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Old 06-13-2012, 10:12 AM
 
Location: Harlem World
555 posts, read 562,348 times
Reputation: 300

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Came across the question on another website and would like to get your input citi-data on what this person asked....AGAIN NOT ME:

[LEFT]I moved to america a few years ago, i made some good friends at college, some of them also foriegn. A good friend of mine is english, and quite often we'll go out drinking on the weekends. I've noticed that when we get to talking to people, they'll ask where my friend is from (he's got a thick northern english accent - a lot of people confuse it with irish or scottish) then they'll reply "oh, i'm irish/italian/swedish/insert european country here".

the first few times it got me, and ususally i'd ask where in ireland/italy/sweden/random european country they were from, thinking they'd just lived here for a while and thier accent was gone. Usually i get a reply telling me about their great, great grandfather moving here in the 1800s or some stupid ****. If you've never even been to the country, why are you claiming to be from there? I get that your heritage is there, but who cares?


My question is this - Why do americans take so much pride in their heritage, and why do they think i care? Not meainign to come off condescendingly, I honestly would like it if someone had an good explanation.

[/LEFT]
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Old 06-13-2012, 10:27 AM
 
Location: USA
6,749 posts, read 4,122,508 times
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because they're not native or black americans
who can't trace their ancestry or heritage to
any other nation i guess.
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Old 06-13-2012, 10:36 AM
 
Location: New York NY
2,514 posts, read 2,448,134 times
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People care because the U.S. is built on immigration, and in many big cities like NYC, Chicago, LA, Philly, etc., the different ethnic groups lived close together for support and in some cases still do. So ethnicity became a big driver of employment, politics, religion, friendschip, civic participation, probably to a degree that doesn't exit in Europe, where most people have a common cultural and ethnic heritage. (Though this is obviously changing with immigration from former colonies, and those who had come to seek work, like the Turks in Germany.)

But IMO, the question of "what are you?" is still lot more likely to be asked in a very deverse place like NYC than out in the hinterlands somewhere, where the biggest differentiator between people may be whether they're MEthodist or Baptist.

And to be precise, that questioner should know that these people are talking in a shorthand. When they say that "I'm Irish, I'm Jamaican, I'm Korean," or some such, they're often referring to their ancestry, not the fact that they were born there.

Last edited by citylove101; 06-13-2012 at 10:50 AM..
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Old 06-13-2012, 10:41 AM
 
16,734 posts, read 14,048,438 times
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In recent times most Americans seem to be exploring their family roots. Since most Americans can trace back their roots outside of the USA, it has become the fashion to define oneself not only as an American as American connected to their roots in other country.
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Old 06-13-2012, 11:25 AM
 
28,093 posts, read 22,358,727 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chava61 View Post
In recent times most Americans seem to be exploring their family roots. Since most Americans can trace back their roots outside of the USA, it has become the fashion to define oneself not only as an American as American connected to their roots in other country.
It's not just a recent thing, though. Growing up in the 60s and 70s, people always said they were Dutch or Polish or Italian or whatever. It's an opening to conversation and reflects this country's history. We are a country of immigrants for the most part. That's part of our identity as Americans.

If the OP's friend "doesn't care" or this feature irritates him so badly about the country in which he's a visitor, then maybe he should just limit his conversations to other foreigners. And then go home as soon as he can.
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Old 06-13-2012, 11:32 AM
 
3,686 posts, read 4,549,273 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chava61 View Post
In recent times most Americans seem to be exploring their family roots. Since most Americans can trace back their roots outside of the USA, it has become the fashion to define oneself not only as an American as American connected to their roots in other country.
My ancestors obviously didnt care enough about their roots to stay where they belonged so I dont care to bother hyphenating by nationality.

or for that matter...my race
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Old 06-13-2012, 11:44 AM
 
430 posts, read 346,263 times
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City Love said it pretty well. We're all just aware that almost all of us are ultimately from somewhere else. However, we don't usually mention it unless it's relevant. If a tourist is Italian, the American might say, "Oh, I'm Italian-American" (or, my phrasing would be, "Oh, my family was originally from Italy"), just to create a polite bond. For me, I'm not particularly proud of my heritage. It's just a fact, like being right-handed.

We don't expect you to "care" beyond the way you would with any fact - "Oh, I went to NYU" or "Oh, I live in a walk-up" or "Oh, I'm a vegan."
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Old 06-13-2012, 11:51 AM
 
Location: Beautiful Pelham Parkway,The Bronx
6,685 posts, read 11,652,059 times
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I might be one of those people who you find irritating so I can only speak for myself.Although I was born here in the US and have no accent(actually not true,I still have a bit of a Boston accent) I actually have more family in Ireland than I do here.My mother had 10 siblings and less than 1/2 of them(all the girls)were shipped here to the US.The one's who stayed in Ireland were much more prolific than the ones who came here so Ireland is where most of my family is.It's kind of simple really.

Another thing that nobody has mentioned is that every group that has ever immigrated to this country gets dumped on for a couple of generations and told that they are not real Americans,that they are less than human and that they should go back where they came from.. That kind of welcome tends to reinforce ethnic identity.It make people clannish.Various hispanic groups are feeling this now but the Irish,the Italians,the Greeks,the Scandinavians,the Jews have all been through it.
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Old 06-13-2012, 11:59 AM
 
52 posts, read 45,479 times
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As others mentioned, its just a common conversation piece in America due to the diverse backgrounds people come from. Once in a while I'll meet someone who I really can't place and if the conversation comes up I'll ask "what are you?" just out of curiosity. Everybody has a family story about how they got here (or have always been here) and a lot of people like to share it.

If you're not interested, just say "oh, ok" and move on to a different topic.
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Old 06-13-2012, 12:31 PM
 
Location: Manhattan
11,379 posts, read 11,371,871 times
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Usually the question goes "What is your nationality?"
And my answer is Russian/Austrian although the RUSSIANS arrived in the 1890's and the Austrians between 1910 and 1920.

I never take offense and hear the question as "what is your ancestral background?"
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