What nationality are you?

My landlady was offered a used kitchen unit and asked me if I would help her collect it from the person's flat. "No problem" I said, (she is 77 years old and the sweetest person you could meet).

When I arrived I was greeted by the person in question who was in the process of 'reformation' surrounded by workmen fixing in new units or un-loading old ones, etc. We exchanged a couple of words and she made that face that many French people do when they hear that you have an accent.

After telling me to "mind the parquet floor", "not all men are good 'bricoleurs' ", explaining (!) how to load the unit onto the trolley, and other various slightly patronizing commands, I was starting to get a little fed up with her and she suddenly asked "What nationality are you?".

Now, I am very used to this question or variations on it, I've done a lot of traveling and get asked often. In the context of a normal conversation where a person shows a little interest, I wouldn't hesitate in responding, though it's not an easy question to answer. (I am by blood 100% Irish, born and raised as English, lived the best part of my life abroad, mostly in Latin America. I also have a Mexican passport) And, although I have no problem which box a person wants to put me in, I sometimes don't feel like helping them, or going through my life story just because I am not French. So I simply do not answer. Where am I from?

I am from Montpellier, I am from no-where, I am from my mummy's tummy, I am not from here nor there.

I wonder if anyone else could share a quote, song or poem about 'displaced' (sic) persons? Any language!

Nice song by Jorge Cafrune (Uruguay), 'I'm not from 'here', nor from 'there'. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAKnWi15ycs

I've just read Celeste's post about the mix of nationalities - I am Welsh, hubby Dutch and we have both lived in New Zealand for over 30 years, hubby has also lived in a couple of African countries. We've had exactly the same reaction to our non-English nationality, and we experience admiration when they know we have lived in the country of 'Les Blacks' (the All Blacks!) - wonder what would happen if I tell them I went to school with a couple of the All Blacks!

haha, You'll notice that I used a capital P... and I hesitated with 'Polaco' for obvious reasons!

Celeste aha, that is the gold in affirmatively not accepting Anglais and saying Ecossais and then reminding them of the Vielle Alliance.

I was once taken for a pole too, but then they decided I was a bit too short and stumpy so supposed I was a log instead!

I think you are on the right track Celeste, someone mistook me for a Pole once, it was the warmest encounter I'd ever had in France! against 'one or two' less that warm reactions. Nothing openly hostile, but quite 'snidey' or 'snobby' on occaisons. Or at least that's how it looked to me.

et le plombier polonais...!

You may have an advantage there Dorota, most people wouldn't have an opinion either way (rare towards "AnglosSaxon" often a negative term in itself!) about Poland and would most likely consider you 'neutral', you may have to play up the 'Polish side' LOL. On the other hand, the UK has had a complicated and often negative relationship with Poland and its people, and most Brits have little idea what a tremedous part Poles played in the war and the Holocaust (as victims) as well as the benefits to present UK. On the down side, you may get lumped in with 'Les Russes' (Eastern Europeans in general). Either way, any negativity would be outweighed by politeness and good manners- not always the case in UK. A funny story during Falklands conflict from a friend:

Barman to client:"We don't serve Argentians here" Client: "I'm from Chile" Barman: 'I don't care which part of Argentina you are from, we don't serve Argentinians"

This is an interesting conversation. I am actually Polish, but I live in the UK and in summer this year we are moving to France so thank you for preparing me for the look and question! I know how you feel though, I've been in the UK for over 15 years, and I've heard that question so many times and there was a look so probably slightly different than in France. Can't wait to hear it in France!

Tell folk you are from Spermanova....which is absolutely 100% accurate....you can describe the 'country' as somewhere like no where else....develop your own facial expressions....you know...the ones you feel like pulling when you get the 'faces' from others....but exagerate them a bit...almost like a tic....involve the eyebrows, eyes and mouth....tell people you are an expert in your country (expert in whatever you fancy)....and your country is far superior to this country (this country being wherever you are when you state this comment).....speak fast like an absent minded professor and do lots of signs and signals....smile...nod.....do the head moves side to side...and tut loudly....and move your finger as if pointing to the problem....blow and do the phew phew phew noises....lift the shoulders a bit...shrugging as if debating with yourself.....I guarantee you wont have any more daft questions....people will probably stand back and either marvel or decide to give you a wide berth....but at least you will be considered a very interesting person.....good luck!!!

I always say I am a Scot. When somebody says (too often) that is the same as English I remind them that the Scots were the ones who spent hundreds of years helping them fight the English and were even the personal guard of their beloved Joan of Arc. Not that we ever had any help when we needed it with the same people. The Vielle Alliance is not well known but when people are forced to think they get it. At all 'special' events here I am more or less obliged to don the kilt. I draw the line at the quine!

Hi Nola. You never know. He is still an elected official. I doubt he would say "but you are white". If all else fails, go to the top. I read somewhere, maybe on SFN, that people in desperation wrote to Sarkozy about their problems and were surprised to get real action.

After all France is not a banana republic, or is it? It seems to be just the same provincial country as everywhere else. Everyone wants to know where you are from, because you seem or sound different.

I worked in North Germany some years ago and used to frequent a certain pub. Every time I went in there, I would meet one of the regulars, who obviously had a bad memory, because he always asked me where I came from and then when I was going back. I was so fed up with the 2nd question that one day I was glad to say "tomorrow". Well, blow me, this guy gave me a leaving present, a pewter plate as a momento of my stay. I still have it.

Hi Howard - I don't think Alain Juppé would take me under his wing on this one (I'm in Bordeaux). Am going to try my Matignon contact. If that doesn't work I'll invite Monsieur Juppé over for an apero!

I don't usually get ask what nationality I am. Either people automatically start speaking to me in English, if they can, or they ask, Are you English? to which I reply, American.

Sometimes I get, Isn't it the same? Then I laugh.

I don't mind people asking me about nationality. I'm proud to be American and happy to inform them, whether they like Americans or not. Besides, my accent when speaking French is horrible. I would ask, too!

I sometimes get asked "Are you English" (they already know the answer by my accent) but saying "British" doesn't help much- "what's the difference?" one person asked, "Oh, about the same difference between a woman and a man dressed as a woman , not very much but to those who appreciate such subtleties..."

I went through the process of gaining French nationality some years ago, but apparently retained my "British look" and of course my strong accent, which at times causes some confusion and excessive scrutiny when I need to produce my identity card. On one occasion when paying a restaurant bill by cheque, the waiter went away with my French ID card and cheque, but returned a minute later to ask for my British Passport!

Even if I'd had one I wouldn't have produced it on principle, but fortunately it didn't come to that.

Nola, you have my sympathy but equally I think there is a solution to your problem, even in France but it's not at the Prefecture. I suggest you go to your local mairie and discuss it with them or even the maire him/herself. I'm sure someone in authority there will be interested, especially as you could mention, that people who don't officially exist, don't need to pay taxes.

I had a similiarly insoluable problem with the Prefecture, when I lived in France. It was about registering a car for which no French type approval existed. The mayor's assistant explained that eventhough it was a small commune, it had considerable clout at the Prefecture. She certainly found a way around the obstacle and I was able to get it registered.

If the French have beaten the English at rugby then I'm gallois. If on the other hand the French have beaten Wales I suddenly become anglais. Otherwise I'm anglais, or, if I'm feeling perverse and haven't had too many pastis to be able to say it easily, britannique.

I often get "the look" and the question at work, people not happy with something (even the weather, or bad ski conditions) want to know where I am from as if that is the reason for the "issue"....

I thought it was just me, but about two weeks ago, a lady checking in was insisting with the receptionist "mais vous avez un accent,non!!, si, vous avez un accent quand meme!!!", when the receptionist was born in the Voges, grew up, and has always lived in Haute Savoie. but hey, that's Parisians for ya.

She insisted so much that the receptionist lied, and said her parents were German, just to get rid of the lady. triumphantly dancing to the doors of the lift, announcing to her husband (blasé de la vie) that she "knew it all along, the girl had an accent).

who do these people think they are. Who do these people think WE are?