Monday, September 24, 2007

Random Conversations

An Arab fellow leaves his male pack and approaches me. He opens with, "So, are you German or are you American?" I am little taken aback, first, at the boldness with which he asks his question, but mainly at the thought that there are only two possible choices for me and they are either German or American. Why is it that when I travel or even when I don't no one ever asks me if I am Canadian as if that couldn't ever be a possibility? In any case, feeling rather singled out with no previous conversational lead up to this particular question, I reply, “Are you trying to determine my ethnicity, or would you like to know which country’s passport I carry?” Then it's his turn. He gives me a somewhat stunned look not quite sure what to say next, so I smile and shrug my shoulders. End of conversation. What would you have done?

32 comments:

Steffi said...

I find that´s question sounds not good and it make me as German really anxiously.
What a question when you are as a tourist on a journey!I know some countries don´t like German!But I don´t understand the question from the Arab to you why it is important where are you come from!That make me really anxiously,Carla!

thailandchani said...

I would have done the same thing. Frequently, when I was living in Thailand, someone was always asking where I was from. I would laugh and say "Mars". Maybe "primordial ooze".

It's just a question that was annoying. :)


Peace,

~Chani
http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

Guilty Secret said...

Well handled. I think I would have said, "I am English actually, where are you from?" but I suppose that depends how taken-aback I was.

Carla said...

Steffi, Yes, it made me a little anxious too. I really don't mind if someone mistakenly thinks that I am German or American or any other nationality. It was the way in which the question was asked and that the person had had no previous interaction with me. If we had been having a conversation, perhaps I would not have found the question so odd and out of place.

Carla said...

Chani, I would have been less taken aback if the question would have been "where are you from?" I've had that a lot. But I like your answers. I'll have to remember them for next time.

Guilty Secret, Yes, I thought about saying that I was Canadian...but then again without a "hi! how are you?," I just wasn't quite sure what the intent of the question was.

jillie said...

WOW...that guy almost sounded like he was ready to cut into you. I say BRAVO!!! What a great come back. Shut him up that's for damn sure. I probably would have asked if he eats with that mouth and got up and left.

Sirdar said...

That was a good answer. I would have said Canadian and gone with the punches after that.

Carla said...

Jillie, It was an interesting situation to be sure. Not really sure what he was after, but he certainly wasn't expecting the response I gave him.

Sirdar, Your response had crossed my mind briefly, but I wasn't sure what this fellow's motives were and didn't just want to hand him the information in such a circumstance. It would have had about the same feelings if he would have asked me for my credit card number.

Mark said...

It depends on the situation. I most likely would have engaged him or said something like no, I am japaneese or something that would not have fit my appearance.

Mone said...

I know this questions out from the times there was still the iron curtain.
"Are you from Germany?"
"Well, yes."
"East or West?"
"East!"

Most of the times there were just sorry looks on their faces.

Didnt matter to me, today I feel like a worldly person, but my heart hangs on America. But on the other hand, I have never been to Canada, perhaps I could loose my heart there too of course.

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

I think you handled it very well~ I would have stutterd and stammered and said something very stupid. Like I'm from ALABAMA =D

The Fool said...

I think you answered in good form. I'm not sure how I would have responded.

Fantastic photo, too! Care to share any info on it?

VE said...

As an American travelling these days the cliche is to not admit you are American and to wave a Canadian flag that you carry with you. The thought behind it is that perhaps then you won't be hated for politics that are beyond your control because everyone loves the Canadians; nobody would harm them!

Carla said...

Mark, that certainly would have made him think about certain stereo-types he might have.

Mone, those must have been interesting times. I am sure that much has changed since then. And, of course, I'm sure that we Canadians could show you a good time for sure.

Pamela said...

you did well. sometimes I think on my feet -

Carla said...

Sandi, Not stupid at all. Sometimes it's difficult to think of a comeback quickly when put on the spot like that.

Fool, Good to see you back. The photo was taken in the Versailles gardens. I was drawn to take it as I felt that the fountain gave the illusion of movement to the horses.

Carla said...

VE, Well, I'm not totally convinced that nobody would harm a Canadian...we have been pissing off a few people these days. But certainly we don't seem to be overt targets. Nobody really cares about our politics.

Carla said...

Pamela, I have my moments...other times I don't think of what I should have said until much later...sitting down.

Steffi said...

Yes,I agree with mone. I´m original from East Germany too and I have often such question:From where in Germany you are come from East or West? I have a other german dialect as the peoples here in North of Germany because I come from Saxony (east Germany).So I have such questions often in my daily life at work.

I found the answer of Chani very good too ... ;O).

rowena said...

In the words of gamehost Richard Dawson on Family Feud, I have to say this - "Carla, good answer!"

Haha, recently I had to renew my resident permit at the italian police station and the guy looks at my U.S. passport, sees that it was issued from Hawaii, but still asks, you're american, right?

dawn said...

That was a great answer. I am not sure how I would have responded. In my nervousness, I am sure it wouldn't have been very clever. If I know a situation might present itself, I try to practice a response, and it sometimes works, but for that question, I wouldn't have prepared. You did well.

Mustafa Şenalp said...

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Carla said...

Steffi, I agree with you. Chani's answer is very good.

Rowena, That's hilarious..."still American?" Indeed.

Carla said...

Dawn, Thanks. I know what you mean. Sometimes when I'm nervous I'm not quite sure what to say either.

Mustafa, I'm not quite sure what you said, but thanks for dropping by.

Fede said...

It took me a couple of days to figure out the situation you were in. And I wonder if your reaction would have been differed had you met an old lady with white hair holding an apple pie. It is really the combination of the weird situation, the timing of the question, the tone of voice, and of course your unquestionable luck in meeting Arabs terrorist...But in this case, why pick a German citizen? No clue. Would mind sending you jam jar before you get sucked in to a spy story. Very much appreciated.
Good night and good luck.

Beccy said...

I think you gave a great response, I think I would have been so shocked that when I finally dragged my chin up off the floor I would have said 'neither actually'!

Annie Wicking and Loman Austen said...

Amazing! I loved your answer. I'm not sure whether I would have been as quick off the mark. Well done you. Though, it is a little scary too instead of the world become a small in which everyone see everyone esle as a neighbour. I feel has become a world where everyone is seen as a threat; so sad:-(

Best wishes
Annie

Winters said...

Hello Carla. Lovely to catch up with you.

I think your riposte was great. He served up a stark either/or and you returned a even starker one, delivered with a healthy dose of irony.

:)

Carla said...

Fede, Little old ladies with white hair and apples are just as dangerous. I would hate to get a piece of apple lodged in my throat, fall into a deep sleep and be left for dead. Jam is in the mail.

Beccy, I'm glad so many people had a similar first reaction. I certainly wondered if cultural background played into my gut reaction to the question.

Carla said...

Annie, It is very true that we have in many respects become more suspicious of our neighbours. It is indeed sad.

Winters, Life is most certainly an adventure. I look forward to catching up on yours.

Bill said...

I would have likely asked him what the F@#K it was to him. But that is just me and my reactions when confronted with someone who is outrightly "Up to something" but you did it one better and caught him off guard but then again he would liekly not have approached me as I am not female or blonde or attractive to men LOL

Carla said...

Bill, Just as well you're not attractive to men...that is unless you want to be. But I did wonder just what that fellow was up to.