The question pops up in my head when I sit in sunshine at a trainstation. I still have half an hour before my next appointment. So I decide to sit down in the sun to soak in some vitamin D. With my eyes closed I hear a violin that starts to play. When I open my eyes I see an older man play about ten meters away from me. People rush by. From work, to work. From home, to home. Just a few people notice the man playing. While I watch him, that familiar question pops up: ‘where are you from?’
It’s a question that I get asked quite often. I meet new people regularly and it makes sense, right? To ask where someone is from. For me that question tells me so much more than just a place. Because what you answer tells me something about what you value. I honestly struggle with this question. I live in Utrecht now, but only for a little while longer. I have lived here before, but I also lived in other places. I remember being in train to NYC last summer. My last time going back to the city to catch a plane to go home. I got into a conversation with the lady next to me and she asked me which state I was from. I smiled and told here I wasn’t from the US, but from Europe.
That’s the easy answer. So when I am in another country, I would just answer with ‘I am from the Netherlands’, but that doesn’t quite work when I am here. I could say I am from the Achterhoek, but I haven’t really lived there anymore since I was 18. See how it gets complicated pretty fast? What I answer, tells something about me. Maybe even something about you. It might tell you to what I extend I trust you in that first meeting. Do you care enough to hear the long story or is a quick answer all that is needed?
I would have loved to know where the man with his violin was from. The music he played sounded like he might be from the Middle East. But he could as well have been born and raised here in the Netherlands. Even though I would have loved to hear his story, I had a bus to catch and an appointment to go to. So his music told me his story today. Together with the sunshine. And that was enough of a story for today.