It’s time we stop asking ‘where are you from?’ in Germany

When a study published last week revealed that foreigners in Germany with a visible migration background experience discrimination far more often than foreigners who appear “typically German,” it resonated with The Local’s Shelley Pascual.

Flags in Stuttgart (l) and people obtaining German citizenship (r). Photos: DPA

In the study, carried out by the Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR), responses from over 5,000 immigrants and people with a migrant background across Germany were collected.

Of those who described their appearance as “typically German,” around 17 percent stated they felt disadvantaged because of their roots. By contrast, 48 percent of participants with a visible immigration background (e.g. those who have dark skin or wear a headscarf) reported having experienced discrimination.

According to these respondents, discrimination can come in many forms: violence, unfairness with regard to the search for jobs and housing, offensive statements as well as statements that may not necessarily be considered negative by the person saying it – including the often-asked question, “where are you actually from?”

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Where I’m ‘Really’ From

Consider this an uncensored diary entry of sorts. Political correctness isn’t something I necessarily expect of others, but once in a while, exceptions must be made. Taiye Selasi thinks so, too. In her talk Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local, she says: “Our experience is where we’re from.” She also admits her biggest problem with ‘coming from’ countries is the myth of going back to them – something I can definitely relate with.