Back in 2014, Deborah Fallows wrote about conversation starters—those lovely little questions we use when small talking with strangers (Where do you live?, Where are you from?, Where’d you go to high school?, etc.) Our video team made a mini documentary based on her piece, quoting Americans from across the country:
Deborah shared an anecdote about living abroad:
And going international, expats everywhere get the question, “Where are you from?” When we lived in China, I got so tired of this question from shopgirls that I would start making them guess, saying “Where do you think I’m from?” Surprisingly but invariably, their answers were always France, Scandinavia, Germany, Australia, England, Canada.. and they almost never got around to the US.
Hello from the other siiiiide …. of the world. A reader jumped on Deborah’s remark:
They do not say the United States first because they fear offending other nationals. For example, a Canadian may take offense at being mistaken for an American, but the reverse is likely to cause offense.
A Canadian disagrees:
I don’t take any offence, and very few Canadians I know would either. There are 9x as many Americans, and our accents are very similar. Also, while I guess there are some, almost no Canadians feel inferior. After all, Canada’s existence is a statement of not wanting to be American. I have been addressed as American, most recently in Germany, and was unsurprised and not offended.
There are a couple of other factors that haven’t been considered.