people who make judgments about you based on your accent, but perhaps you could use the accent as a sort of early warning system? It helps to clue you in to those people who you really don't want to spend much time with, anyway, because by stereotyping you because of your accent, they have revealed themselves and their true colors.

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whiterose

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #61 on: December 16, 2009, 12:40:31 PM »
I have my father's Spanish accent. Both in Spanish and English.

It has been influenced mainly by the Southern accent thanks to living in the northern part of the state. I do say y'all and the sort. That, and since I roll my R's from Spanish, a lot of people think that it is an Irish or Scottish accent!
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camlan

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #62 on: December 16, 2009, 01:08:26 PM »
I have my father's Spanish accent. Both in Spanish and English.

It has been influenced mainly by the Southern accent thanks to living in the northern part of the state. I do say y'all and the sort. That, and since I roll my R's from Spanish, a lot of people think that it is an Irish or Scottish accent!

That's probably why you get asked about it so often--it's not a standard Spanish or southern accent or Puerto Rican accent. It's different, it's unique, so people get curious. There's probably no malicious intent behind 99% of the questions you get, just plain old curiosity.

Reminds me of a co-worker who grew up in Spain, then moved to Chile, then ended up in a small, rural Connecticut town with a large population of Puerto Ricans. They all could understand her Spanish, but always asked where she was from. She, on the other hand, could understand their Spanish, but got completely lost with the PR vocabulary.

I have a cousin with a thick Boston accent who moved down south. After 25 years, he still has the accent, but it is overlaid with a southern drawl. No one can figure out where he is from.

The one time I broke down and asked someone where he was from, his accent was driving me nuts. His accent sounded Australian, but he was pronouncing certain words in a more Canadian way. I was trying to figure out if there was a part of Canada where everyone sounded Australian, or vice versa. So I finally asked him where he was from. He made me tell him where I thought he was from and he was impressed--he was born in Canada, but moved to Australia when he was 15. He told me no one ever got his background right, until me.
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Martienne

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #63 on: December 16, 2009, 01:23:14 PM »
My mother is from El Salvador so although I don't get too many comments about myself (not having an accent) I used to get a lot of flack about my mother when I was in school.  I agree with the person who mentioned that any stereotypes that people decide to bust out on you tell you more about themselves than anything you should value about yourself or your home region. I got a lot of "why don't you just go back home" or "go back to Taco Bell" (which is such an idiotic comment I couldn't do anything but laugh at the person who said it). I simply realized none of those people were worthy of much thought on my part.

Most people don't know much about El Salvador other than the fact that it had a civil war in the 80s (if they even know that) so nowadays anyone who hears where I am from usually asks me if I am here because of that. It is, but I keep it pretty non-committal (my dad is from the US, so I tell them that it was to be near his family, and if they ask how old I was I tell them I was six months old, so they can do the math if they want). I used to share more because I was learning more about it myself and it usually just kind of spilled out, but I realized that it made people pretty uncomfortable. Unless we are very close they don't really need to know the details of how the war affected us personally. And most people don't really want to know, they are just looking for a point of inters to make conversation.

Giggity

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #64 on: December 16, 2009, 01:56:27 PM »
Problem is that random people stereotype (or worse). I do not know if it is cognitive dissonance or what.

I gotta be honest here.

I am 40 and have lived in Houston, Texas all my life.

The Latino population here is immense ... we have Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Hondurans, Spaniards, Venezuelans, Argentinians, Brazilians, and even some Puerto Ricans.

I have not once, in 40 years, EVER, heard anything negative about Puerto Ricans.

So if you got edgy about Puerto Rico with me, I'd wonder about you personally, but not about all Puerto Ricans.
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Giggity

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #65 on: December 16, 2009, 01:59:02 PM »
I have a cousin with a thick Boston accent who moved down south. After 25 years, he still has the accent, but it is overlaid with a southern drawl. No one can figure out where he is from.

And then you got Jeri Hall, whose accent just confuses everything beyond measure.
Words mean things.

audrey1962

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #66 on: December 16, 2009, 02:04:11 PM »
Maybe someone here thought I was from Cuba (euphemized as Lilacland) because in another thread I mentioned that I had cooked black beans and rice. I have been given other reasons for this assumption IRL- usually pertaining to my fair skin and Masters degree leading the person to assume automatically I am from the most affluent of the groups in the umbrella category.

I thought you were from Cuba, too. Why? Because you are so defensive about where you are from, as if you are ashamed. I do not wish to discuss politics or negative stereotypes, but I have heard negatives about Cuba, never about PR. Perhaps it is because I am in Detroit and we are too far north?

My family came to this country from Poland during World War I. The Detroit-area attracted many Poles to work in the auto industry, which my family did. There are lots of stereotypes about the "dumb Polack." My whole life I have heard them - and I was born here, my father was born here, and his father was born here. Yet those stereotypes still applied to me. It affected my family: we distanced ourselves from the Polish community and my father made a conscious effort not to teach us Polish (a language he speaks fluently).

Regardless, I have heard my share of bad jokes and assumptions about my lack of intelligence and common sense. There's nothing I can do about people's bigotry. If I lie or obscure my background, all it does is prevent me from learning about the bigotry sooner. Some people are just jerks - we didn't make them jerks, our actions didn't make them jerks, our lack of polite behavior didn't make them jerks and our country of origin certainly didn't make them jerks.

Then there are people who are geniunely interested in ME. I have met many people who are simply curious about my very unique last name. A woman from India had never encountered a Polish name before, a student from Russia wondered if I knew Russian, Poles have asked what town my family came from in case they are from the same town, other Americans are simply interested in "where we all came from."

I don't think you should try to deflect these questions - I don't think you can! But I don't think you should automatically assume that whenever someone asks it is automatically a negative.

One last note: When I was in college there was an article in the student newspaper about two graduate students who recently married. The story was about a tragedy that had befallen the couple - but that is not my point. It was a huge multi-page story and included a summary of the couple's first meeting and how they fell in love. She was from another country - India I think - and he was American. She said she was so lonely at University, and then she met this wonderful man who wanted to know all about her and all about India. She specifically said that she liked that he expressed an interest in India, that's what drew her to him.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2009, 02:09:54 PM by audrey1962 »

Giggity

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #67 on: December 16, 2009, 02:06:09 PM »
Audrey, you'd like being in Texas. We have a large Polish population, and we tell Aggie jokes instead of Polack ones.  ;D
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audrey1962

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #68 on: December 16, 2009, 02:08:56 PM »
Audrey, you'd like being in Texas. We have a large Polish population, and we tell Aggie jokes instead of Polack ones.  ;D

I think I'd like the weather, too! It's too darn cold up here.

RainhaDoTexugo

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #69 on: December 16, 2009, 02:11:25 PM »
Problem is that random people stereotype (or worse). I do not know if it is cognitive dissonance or what.

I gotta be honest here.

I am 40 and have lived in Houston, Texas all my life.

The Latino population here is immense ... we have Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Hondurans, Spaniards, Venezuelans, Argentinians, Brazilians, and even some Puerto Ricans.

I have not once, in 40 years, EVER, heard anything negative about Puerto Ricans.

So if you got edgy about Puerto Rico with me, I'd wonder about you personally, but not about all Puerto Ricans.

I'm in Chicago, and I've definitely heard the feisty Puerto Rican women stereotypes, as well as a few regarding their general intelligence.  The feisty one is much more common, in my experience.  I do agree that negative stereotypes about Puerto Ricans seem less common than those about other Hispanic groups here.

Either way, I think it's a great early warning system.  Friendly questions are one thing, but even if you weren't Puerto Rican, wouldn't you want to know that the person you're dating is a bigot and not worth your time?

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #70 on: December 16, 2009, 03:23:18 PM »
Maybe someone here thought I was from Cuba (euphemized as Lilacland) because in another thread I mentioned that I had cooked black beans and rice. I have been given other reasons for this assumption IRL- usually pertaining to my fair skin and Masters degree leading the person to assume automatically I am from the most affluent of the groups in the umbrella category.

My family came to this country from Poland during World War I.

Then there are people who are geniunely interested in ME. I have met many people who are simply curious about my very unique last name. A woman from India had never encountered a Polish name before, a student from Russia wondered if I knew Russian, Poles have asked what town my family came from in case they are from the same town, other Americans are simply interested in "where we all came from."

I don't think you should try to deflect these questions - I don't think you can! But I don't think you should automatically assume that whenever someone asks it is automatically a negative.

And then there are people like me.  I'm primarily interested in finding out if you or your family have any great recipes.

Sofrito?  Pierogi?


audrey1962

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #71 on: December 16, 2009, 03:36:16 PM »
Maybe someone here thought I was from Cuba (euphemized as Lilacland) because in another thread I mentioned that I had cooked black beans and rice. I have been given other reasons for this assumption IRL- usually pertaining to my fair skin and Masters degree leading the person to assume automatically I am from the most affluent of the groups in the umbrella category.

My family came to this country from Poland during World War I.

Then there are people who are geniunely interested in ME. I have met many people who are simply curious about my very unique last name. A woman from India had never encountered a Polish name before, a student from Russia wondered if I knew Russian, Poles have asked what town my family came from in case they are from the same town, other Americans are simply interested in "where we all came from."

I don't think you should try to deflect these questions - I don't think you can! But I don't think you should automatically assume that whenever someone asks it is automatically a negative.

And then there are people like me.  I'm primarily interested in finding out if you or your family have any great recipes.

Sofrito?  Pierogi?

Pierogi - cheese only, although Grandpa liked the sauerkraut. My father jokingly mocks the potato as being for amateurs.

My grandma had MS and requried a full-time caretaker, who was always a Polish woman who couldn't speak English. One of the Pani's taught me how to make cheese pierogi, with Grandma translating. It started with adding sour cream to milk and leaving it on the stove for two days...

I created a thread not to long ago on Christmas food traditions, including what my family typically eats:
http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=69807.msg1642739#msg1642739

What is sofrito?

RainhaDoTexugo

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #72 on: December 16, 2009, 03:47:55 PM »
Sofrito is a seasoning mix that's a base for a lot of Latin American recipes.  It usually has onion, cilantro, maybe peppers and other spices.

Jaymes

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #73 on: December 16, 2009, 04:03:17 PM »
Sofrito is a seasoning mix that's a base for a lot of Latin American recipes.  It usually has onion, cilantro, maybe peppers and other spices.

Yes, in particular the base for many Puerto Rican dishes.

I only mention this because there are a great many innocuous reasons why folks might ask in a friendly manner where somebody is originally from.  

I'm not saying it's the polite thing to do.

I'm just saying that there are many, many reasons other than those with a negative connotation.



« Last Edit: December 16, 2009, 04:05:42 PM by Jaymes »

audrey1962

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Re: Deflecting hometown questions...
« Reply #74 on: December 16, 2009, 04:04:45 PM »
I'm just saying that there are many, many reasons other than those with a negative connotation.

I agree. We just had a nice conversation about traditional ethnic foods. My only after-thought is, "now I'm hungry!"