Why Do People Always Ask Me Where I’m From?
One of the biggest complaints that I hear from my clients is this~
Susan, people always ask me where I’m from….and I’m tired of it! Will this ever stop?
Here’s my answer to that question.
Americans are curious
If you speak with an accent (a way of speaking that’s different) we’ll notice that right away.
Once we notice that you speak differently, we’ll want to know more about you, including where you’re from.
Americans are curious about other people.
When we meet new people, we like to know more about them.
We want to know where you’re from
We’ll have a nagging curiosity to know where you’re from.
Our minds just want to know this! What you should do is tell us.
Just tell us!
My advice is this…. indulge us. Tell us where you’re from.
Get it off the table as soon as possible.
Once you’ve answered the (dreaded) “where are you from?” question, our curiosity will be satisfied and the conversation can move forward.
Get it off the table
Here’s a short story that describes WHY you should tell use where you’re from right away.
In 2013 I attended a talk in Miami by entrepreneur Roger James Hamilton.
Hamilton speaks with an accent because he’s from Hong Kong & Scotland.
Now to be sure, Roger’s speech is:
- easy to follow
But his accent makes you wonder where he’s from.
Roger is an experienced presenter. So he accepts that people will always ask him~
Roger, where are you from?
He’s ready for that. So Roger’s tactic is to tell people where he’s from BEFORE they ask.
In fact, he started out his presentation by saying this~
You may notice that I speak with an accent. That’s because I grew up in Scotland and Hong Kong. Now that you know where my accent comes from, you can stop wondering about that and we can get started with the important stuff.
Once we in the audience understood that Roger was from Hong Kong, once our curiosity was satisfied, we were ready to learn from him.
And we did.
Using a similar strategy, aerospace engineer S.K. Gupta says this~
I use my accent as an ice breaker. I make speeches and presentations all the time and I often start by saying, If some of you detect an accent, please remember that I didn’t have one until I came to this country.
Gupta uses humor to break the ice about his accent. People laugh and then he’s able to move on to his present his information.
It’s perfectly okay to speak with an accent
Speaking with an accent isn’t wrong.
In fact it’s completely natural.
You can speak with an accent and still communicate in a way that sounds clear and engaging. I teach people to do this all the time.
In my American accent training programs I teach you how speak American English in a way that your colleagues will respect and understand!
Follow the link above to take a free trial lesson.
About the author
Susan Ryan is an American English communication and accent reduction coach. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions about clear American speech.