Where Are You From?

The question ‘Where are you from?’ might seem pretty simple. After all, everyone knows where they are from, right?

However, the real trick to this question is how you define the word ‘from’. It can mean many things, and how you choose to define it will influence your answer to the question. It also may reveal something about you.

One way to interpret this is to think about where you were born. But even that has some ambiguity. For instance, you might answer with the country you were born in. Or the state, or the city. Or even the hospital.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘What makes you you?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What gives a person value?’


Of course, where you are ‘from’ might not have anything to do with where you were born. It might mean where you lived the longest. Or where you spent your formative years. It could even mean where you live right now.

It might be the case that the person asking the question can further refine the question. They may be trying to get a specific piece of information, like country of your citizenship.

However, in the absence of any such clues, this becomes a question that is really about identity. How do you identify yourself? With whom do you align yourself? Perhaps you consider yourself an inhabitant of a particular region, like the Midwest or the Northeast. Maybe you are from Seattle or Atlanta, or some other metro area. Or your nationality is your defining point of origin.

However you choose to answer, what do you have in common with the other people who hail from the same place as you? How are you like the others in your town, your state, your country?

Where are you from?

Related questions: If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Why do you live where you live? How would you define yourself in ten words or less?

2 thoughts on “Where Are You From?”

  1. I am from and have been influenced by many places. I was born and raised for nine years in many locations within North and Northeast Minneapolis. The multiple moves made it hard to establish roots pretty much anywhere. During my middle and high school years, I hailed from the hills about ten miles away from Arcadia, Wisconsin. It was there that I developed a fondness for rural places, experienced the crushing weight of poverty, and leaned to cheerlead while in high school — each plays a core part of who I am today. My 20s were spent back in Northeast, then near Dinkytown and the West Bank of the U of M, and eventually in the Minneapolis neighborhood, Seward. (I liked being close to campus best). Since then — for the past 20+ years — I’ve lived and owned a house near the border of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in the beautiful St. Paul neighborhood of Saint Anthony Park. Owning a home has provided me with many opportunities. For example, Rebecca and I have improved our house to have a simple beauty and functionality. Also, I have been able to fence off an area of my backyard for growing a somewhat large heirloom vegetable garden.

  2. I usually answer with just “Princeton” (adding New Jersey if I happen to be hanging out near Princeton MA). Truthfully, I admit to hoping this will instantly identify/connect me with the University, because in my family, intellect was everything, and I’ve never gotten rid of that feeling. And it is honest… both my parents were Professors, though my mom was at another college nearby, not PU.

    Often, I’ll add I was born at Stanford University Hospital (but never lived out there long-term).

    Then, I might add that the place I have lived longest was Maine, because my love of Maine runs pretty deep and we raised both our kids there (mostly).

    This gets me started on all the other places I’ve lived… some I’m proud of (NYC) some not (southern Oregon — ugh!). But it always comes back to signaling that I have a very intellectual history, and a very Northeastern focus.

    Not saying this is all good or bad, but it IS me, pretty thoroughly.

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