“Where are you from?” Traveller questions don’t get much more standard than that. It’s an easy gambit; a conversation starter guaranteed to get some kind of answer. It’s a neat way of pigeon-holing too. It divides Juan from Madrid and John from. It instantly gives a nice bunch of firmly entrenched stereotypes for the chat to continue with.
Nothing wrong with that – it serves a useful purpose.
But not everyone is “from” somewhere. I fall into that category. I was born in, and moved all around the East Midlands as a child, never really staying in one place long enough to identify with it as the place I’m from.
I went to university in Sheffield, and have lived inand before coming back to Sheffield. Throw my family in and it’s more complicated. My mum and dad met in Bristol, but she grew up in Cheshire with a Scottish father, while he’s a professional Yorkshireman who grew up in and around Huddersfield.
Boring story, that, isn’t it? That’s why I usually lie and just say Sheffield when asked. I happen to live there, but is it my home town? Not really. If I’m honest, I don’t really have one. And yes, I’ve got roots, but they’re rather flimsy ones that don’t really imbue me with a particular sense of pride. I’ve not got a football team I should naturally support by home town geography.
The thing is, I don’t think I’m a particularly odd exception here. The era where people were born, lived, worked and died in the same town has long gone. People move to different parts of the country. People move to new countries. And we end up with a world where the mongrels without a true sense of home are possibly in the majority.
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Yet even those mongrels ask the question. I’m one of them. I’ll regularly find myself trotting it out, even though I don’t have a good answer to it if asked back. You can be from nowhere and think that everyone should be from somewhere, it seems.