Stateless experiences

Where are you from?

  • 22 February 2022
  • 1 reply
Where are you from?
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Many of us get to hear this question on a regular basis. Some don’t mind. I definitely do. 

In my case being black and being stateless intersect, intensifying the situation even more: Growing up in a western country and a predominantly white environment means that there were times when I was asked this question on a daily basis.

While my first response used to be “Germany”, we all know that this  hardly is what  the person actually wants to hear. Nobody who asks this question cares about the fact that I was born in Germany. They see my skin colour and, wanting to know more about my “background” rather than the actual facts, they often jump to conclusions and cross personal boundaries they would not cross with a white person.   Even though there are people who are black AND German, the most hurtful and annoying part about my situation was that those people were - to some extent - right. 

While I was claiming to be “from” Germany, I was actually not German.

The legal reality of me being stateless and without a German nationality prevailed, underscoring the discriminating assumption that a black person could never actually be from a Western country.

Statelessness often intersects with another “trait” that has traditionally been victim to discrimination.

Being a woman, being part of a religious minority, being a person of colour - you name it.  I recently had a conversation with another stateless person about this. They referred to it as “double minority”. It felt so true that it gave me goosebumps. 

The identity of stateless people has various diverse layers and it should be up to us if and with whom we share these layers. Unfortunately, societal pressure is a fact and I would be lying if I said that staying true to my boundaries comes easy to me in those situations. It’s never not uncomfortable. 

This is why we decided to start a list of potential ways to respond to these potentially boundary-crossing questions, in case you do not want to answer them sometimes as well.

We hope that the wisdom and experience from this community will help to enrich this list.

What are ideas or answers you have come up with in the past?

We would love for you to share them:arrow_down:

  • “Thank you for showing your interest. I’m a person who choses to share this information on my own terms. Thanks a lot for understanding” 

  • “Thanks for asking. If you are referring to where my parents are “from”, I hope you don’t mind me saying that I would prefer it if you asked them directly. Thanks for understanding.”

  • “I am from another dimension :wink:

  • “I am from my mother’s uterus :information_desk_person_tone5: “


or you say: 

  • “I am stateless and therefore I have no nationality.

    You might be confused about what that means and that's normal.

    The issue is complex.

    If you are interested in learning more about it, I recommend you to google the word "statelessness".

    You'll find information on various websites. For example on the web pages of the European Network on Statelessness, the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion or UNHCR.”


Have any additional ideas? Share them :arrow_down:.


1 reply

I tend to just reply “from Germany” because I was born here, and luckily enough, some people just don’t question that because I’m white-passing and go on with the conversation. [edit: I’m not comfortable with giving this answer because labeling myself as German just doesn’t feel right at all, but fact-wise (geographically speaking? idek) it’s not a lie, so It’s just my easy way out.]

Most of them keep asking questions though, i.e. why my last name “is/sounds russian or something like that”, which puts me in uncomfortable situations because

  1. their questioning already means they are implying I’m not telling them the truth,
  2. they somehow feel entitled to that whole truth, and then
  3. I either have to lie to them and tell them they’re right about identifying me as Of Russian Origin which leads to “and yet you don’t speak Russian?! Your parents must be disappointed. Do you support P*t!n though”


  1. I have to tell them I’m Roma, which forces me to educate most of them on what that even means by G-wording myself. If they do know who Rom*nja are though, I have to put up with hollow stereotypes by talking myself out of the “but I’m sure you’re one of the good ones”-labyrinth (which is still one of the better outcomes considering people love to become violent once they feel superior, but if I sense it could be unsafe to tell them about being romani, I just stick with the you’re right I’m actually Russian-story).


It all just gets complicated when I actually don’t have any reason to lie to the person asking in the first place, but I’m not sure about where that information might end up and if giving it to them might backfire on me in the future. Sometimes I meet people that I would definitely trust with that knowledge, but I’m afraid they would be weirded out by me preferring them to only ask questions about my romani heritage in private. I think I have missed out on quite a couple nice friendships throughout my life because they could sense some kind of dishonesty coming from my side, but couldn’t quite pinpoint it.

Sometimes I’m so tired of having to do all of that, or tired of not being able to just give a short answer that doesn’t automatically form the view this person/group I’m introducing myself to will have of me. I would love not being able to anticipate the entire flow of conversation that will arise from that “where are you from?”-question, or not having to decide within seconds whether I am in an environment that is safe enough to open up about my romani background, which I’m actually really proud of.


(tbh, I didn’t even know how emotional that little question has me before writing this. I could still go on for days about this topic. thanks for reading if you did.)