From “Where are you from?” to “Where are you a local?”. Changing the questions in a global and multicultural world.
When my siblings and I first arrived in Spain we were the only foreigners in our small-town school. It’s changed in recent years, but at the time, we really were the only ones. We fit in just fine. We spoke the language perfectly and got better grades than some of our classmates. We made friends and, as far as we were concerned, we belonged in that little Spanish village in the back-end of nowhere.
Still, there was no way we could hide how different we were. No one could change our fair hair for dark, nor stop us from standing a head taller than the rest.
In a way, it was rather cool to be different. But still, sometimes, I found myself wishing I was more like my peers. I dreamed about what it would be like to live in a place where you wouldn’t have to answer so many questions about yourself. Even a question seemingly as harmless as “Where are you from?”.
The feeling of displacement only grew as I moved South in Spain for uni. Where was home now? Suddenly, the place I felt I belonged to most felt far away. It was really hard to claim my Spanish “hometown” as home, especially when it took a lot of effort and explaining for the puzzled looks to dissapear.
Her concept of multilocal felt extremely relatable. I didn’t feel a national really, either. But there were definitely several places I’d consider myself a local.
In this ever-more connected world, where global nomads are becoming more common and concepts of nationality, origins and belonging are changing, I find Selasi’s 3 ‘R‘s to be extremely useful. Rituals, relationships and restrictions define us, define our experiences and these, ultimately, contribute to where we feel local, where we find ourselves most at home.
My current city is as much home to me as the place I grew up. Even as I move, most of my rituals remain. I also adopt a few new ones along the way. Relationships overcome time zones and friendships are picked up exactly where we left off. Restrictions have probably brought me to where I’m currently at and all of these experiences become a part of my world, a part of me.
So perhaps, even though I still dislike being asked where I’m from, I can feel a lot more comfortable not having a fixed answer. Perhaps, we can even begin to change the focus of the questions. And maybe one day, being multilocal will be the norm and not the exception.
Where are you a local? What are some of your rituals, relationships or restrictions?