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Cartoonist Jon Olbey struggles to answer an existential question at the office
By Jon Olbey
Jul 23, 2020
By Jon Olbey
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This is misleading to stereotype that only non whites get asked this. Everyone gets asked this, Americans that moved to Canada, French Canadians, Quebecois, Acadian, Newfoundlanders etc.
Most coworkers are just trying to learn more about you and your ethnicity is a big part of it. There is only so many topics to talk to your workers and food and travel is pretty safe.
People ask me all the time then say oh I love *insert food from your region* or my daughter is travelling to *insert region* any advice?
I ask the same for my coworkers moving to Canada from our US, EU offices etc. If someone doesn’t want to share, they just say something generic and you move on. It’s standard office etiquette.
The underlying message of this post is problematic.
I agree with Andie. I’m always interested in someone’s “backstory”. If they aren’t willing to share it, then say so, but there’s no need to be offended because someone might genuinely be interested. I think most people just want to find something in common to talk about.
I was asked just the other day if I was Australian. I used to get asked all the time (when I got out more lol) if I was Scottish, English, Australian, Welsh, or of Italian, Spanish or Indigenous heritage. People would say the same thing: “Where are you from” and I’d say “Toronto” and they’d do the same list of questions. “But where before that”, “What about your parents” and so on. Three of my grandparents were born and grew up in Canada and the fourth came from England 70 years before I was born. Some of my ancestors came to this continent in the 1600s, but “I’m Canadian” didn’t cut it for me either, and I’m about as “white Anglo-Saxon” as anyone can be, if you want to label me. Perhaps I have some features a little different from the stereotypical “white Torontonian/Canadian”? Maybe I speak differently than some do or have what sounds like an accent, possibly due to learning a lot of words by reading and also having visitors from other countries fairly regularly, possibly because I stumble over some words or mumble if I’m nervous.
Whatever the reason for the questions, my reaction to the questions is mine, and mine alone. I can get offended at being taken for an outsider, or I can roll with the punches and have a conversation about it.
Sure, the questions usually startle me at first, but then I realize that maybe I’m not just invisible. Maybe someone IS actually interested. Maybe I have something special. Maybe I’m weird. Okay, okay, that last one is true. So OWN IT!
I believe that we can see our differences and our similarities and use them to come together, rather than using them to create more friction in an already stressed-out world.
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