Who are you? Where are you from?

Let’s pretend I posted this in March, shall we? Okay.

Yesterday, I was reading this, and while I usually read that column for entertainment, it got me thinking about myself: I was born in a city (Enugu), lived the first 10 years of my life there, and then moved to another city (Ogun – 600 km away) for school. I went to school there for the next 11 years (high school and university, obviously), only going back to the city of my birth for holidays. After I graduated, I (went to the city of my birth for holidays, and then) moved to another city (Abuja) entirely for work. I lived there for almost 2 years, and then I moved to France (Aix en Provence), Finland (Turku), and Netherlands (Tilburg, Terneuzen, The Hague, Amsterdam) over the next 2.5 years. So where am I from?

In Nigeria, when people ask where you’re from, they typically mean where your ancestors originated from. Where I live now, I don’t always know what they mean: Do they mean where I’ve lived the longest? The answer to that is ‘Ogun’, but it’s not pleasant to think I’ve lived in school the longest. Do they mean where I was born? Then that’s easy. Do they mean where I lived before coming to my present city? I don’t really know how to answer that then, because I can say where my family lives, but not quite sure where I ‘live(d)’ because there are so many answers. To answer “where are you from?” I usually say “Nigeria”, but when they ask “where in Nigeria?” then things get a bit complicated. I usually say “the East” and if they know enough about Nigeria to ask “are you from Abuja?”, then I say “yes I lived there before moving here”, same for Lagos (“I went to school in a town really close”). Meh. Once upon a time (or twice, but who’s counting), I answered “Finland”. Why? I had just moved to NL, had 3 huge suitcases and was struggling to put them all on the train before it left the station, and when I finally managed and was then looking for how to arrange the suitcases in an unobtrusive manner AND find a seat for the 2 hour trip, someone asked “where are you from?” The person asking was a brown-skinned person like me but I was too tired to even begin to think of nuance, so I said Finland.

Who am I? Ha. Nigerian. In Nigeria though, I’m not sure I’d say “Nigerian” in response to that question, but I’ve thought about it a bit and I really cannot say that there’s any single thing that I feel defines me, so: Nigerian. Person. Nuance is important, because an old man in the village who’s asking you that question is not expecting to hear “Product Manager”, he’s likely asking whose child you are. But for the purpose of this epistle I’m writing, I shall assume the person asking is like me: close to my age, lives in the big city, and has met me in a social-ish setting. I’d like to say I’m a Product Manager, but then I’ve only been that for a few months so I sort of feel fraudulent when I say it. ‘IT Professional’ seems very vague, sort of like ‘businessman’ and I feel very uncomfortable when I have to be vague – I’m a very black/white person. Okay, so maybe I’m a: Nigerian. Person. [Aspiring] Digital Product Manager [and the ‘aspiring’ is silent :D].

Sometimes, I envy people who have lived in 2 places or less all their lives, because they cannot be stumped by answers to these questions, I think. But meh.

In conclusion, I’m from Nigeria (Enugu/Abuja)/Finland depending on who’s asking and how quickly I want the conversation to end, and I am a Nigerian person who’s trying her best to be a kick-ass Product Manager. Some adjectives (e.g. respectful, sarcastic, etc) may apply, depending on who’s talking. Fin.

Who are you, though? Where are you from? Do those answers come easily to you or nah?

À tout!


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