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Where were you born?

(25 Posts)
Habacounting321 Thu 30-Jun-16 20:13:03

I am feeling a little bit annoyed. This is absolutely nothing in the greater scheme of things and I really do not wish to belittle people's real and possibly ongoing experiences of xenophobia and racism with my little whinge. Would you bear with me? thanks

When shopping at Sainsbury's today, I asked the cashier if I could possibly have a card board box so that I could pack away the plates I was buying. The cashier responded by looking at me for what seemed quite a long while and then he asked me where my accent was from. Having lived In London for about 20 years, I said "London" (I'm from a EU country).

Now, this did not please the man and he replied that I didn't sound like I am from London (my accent is fine but I it does sound like a classic accent from my native country). I did not say anything to this as the check out queue was getting longer and I needed to hurry up to pick up dc from nursery. He was still not scanning my stuff and finally asked me the million dollar question "but where were you born?".

I am fairly confident and not so easily phased but I found his refusal to accept my answer that my accent was from London really irritating. It felt like he just had to dig and pinpoint where I was from but I didn't fancy telling him or the people queuing right behind me.

Anyway, I found it really unpleasant. Maybe this was emphasised by the fact that the elderly couple checking out in front of me were talking loudly with the check out guy about Brexit and Gove stabbing Johnston in the back. I think this sort of set the tone to my interaction with the cashier. I can't really explain it well but I feel thoroughly at home in the UK, having studied and worked here for two decades as well as raising a family. It felt intrusive especially after the week we have had. Was this just normal check out chit chat? Somebody please hand me a grip.

loobyloo1234 Thu 30-Jun-16 20:14:36

Did you report him to the manager?

AllegraWho Thu 30-Jun-16 20:26:19

Could it have.just been that he recognised the accent because he had connections with your country and was excited at the idea of having a conversation about it? I've done it in the past when I thought I recognised accent/name.from my part of the world. Made some friends that way.

How.horrible to think that the current toxic atmosphere might make people feel it's too dangerous to do so now sad

Habacounting321 Thu 30-Jun-16 20:30:11

Yes I did. I tried to be nice about it because I am not sure if the cashier meant any harm. I believe I am feeling a bit sensitive right now because of the week we have had since Brexit and also because of the chat about Brexit the check-out guy just had with the couple in front of me.

I told the manager that I didn't want to complain about the cashier but that maybe some training was needed for check-out staff so they know to choose less sensitive topics for their usual chit chat. I believe it's company policy to encourage them to talk to customers but asking where somebody's accent is from is quite personal. Questioning the customer's answer and insisting to know their place of birth is quite intrusive though. He was very persistent and did not scan my shopping during this whole encounter.

I did ask him why he wanted to know where I as born and he replied because my accent didn't sound like I was from London and he couldn't place me or something to this effect. hmm

Habacounting321 Thu 30-Jun-16 20:31:41

*He was very persistent and did not scan my shopping during this whole encounter.
Obviously he did eventually.

Winterbiscuit Thu 30-Jun-16 21:32:12

I agree "where were you born" is too personal a question and I'd find it annoying too. I think they're told to make conversation with customers, but it often ends up very contrived or nosy. I'd rather they just talked about the weather or said nothing at all!

Did he start the Brexit conversation with the couple ahead of you, or did they bring up the topic themselves?

Noofly Thu 30-Jun-16 21:46:36

I don't think I'd think much of it to be honest. I get asked it quite a lot. People ask me where I'm from and I forget that over here people ask where you stay when they want to know where you live, not where are you from, and I automatically respond with my current town. I'm then usually asked, "No where are you originally from" or "No, where were you born?"- the answer to which is the US and the person has been trying to work out if I'm American, Canadian or oddly with great frequency, Irish!

(I've been here since 1990)

Habacounting321 Thu 30-Jun-16 22:19:09

The customers in front of me started the conversation on Brexit, they both sounded very happy and excited talking about it.

I can see where you are coming from (sorry no pun) Noofy but I didn't like to feel singled out. I do think though that I must be feeling a bit touchy because of how utterly shit this week has been and how the ongoing talk about the immigrations problem (Teresa May today too) simply makes many of us feel a bit unwelcome. This is on an emotional level. Practically, we are having to beth through all the red tape of applying for citizenship, not to mention the £££ in fees to secure our future.

I feel a bit sorry for the cashier as he probably thought he was making small talk but he should have just accepted my answer instead of digging further.

Noofly Thu 30-Jun-16 22:29:31

I do think xenophobia is deeply ingrained here, and I'm in Scotland which everyone seems thinks is much much more tolerant than England. I'm still gobsmacked by the frequency of people casually managing to insert the phrase "dumb American(s)" when speaking to me. This is across the board- strangers, acquaintances, friends, even DH's family! No one sees anything wrong with it and I'm the one with no sense of humour even though I'm fairly certain it's only said half in jest.

I just ignore it all now.

SanityClause Thu 30-Jun-16 22:30:48

I think perhaps you were oversensitive, but I can't blame you.

I am an immigrant, but being white, and anglophone, I get to be called an expat.

I was at a school do the other evening. Of a table of 14, only 3 were born in the UK. One of those was a second generation immigrant, who, because of her heritage, might be assumed by the wilfully ignorant to be "foreign".

The sense of hurt amongst us was palpable. It felt like the country that we had believed we were welcome in, and even part of, had rejected us. A French couple had plans to move away, regardless of whether they were allowed to stay. They felt it was spoiled for them, now.

flowers for you. I know a little of how you are feeling.

BackforGood Thu 30-Jun-16 22:32:26

I suspect the cashier was just trying to place the accent - its never been an offensive question over years of travel around the world, and talking to folks in the uk who have come from rou d the world, prior to this week. Maybe the cashier didn't realise it was something someone could take offence at.

W8woman Thu 30-Jun-16 22:57:36

They felt it was spoiled for them now.

Yes, this country has been irrevocably spoilt for me too, and I'm white and British. Thought we were good people, welcoming, sensible, tolerant, civilised, with a proper respect for fair play. How WRONG we weresad

AllPizzasGreatAndSmall Thu 30-Jun-16 23:04:28

* over here people ask where you stay when they want to know where you live, not where are you from*

Only in Scotland, the rest of us would not use stay to refer to somewhere you are from/live permanently.

birchygoo Thu 30-Jun-16 23:08:04

I think that sometimes we can read too much into a question. Every time I speak I get asked where I'm from and I'm classed as a UK citizen being from NI. I have been asked the past 6 years I've been living in England. I think it's human curiosity. In fact I met a welsh couple recently and asked where they were from as couldn't quite place the accent. They have lived in my area coming up 20 years. Plus I do tend to assume people don't mind talking about their home as its their homeland. However you have made me think now that not everyone does like to be open and that especially after this week people may be more sensitive. I am def going to try and think more about how people may feel about the question. I guess I have just been dim that I don't give too hoots where someone is from i just find it very very interesting learning about people and other parts of the world.
This week has made me double take though as someone stepped out in front of my car had to slam on breaks - they stood in front of my car reading their phone!then slowly walked of the road. So I put down window and said they might want to think about road safety - then I thought shit the onlookers may have thought I was being racist - hated that feeling

TroysMammy Thu 30-Jun-16 23:19:32

birchy I'm sure if you asked a Welsh person where they were from they would have no hesitation in proudly telling you. Then they would start talking to you like they have known you forever and you would never get away from them grin

SanityClause Thu 30-Jun-16 23:20:08

I know, W8woman. sad

birchygoo Thu 30-Jun-16 23:22:28

Haha troy funny enough that may have been the outcone ... jokes :-) I do love the welsh accent though so I don't think I'd complain

BackforGood Thu 30-Jun-16 23:26:26

I agree with birchy. Its commonly been my experience that people like talking about their home country.

ImGoingToTeabagYourDrumKitDale Thu 30-Jun-16 23:32:28

We Welsh love a good natter about home grin

I've travelled to quite a few places on this globe, and have been asked many a time, especially in the US "where were you born" I think it's curiosity.

Viviene Fri 01-Jul-16 00:06:45

Birchygoo I love Irish (both South and North) accent so every time I think I hear it I ask to check if I guessed correctly. I am a bit of a Plastic Paddy though.

bestcatintheworld Fri 01-Jul-16 00:17:02

OP, my circumstances are exactly like yours and I would have felt uncomfortable at best, and livid at worst (more likely)

GlassBrexiteer Fri 01-Jul-16 00:18:09

If I was trying to place someones accent I might say something like 'I really like your accent but I cant quite place it....'

and if someone demanded to know where I was born I might tell them to mind their own businessangry

Lico Fri 01-Jul-16 07:50:57

I agree with Glass.
There are ways of making conversation.
Asking someone bluntly where there were born is intrusive and encourages the ''you' and 'us' divide. Should tell them off really.
When someone asks me this question, I tend to make them feel embarrassed that they ever ask.

Lico Fri 01-Jul-16 07:52:27

Sorry, that they ever asked.

MyBreadIsEggy Fri 01-Jul-16 08:05:52

I get that it's a touchy subject at the moment, but it sounds like he was just making casual conversation, as others have said, trying to place your accent if it sounded familiar.
I have a subtle accent that isn't immediately noticeable, but when people do notice, I often get asked "where are you from originally?" Or "where were you born?" - recently I've had different reactions to my answer. Apparently Brexit has made the xenophobes and racists in this country even more stand-offish towards immigrants from my home country in particular, as if we are like a sudden outbreak of plague on the country hmm

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