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"Woher kommst du?"

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Ever since I came to Germany in 2008, I've been telling Germans who ask that I'm from New York City. 

 

The full official background was that I was born in Alaska and moved with my parents to New York when I was 2. I have absolutely no recollection whatsoever of anything in Alaska. 

 

Well, awhile ago, I moved in with a German guy in a WG situation, and as usual I gave him a copy of my passport and other required documents.

 

I noticed that whenever his friends would ask me where I was from and I would reply "New York City", he would give me an irritated look. Finally a few days ago when I was asked that by someone, he cut in and said "He's from Alaska!" When I tried to correct him, he retorted "You didn't think I read your passport copy? You're from Alaska, not New York!"

 

So...according to German etiquette and customs: When asked where you are from, do you reply with your place of birth or the place you spent a vast majority of your life? This one is a new one on me!

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Here's how to piss off that über-German German: tell him of course you're from New York City, because that's where you grew up from the age of two. Then add that if he wanted to know where you were born, he should have asked that specifically.

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What an idiot. Not a German myself, but I've lived here longer than anywhere else in my life - El Jeffo is right, just tell him he's wrong. Sure-fire recipe for p!ssing him off. :P

 

Don't get me started on my frustration with "where do you come from", not just because there are so many ways I can and can't answer that question, but also because it became exponentially more difficult after having married my GerMan 1.5 years ago and acquired an extremely regional-specific German last name... isn't love grand! :wub:

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1 hour ago, razorsandroses said:

So...according to German etiquette and customs: When asked where you are from, do you reply with your place of birth or the place you spent a vast majority of your life? This one is a new one on me!

In Germany, people do not move that much, so the default assumption is that you grew up where you were born.

If you grew up somewhere else, you have to explicitly mention it.

 

For example, Olaf Scholz was born in Osnabrück, but grew up in Hamburg: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olaf_Scholz#Herkunft,_beruflicher_Werdegang

Or Angela Merkel, she was born Hamburg, but grew up in the GDR: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel#Elternhaus_und_fr%C3%BChe_Kindheit_(1954%E2%80%931960)

Or our very own Starshollow, he was born in Würzburg, but grew up in Baierbrunn (of which he is now mayor :)): https://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/landkreismuenchen/kommunalwahl-in-baierbrunn-patrick-ott-1.4862706

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Woher kommen Sie ?

When asked by the Bundespolizei at the airport immigration, I always wonder

if they mean : 

  1. where did you fly in from?
  2. where were you before you got on the plane?
  3. where were you born?
  4. describe your trip over the last 14 days ... in the next 20 seconds

I usually go for (1) and defer to (4) only if asked, as a travelogue is not what these guys want...

:ph34r:

 

[edited to correct the you/me confusion]

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Yeah, it‘s (1), but that doesn‘t mean they always understand the answer. Once I said „from Maputo“. He looked at me like „where the hell is that?“ 👻

 

PS- it‘s the capital of Mozambique: no direct flights to Germany.

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I think it's just more of a cultural thing here to put more emphasis on where you were born rather than were you were brought up. An example I came across - a former colleague of my wife had her two children in a hospital in Cologne even though she lives much closer to several good hospitals in our area over the city border. My wife asked about it and the colleague said she wanted that they could call themselves a Kölner(in). Oje!

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2 hours ago, razorsandroses said:

he cut in and said "He's from Alaska!"

It takes a particular type of arrogance to tell someone you can answer that question for them better than they can answer it themselves.

I imagine like a lot of us on this forum, the place I was born isn't where I grew up, and where I grew up is far from being the place I have lived the longest. If the question is just small talk among people I'm unlikely to spend time with, I've sometimes answered London (I lived there for years), as it allows conversation to move on to something more interesting. These days I generally just reply that I live in the Eifel. 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, PandaMunich said:

In Germany, people do not move that much, so the default assumption is that you grew up where you were born.

 

PandaMunich,

 

Thank you for the information.  I always wondered why on the German tax forms it asks for your place of birth/Geburtsort.

 

S.

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15 minutes ago, Shenandoah said:

I always wondered why on the German tax forms it asks for your place of birth/Geburtsort.

 

 

Having only one first name and one last name open the door to many people having the same name.  Combining it with birthday and place of birth you can identify people better.  At least that's my guess for asking those things so often.

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2 hours ago, razorsandroses said:

I noticed that whenever his friends would ask me where I was from and I would reply "New York City", he would give me an irritated look. Finally a few days ago when I was asked that by someone, he cut in and said "He's from Alaska!" When I tried to correct him, he retorted "You didn't think I read your passport copy? You're from Alaska, not New York!"

 

So...according to German etiquette and customs: When asked where you are from, do you reply with your place of birth or the place you spent a vast majority of your life? This one is a new one on me!

Irrespective of what German custom here is, disclosing another person's private information is a big no-no. So, if you want to be full scale German, threaten Anzeige:

  1.  
Quote

 

  1. Mit Freiheitsstrafe bis zu zwei Jahren oder mit Geldstrafe wird bestraft, wer personenbezogene Daten, die nicht allgemein zugänglich sind,
    1. ohne hierzu berechtigt zu sein, verarbeitet oder
    2. durch unrichtige Angaben erschleicht

    und hierbei gegen Entgelt oder in der Absicht handelt, sich oder einen anderen zu bereichern oder einen anderen zu schädigen.

 

https://dsgvo-gesetz.de/bdsg/42-bdsg/#:~:text=Mit%20Freiheitsstrafe%20bis%20zu%20drei,Art%20und%20Weise%20zug%C3%A4nglich%20macht

 

Before the local Besserwisser interrupt me: yes, I know, there is second to zero chance to bring this to real prosecution and prove "personal damage", yet just making him aware of this paragraph and threatening to go to the police next time, will do the job. 

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depending on the context I would answer to "woher kommen Sie ?"

 

giving my location

a. 5 minutes ago: "von der Toilette" (when I am late for a meeting)

b. 2 hours ago: "von zuhause" (when I am in time for a meeting)

c. up to a day ago: "von <<vacation location>>" (when I'm being questioned at the boarder)
d. a few weeks/months ago: "von <<previous address/town>>" (when in an office of some kind to get organized at my new place of residence)
e. current residence: "von <<current address/town/country>>" (when in a professional setting, congress, nationwide/international gathering...)

f. country/town I was born in, or grew up in: "aus Deutschland/München" (when in an informal setting, meeting new people, socializing...)

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And, oh yes,

If they ask with an American accent, don't forget to add the nation...

As in:

Manchester, England 

(lest they assume New Hampshire)

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I have no problem with this question. I feel you are taking interest in me ( yes maybe also to decide about the schubladen / drawer/ cupboard to put me in ) by asking this question.

 

We all are not Macdonalds or starbucks who would look same across the globe

 

And i am not ashamed of my place or country of birth- so bring it on :rolleyes: 

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I don't mind people asking. The next question is usually how I ended up in Germany of all places. 

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They don't often ask me " woher kommst Du?" these days. They normally just ask: " bist Du Holländer?" ( I take that as a compliment!)

 

When I was new here, I'd sometimes get asked: " was für ein Landsmann bist Du?", which I found a charming turn of phrase.

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