Where Are You From?

Golden China Restaurant – Casablanca, Morocco

Seriously? Did we just ask that question? Anyone who’s seen the YouTube video that made the question “where are you from?” famous should not be asking that question! Especially not Asians!

We were four “Canadians” celebrating the birthday of a friend at a Chinese restaurant in Casablanca, Morocco. How did we end up here?

Brian is a Caucasian Canadian, who married across the border and became a citizen of the United States, then moved to Thailand with his family.  He is a photographer/videographer. We met in Chiang Mai, Thailand almost a decade ago, and we’ve been talking about traveling together to see the world and to capture photos, videos, and stories as we experience the changing cultures of various parts of the world. We chose Morocco.

Joseph and Selina are a couple that I knew from Toronto area. Joseph was born in Toronto to a Chinese couple from Hong Kong, who met in New York, and moved to Canada to start their lives together. Selina was born in Philippines and immigrated to Canada at an early age. After getting married, they decided to move to Morocco. So, naturally, when we were coming to Morocco to tick off our “bucket list,” we contacted them. It turned out that the day we decided to go to Casablanca was Joseph’s birthday.

Me? Almost every time I enter a new country through customs and hand the customs forms, I get double takes and questions about my country of birth (South Korea), my nationality (USA), and my country of residence (Canada).

So, there we were, four “unusual people.” Then things got even more surreal as Joseph asked our waiter where he was from. He is Congolese – living and working in Morocco. We were communicating through French.

To help us better order from the menu, the Congolese waiter asked the owner’s daughter to come over. She began in French, but when she heard us talking to each other, she broke out in perfect North American English. We had to ask, “where did you learn how to speak English so well?” She told us that she went to an American International School there in Casablanca. We also learned that she was born in Ivory Coast, grew up in Morocco, and went to a University in Taiwan.

The real gem of this evening for me was hearing about how the restaurant came into existence. The owners, who are Taiwanese, read a book written by one of their favorite authors about Spain, and wanted to go and start a restaurant there. However, they were not able to obtain a visa. They somehow ended up in Ivory Coast, where they had at least the daughter that we met. Eventually, they ended up in Casablanca, and opened their restaurant 27 years ago (established in 1991).

All throughout the dinner, and as we continued our journey, we could not help but to wonder over the reality of the impact of globalization today. At that table, in that little restaurant, we were represented by at least 10 nations. A simple birthday dinner turned into a celebration of globalization for the six global nomads. What an incredible night!

And, we learned that the question, “where are you from?” is becoming more and more complex.

What is your experience of globalization? Please post your stories in the comment section.

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