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JustHere | November 15, 2017

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Where you from?

Where you from?

It’s more than just a question. It’s a measuring tool for social status. It helps people decide in which one of their predefined boxes your type belongs, right?

Or is it a game played by the rich and the poor, and you have to answer the question correctly; otherwise, you’ll confuse the living daylights out of them. Like, if they assumed you’re a Nigerian and you tell them you’re British.

Sometimes, people are just looking to find something in common.

You order takeout and the delivery dude wants to know Where you from? They install your telephone line and the technician wants to know Where you from? You buy an ice-cream and the server wants to know Where you from? Yes, it’s just a question, but it’s at times a loaded one.


…what if someone uses the question as a conversation starter, with no prejudice or social status measurement intended. Then it becomes a reminder of who we really are and also a key into the psyche of our fellow human beings. In Doha, you hear it all the time, and not surprisingly, you find yourself asking it all the time. This place is barely a speck on the blue ball, yet it holds the world. You can find every conceivable nationality right here in Qatar.

For example, you wake up one day and suddenly find yourself working with a Macedonian. Now that’s a good reason to climb onto a rooftop and announce it to the rest of Qatar. There’s a Macedonian in my office!


They poke; delve and unearth your entire being when they utter that million dollar question, ‘Hey, where you from?’”


Every time I hear it, it’s as if I’d just arrived. I’m fresh out of the Arrivals Hall, before the health inspection queues or the driver’s license blues. I feel like someone really cares about where I’m from, even if my answer fades into oblivion or falls on deaf ears. I don’t really care, because the question has been asked, and, that, makes all the difference.

In this land where our cultural differences make up the intriguing fabric of society, we probably owe it to ourselves to continue to ask this beautiful question. It’s a way to make new friends, broaden our horizons or show ourselves how much we have in common with others – no matter where they come from. And respect everyone, regardless of race or social status. Because not all Indians are from Kerala, not all Lebanese come from Beirut and not all Egyptians from Cairo. In fact, not all Macedonians come from Skopje. We are all just people trying to make a living here and if we can do so by helping and not judging one another, then we can make this thing called ‘life in Doha’ work out for the better…for everyone.

Let me be naïve, if I must. I’d like to believe that the question is asked because you want to know more about me, about who I am and about what I’m doing here. And likewise, I’d like to get into your mind space, too.

PS: I’m from South Africa. Where you from?


  1. that is a question I ask in every conversation with a stranger that crosses my path.. this week, I met someone from Morocco, one from Bangladesh and one from Japan. Yes, Doha is but a speck on the globe, but it holds the world.

    beautiful post. holds a very deep meaning.

  2. Ketaki

    Well said. I get that question a lot and also ask it a lot – basically to find out more about the person. And I do feel blessed to be in a place where I can meet someone from Mexico and South Africa one evening and from Egypt and Lebanon another . . . I am from India by the way, a Bengali married to an Assamese, currently living in multicultural Doha.

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