Why have people stopped questioning my dark skin?

If my accent doesn’t give it away (which it usually does) since living abroad, people often ask me “Where are you from?” and I obviously answer with “London.” People usually then mention the much loved British accent or ask why I moved from London to Frankfurt.

This is normal, right?

Well yes, I come from London and this is what I tell people.
So you’re probably wondering why I have mentioned it at all…
Because the last 15 months that I have been living abroad is the longest consecutive period of time I can remember throughout which no one has followed the initial question with “No, where are you actually from?” as a second attempt to get the answer they were really after when they wanted to ‘politely’ ask why I am black if I come from London.


Maybe you haven’t experienced this yourself. If not, then good for you. No one has made you feel as though you shouldn’t be able to call the city in which you were born, schooled, explored as a teenager and truly came to appreciate as a young adult, your home. The chances are that you also have international roots, but your skin colour ‘fits in’, so for the person in question, that’s ok.

Perhaps my accent provides enough evidence in itself since being abroad? Or maybe people are just too polite to ask? But too polite to ask what? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to know about someone’s cultural background . In fact, I ask people all the time. I genuinely enjoy knowing why people are multilingual or if they have lived in Germany their entire lives. I enjoy hearing the stories about why and how people ended up here and how long they will stay for.

But never would I challenge what someone says by suggesting that they had misunderstood the question, when in fact you have misunderstood what you are asking. Never would I suggest that their words are false because of the colour of their skin. If you want to know about someone’s cultural background, or where someone’s parents and grandparents are from, then you know what, just ask. But don’t suggest that someone’s home isn’t their home because of the colour of their skin.

I don’t owe anyone an explanation for not fitting the criteria they have in their mind.

You know, on mentioning that, I have just remembered that someone did once ask me where I am actually from. This time the accent clearly wasn’t enough so I answered by asking them if they meant to ask where my parents are from, to which they answered yes. It’s annoying and insulting, and I genuinely hope he was aware of this by the tone of my response.

I love living and working in an international city and being surrounded by international people. This is something that I’ll forever encourage as I find it so enriching to grow and develop alongside people from all over the world. But only I can know and feel exactly where home is for me. After all, if you’re asking where I am from i.e. where I grew up or where I call home, then why does it matter what colour my skin is?

14 thoughts on “Why have people stopped questioning my dark skin?

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  1. Dear Alisa,
    here I am wondering about the intention of your article. Do you see it as a good thing you want to tell people about? I mean the fact that less/no people ask you this follow up question anymore. Do you criticize how it was back in England? I assume you do not miss it, right? Maybe I just did not see it in your text.


    1. Hi Michael,
      Thing is, when I tell people I am from London it’s because I am from London, so I am glad that not so many people are asking “where are you really from?” when I tell them I am from London because it’s annoying and insulting. Thanks for reading! 🙂


  2. Great article! I usually get annoyed when people are curious (which I like) and then try to minimize my culture (you don’t have your own language) because they have no point of reference in which to relate.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliant article. Very thoughtful and interesting to read your thoughts on this matter as you are now able to compare and contrast two international cities. Also love the photos that support your articles. Subtle yet obvious after reading the article. It’s almost as if you are giving the reader a clue before they actually read the piece. X

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear cousin ….Your post was interesting to read. You have follow my footsteps and landed in Germany. When I moved all those years ago I remember the questions of my identity. Where are you from? Bristol….but where are you really from? Then all the explanation 😐.
    Yes it may have been annoying and yes we know our history. But do they. My action is to simply take away that second question . I am born and raised in Bristol , my parents are Jamaican. An additional 4 words can lead into an interesting dialogue or one where you can quickly move on.

    Did you ever call and Austrian German! ! 😎

    Keep enjoying Germany…
    I managed 12 years
    Now 12 years in Switzerland
    Like our history we travelled the world. From here to Japan


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Royden, Thanks for reading and thanks for the advice. Yes, I know what you mean by ‘did you ever call an Austrian German.’
      Inspiring that you’ve been abroad for so long. I’m hoping to come and see you in Switzerland 🙂



  5. I am Peruvian-American and just told a story today about experiencing this over and over again in NYC. The woman who I was speaking with acted completely surprised. Yes, her skin colour and facial features fit the mainstream complexion so I get that she hasn’t had this experience. Thanks for visibilizing it and sharing how you deal with this question. btw, just moved to Frankfurt and finding your blog warm and helpful. : ) thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Amelia, thanks for reading! Yeah, for people of colour this is such an everyday life experience and others are oblivious… even to how it makes people feel when they ask such questions. No problem, enjoy Frankfurt! 🙂


  6. I know what you meant. Even though I am born in Australia (also my parents) and look Chinese I experience this quite often since I moved to Germany. Usually i receive comments from people like “you cant be Australia because your surname is not English”, or “you’re Asian so how can you speak good English”. The worst comment I’ve received is “do you eat dogs in china”…just because I look like I’m from there doesn’t mean i am…maybe its people being Naive/curious or racist , I don’t know. I’ve travelled to many places, US, UK, Scandinavia and never been subjected to such comments. People just accept who you are and don’t make stereotypical assumptions based on your face.

    Liked by 1 person

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