Customers Asking Where I am From. Do You Find it Racist?

Hey everyone! I haven't posted a forum post for a while. I work in retail (I won't say where) and I have people/customers asking me where I am from.
I personally find it racist for people to ask me out of a sudden/randomly where I am from. Where does that accent is coming from? Strange name, where are you from?
How long you have been in Australia? Why did you come to Australia? Are some of the questions I am been asked daily and to be honest it's getting on my nerves and I find it racist.
To give you context, this are not regular customers that I have interactions everyday. This are random first time customers.

What do you think?

Racist or not racist.

Also I would like your input on how you would reacted if something like this occurs daily to you.

Edit: Thanks to scrimshaw for sharing this article. Although I respect people's opinion, I would suggest people reading this article that might change the way you think.

Poll Options

  • 141
    Definitely Racist
  • 653
    Not Racist
  • 931
    Just nosy/curious people

Comments

  • +147

    Everything is racist

      • +103

        Scenario - white person asks another white person with an accent, "where is the accent from". Racist?

          • +37

            @Scrooge McDeal: You didn't answer the question, it wasn't about you, it's a scenario. Is the scenario person in the scenario above racist?

              • +115

                @Scrooge McDeal:

                I wouldn't say racist

                Correct. You aren't special, stop making everything about skin colour and race. Get over yourself, it's a simple question which would be asked regardless of "race" or "colour", purely out of curiosity.

                  • +97

                    @Scrooge McDeal: Good for you. Read benoffies comment below. It's small talk, banter. If you can't deal with talking to people, get out of retail, and stop crying racism, it's like people crying rape if someone looks at them, it cheapens it for people who have to deal with actual racism.

                    • +7

                      @brendanm: Terrific reply.

                    • -1

                      @brendanm:

                      it cheapens it for people who have to deal with actual racism.

                      My brain was gonna read "it cheapens it for people who have to deal with actual rapist." lol. Yep, I know my dark humor. Imma go to church now …

                  • +14

                    @Scrooge McDeal:

                    looks not Australian

                    Please define this. Last I check, you don't have to be Caucasian to get an Australian citizenship.

                    • +34

                      @Duckie2hh: Well the thing is, someone asked me.
                      -where I am from?
                      - I said I am Australian.
                      - They turned and said no you are not, you have an accent.
                      - I said I was born here.
                      - Turned and said that's not possible.
                      - But how come you have an accent?

                      Tell me how that it's not racist or dumb.

                      • +20

                        @Scrooge McDeal: That's not racist. Exact same thing could happen if it were two people of the same race, buy one had a accent.

                        • +3

                          @brendanm: Maybe it's not racist but dumb for sure.

                          • +32

                            @FlyingMiffy: No, I don't. Asking someone their background is pretty normal, happens to me anytime someone sees my name.

                            You seem to have a problem seeing racism where there is none, though I won't hold that against you, as it's extremely common these days. People need things to feel victimised over.

                            Edit - imagine thinking having an Australian flag on Australia Day makes you a racist 😂😂😂

                            Edit 2 - If you are already replying to someone, you don't need to tag them as well.

                            • +2

                              @brendanm: Brendanm, you have just become my new favorite commenter. Thank you

                            • @brendanm: going by the profile picture i think everything is starting to make sense

                              • +12

                                @Roe Jogan: Do you like that? I changed it for the guy that said you can't fly an Aussie flag on Australia Day. God forbid anyone love their country hey.

                                Funny state of affairs when people are happy for a Palestinian/Ukranian/"whatever other flavour of the month" flag to be flown in Australia, but not an Australian one.

                          • +11

                            @FlyingMiffy: what has white skin got to do with anything ? i’m whiter then white but on both sides of my family is aboriginal and 2 out of my 5 kids are dark skinned and when i had my 2 boys with me i would constantly get asked is this your son ? as 1 is dark skin and the other one is blonde hair blue eyes and cos they are only 2 years apart i would constantly get they can’t be both your kids ? and when they would say we are brothers ppl couldn’t believe it ..so skin colour means nothing ..

                          • +3

                            @FlyingMiffy: Let me guess… you are probably white too but hate your own kind especially when they show any kind of patriotism.

                        • -3

                          @brendanm: This is the dumbest take possible. Why are white people so sensitive about being called out for being racist.

                          • +2

                            @Autonomic: Why do you like to be a victim? The world has many mysteries.

                          • +3

                            @Autonomic:

                            This is the dumbest take possible. Why are white people so sensitive about being called out for being racist.

                            Learn the meaning of the word racist.

                            • -5

                              @CurlCurl: White people thinking they can lecture minorities on what is and isn't racism will always be funny to me

                              • +8

                                @Autonomic:

                                Autonomic commented:
                                White people thinking they can lecture minorities on what is and isn't racism will always be funny to me

                                YIKES !

                                What sort of a disgusting racist clown-world statement is THAT.

                                Imagine being as racist as this clown is and not knowing there's over 1000 different white nationalities and ethnic groups, many of them minorities ???

                            • +4

                              @CurlCurl: You are wasting your time with that one, it's got the mind rot.

                              • +2

                                @brendanm:

                                You are wasting your time with that one, it's got the mind rot.

                                It needs a mind first before the rot.

                      • +10

                        @Scrooge McDeal: How do you have 'an accent' if you were born here? I mean, you could have the posh Aussie accent, or the Bogan accent I guess… but there isn't too much else to choose from.

                        Definitely tactless if they keep pushing at it after saying you're from here, but if it's based on accent, it's not a 'race' thing.

                        I'll ask someone where they are from based on accent (I have trouble telling Irish vs Scottish a lot of time time), but their 'race' is usually pretty damn obvious and not at question. Or some people have really mixed accents because they've lived all over. I used to get asked the same all the time too, the only hassle was that it was a bit complicated to explain. Didn't take offense.

                        • +7

                          @rumblytangara: How do you have 'an accent' if you were born here?

                          Very easy. One of my daughters is a school teacher. Children born in OZ often begin school with little or no English. Why? Because English is not spoken at home.

                          • +11

                            @CurlCurl: Sure, for kids just hitting primary school.

                            By the time they're old enough to be posting on OzBargain, the accent would have faded.

                            • +4

                              @rumblytangara: Not a chance of it fading 100%. Not even 75%. My best mate as a teenager and through our 20s was born in OZ from Dutch parents. He always had an accent. Another two mates were Aussie born with Maltese parents. Same thing.

                              • +10

                                @CurlCurl: I'd call that an extreme outlier if someone kept 75% of a childhood accent.

                                I know absolutely loads of internationally born people, and none of them retained their 'birth' accents. They usually end up adopting the country accent, or blending into a generic international one.

                                My worry about moving here is that my kids would adopt a bogan accent, but thankfully that doesn't seem to be happening.

                                • +3

                                  @rumblytangara: Wish I was able to adopt an Aussie accent. I retain my birth accent and been here over 12 years. I always get asked where I am from same questions as OP. Bothers me most that I can’t emulate an Oz accent so no one finds out where I am from which is currently an embarrassment!!

                                  • +2

                                    @Sunshines bright: Why is it an embarrassment not to have an Aussie accent and being born from where you were born? Do most indigenous people speak "Aussie accent"?

                                    • @leiiv: The embarrassment is related to where I am from not lacking an Aussie accent. Any accent besides my birth would be fine.

                                • +2

                                  @rumblytangara:

                                  My worry about moving here is that my kids would adopt a bogan accent, but thankfully that doesn't seem to be happening.

                                  There is bogan and there is Aussie. There is a difference.

                              • +1

                                @CurlCurl:

                                Not a chance of it fading 100%. Not even 75%. My best mate as a teenager and through our 20s was born in OZ from Dutch parents. He always had an accent. Another two mates were Aussie born with Maltese parents. Same thing.

                                Having a slightly "woggy" sociolect (for lack of a better term) like an Australian-born Lebanese from Bankstown who sounds like a Fat Pizza character is not the same thing as having a non-native English speaker's accent, from a linguistic perspective.

                                A sociolect is a somewhat conscious linguistic phenomenon where the speaker can code-switch between their vernacular and others at will (e.g. most American gangsta rappers off-record) and whose "accent" will fluctuate depending on their level of exposure to speakers from the same sociolect. (e.g. the average urban Aussie surrounded by country bogans and vice versa). I grew up with a lot of second-generation immigrants who loved to turn up their "ethnic" accents to 11 around their own kind but who otherwise spoke English with an entirely native Australian accent when they didn't feel "embarrassed" to do so.

                                A non-native speaker's accent is an unconscious linguistic phenomenon where the speaker cannot adopt the vernacular speech patterns of the speakers of a another language due to not having sufficient exposure to it and because of a strong neuro-linguistic bias toward their own language.

                                Young children adopt new languages and accents much more readily than adults, partly due to their vocal chords being able to produce a more flexible range of sounds that narrows with age, being able to form neural connections in the brain faster and also due to a far greater level of daily immersion in a host country's language once they're in the educational system.

                                It does depend somewhat on the degree of relatedness between an immigrant's native language and the host country's language but childhood migrants below the age of 8 or so will almost always fully assimilate into the vernacular dialect/accent of their host country's language by the time they're adults. With teenage migrants and older, it's variable but tends towards far less dialectal assimilation the older they are.

                                • @Gnostikos: as I said. Both my daughters are teachers. One with 29 years experience the other the other with 23 years. Between them they have seen many 1,000s of children. I stand by what they have told me.

                                  • +2

                                    @CurlCurl: Cool. I'm speaking from first-hand experience as someone who migrated to this country and grew up surrounded by other immigrants during my formative years.

                                    Within linguistics, there's a formal distinction between the dialectal variation of native speakers of a language and those of non-native speakers, which you're not recognising here. What you're describing is either called an ethnolect or a sociolect and is not the same thing as having a foreign-born, non-native speaker's level of morphological/phonological variation.

                                    Just because you or anyone else perceives some second-generation immigrants as having an "accent" does not mean they actually speak in any formal register of English that is differentiated enough from the standard Australian register/vernacular to be considered equal to a non-native English speaker's dialect. You yourself have an "accent" as well, it just happens to be the accent of the most dominant standard register of English spoken in Australia, so it's simply a matter of perspective that regards it as the "correct" accent.

                                    All of the second-generation immigrants you're referring to obviously have a native command of the English language and speak it fluently, having been born here, and that alone means they don't strictly-speaking exhibit anything that would be categorised as a truly separate dialect of Australian English. Their speech is well within the variations of Australian English that have existed and been documented for over a century now.

                                    The only cases I remember where first-generation childhood migrants grew up to maintain noticeable accents well into adulthood were those whose families were either too financially destitute to afford proper ESL tuition and/or those whose families made concerted efforts to impede their cultural/linguistic assimilation by keeping their families largely segregated from mainstream Australian society, save for sending their kids to school.

                                    Those were exceptions to the rule though. The amount of immigrant kids in the schools that I went to who grew up outperforming native English-speaking kids at English Lit. was quite surprising.

                                    Regardless of background and socio-economic status, kids really don't have to try too hard to pick up languages.
                                    I spoke 3 by the time I was 6 or 7 years old (though it's just as easy to lose languages at younger ages, one of which I've completely forgotten).

                                    Historically that was the primary method through which different peoples and cultures learned each other's languages: intermarriage and raising children in another culture to adopt their language.

                                    • @Gnostikos:

                                      All of the second-generation immigrants you're referring to obviously have a native command of the English language and speak it fluently, having been born here, and that alone means they don't strictly-speaking exhibit anything that would be categorised as a truly separate dialect of Australian English. Their speech is well within the variations of Australian English that have existed and been documented for over a century now.

                                      Since the massive migrant intake began it has been a bigger problem.

                                      Not when the parents English is little or none and their native tongue is spoken at home. Australian born children arrive in kindergarten with no English but fluent and with the accent of their native tongue.

                                      I do agree, some children depending on their native tongue, have no problem adapting with the English language.

                                      I do appreciate you explanation but I think we need to agree to disagree.

                                  • @CurlCurl:

                                    @Gnostikos: as I said. Both my daughters are teachers. One with 29 years experience the other the other with 23 years. Between them they have seen many 1,000s of children. I stand by what they have told me.

                                    Ahhh, no, earlier you actually said, and I quote:

                                    One of my daughters is a school teacher. Children born in OZ often begin school with little or no English. Why? Because English is not spoken at home.

                                    Is your "experience" now changing to suit your narrative? Is it one or both daughters that have said this to you? Seems odd to me that this topic would come up in normal conversation with your daughters, but if it was both that had made the same comment, I'm pretty sure you would have said that from the start.

                                    I actually don't disagree with the concept that people can have slight accents from home life, I have seen it myself, but changing your story doesn't help the legitimacy your argument.

                                    • @Maximum64:

                                      Ahhh, no, earlier you actually said, and I quote:

                                      One of my daughters is a school teacher. Children born in OZ often begin school with little or no English. Why? Because English is not spoken at home.
                                      

                                      Yes I did say that, but both daughters are teachers. If it means anything, one son in law is also a teacher. To top it off, so was my sister. Happy now?

                                      • +1

                                        @CurlCurl: You're obviously part of the Deep Teacher Conspiracy group and nothing you say can be trusted

                                        /s

                                        • @rumblytangara:

                                          You're obviously part of the Deep Teacher Conspiracy group and nothing you say can be trusted

                                          Better than being a Politician, used car salesperson or real estate agent that seems to be your go.

                                • +1

                                  @Gnostikos: Dangit, and there you are raising the tone o' the whole thread with that high falutin' language o' yours.

                                  <nice post, seriously>

                        • @rumblytangara: I just learnt a couple of weeks ago that Australian accent is diversifying.

                          According to the study there are already appearing localised accents that diverge from the monolithic one that Australia has had.

                      • +29

                        @Scrooge McDeal:

                        -where I am from?
                        - I said I am Australian.

                        Here's the thing. You know what they are asking. Just tell them your heritage and move on. By answering the way you do, you are just provoking a situation that doesn't need to occur.

                        If such pleasantries really gets your goat up, then working in a customer facing role may not be your best bet for continued good mental health.

                        • +1

                          @photonbuddy:

                          Here's the thing. You know what they are asking. Just tell them your heritage and move on

                          Nah they should ask the exact question then; if you're born in Australia then you're from Australia, simple.

                          • @smartazz104:

                            Nah they should ask the exact question then; if you're born in Australia then you're from Australia, simple.

                            Username checks out!!

                            Why get all convoluted about things, when there's no need.

                        • -2

                          @photonbuddy:

                          you are just provoking a situation

                          Gaslighting 101

                        • +1

                          @photonbuddy: Well thought out reply. Even though I empathise with "today's victim" about being irritated, it does seem like he is much more the problem rather than the curious people he meets.

                      • -1

                        @Scrooge McDeal: IMHO you should have added this example of an interaction in your post.
                        It seems you just realised now that the average Aussie is racist, but if you go abroad and ask, you'll find Aussies have a well deserved reputation for being racist, disrespectful, abusive, loud, obnoxious and entitled.

                      • +1

                        @Scrooge McDeal: I didnt know accent was a race

                      • +1

                        @Scrooge McDeal: I have an accent and people ask me where I'm from all the time as I work in a service industry. It gets tedious at times to go through the oft repeated response, but it's just novelty to the other person and a way to start a conversation so I get it.

                        I'm white as the driven snow, so, now that you mention it, is that racist too, or only when they aren't white? If so, I'll remember in future to never bring up anything about someone's accent who isn't the same race as me or I'll be racist.

                  • @Scrooge McDeal:

                    I just find it annoying…

                    Then it could be described as 'annoying', but not as 'racist'.

              • +8

                @Scrooge McDeal:

                It all comes down to context

                Exactly. Most times people are just interested in your experience, not using it to judge you. However if they're sneering or their tone suggests they loathe you then you might be dealing with a racist.

          • +21

            @Scrooge McDeal: I was born in Australia, when I go overseas “where are you from” is normally the first thing people I meet ask me.
            I don’t think it’s racist, maybe a bit rude or inappropriate sometimes.
            Most people are just curious and want to start a conversation.
            If they went on the say “I hate you and your people” well, that would be racist.

          • -1

            @Scrooge McDeal: Where are you from?

          • @Scrooge McDeal: So you prefer superficial small talk, rather than something that can lead to deeper/fruitful conversation?

        • +13

          It's a good conversation Ice breaker. I get asked often where my accent is.

          • +12

            @archieduh: Nothing to be embarrassed about there, just people being curious.

            • -3

              @brendanm: @brendanm happily agree to disagree, one has to realise boundaries and ask such questions only when they are sure the other party is comfortable. It makes them feel included. I did ask this directly in the example I shared to that person, he said to them I am still a "Russian".
              So if a white person felt that way imagine how other ancestories when asked such questions do.

              • +14

                @archieduh: People really need to harden up.

                • +10

                  @brendanm: Or lighten up.

                  I've been asked this most my life and have never taken offense. Sometimes it gets a bit tiring to answer because the answer is a bit complex (fair number of countries and none of them correspond to ethnicity). I've been asked the same in the countryside, and complimented on my English- asked where I'm from and the easy answer was "Sydney". We just found that funny more than anything else.

                  I'll ask people the same question if I'm having trouble placing an accent. I've yet to come across anyone appearing offended. No, strike that, I did really offend a French girl once when I asked if she was from Quebec. She was so pissed.

                  • +4

                    @rumblytangara:

                    French girl once when I asked if she was from Quebec. She was so pissed.

                    I can understand that. I had someone ask if I was from New Zealand before, so I know the feeling.

                    • @brendanm: I was working on the basis that it's better to ask an Aussie if they're from NZ, than the other way round. Or an American if they're from Canada. But no, Parisians are picky AF.

        • +13

          I’m originally from Ireland. Whilst it’s been 16 years since we emigrated I still have my accent and am constantly asked where I am from. Not once did I think it was racist.

      • +2

        To be honest, it's nosy and unnecessary for casual retail interactions. However, my guess is that it's just a way for people to make small-talk.

        FWIW, the above comment is right - everything is "racist" if you want to perceive it as such. However, the line really should be drawn where there is perceivable harm or discrimination - being selected for a job offer over someone else because of your race, being rejected from social clubs or schools…etc. There are plenty of examples of real racism in this country which I've encountered growing up.

        There are plenty of ways that you can answer the question of "where are you from", or "where is the accent from". Sometimes, the best answer is just take the question in good faith and be honest.

        Perhaps "I'm Australian, but I spent some of my childhood in X, where I picked up the accent", or "I'm Australian, but my grandparents were from Y, what about you?"

        At the end of the day, just remember the fact that because your ancestors were from XYZ, or because you have lived in XYZ in your life does not diminish the fact that you are Australian. If you feel that it does and that's something you have to hide, then I think that says more about you than about others who may just be curious and open-minded.

      • +2

        I would say I'm from Melbourne. Are you not from here? Where are you from? Take it easy mate

      • Where are you from ?

    • Why did I read this comment in the voice of the guy singing everything is awsome from the lego movie

      • You simply have good taste.

    • +2

      Where are you from?

    • And everyones a little bit racist….avenue Q

      https://youtu.be/RovF1zsDoeM?si=1NmBqxlf8-QtqjnG

      • +1

        You're using the internet wrong ;)

    • And homophobic too …

      :-|

    • +9

      This is a sort of snowflake poll. I've been also born and raised overseas, and I am getting the question quite often (having a strong accent).

      I always take it as a some genuine curiosity and take the opportunity to explain who am I and where I am from.

      Have a Chinese friend. In a similar situation, he though that he is picked on because he is Chinese. See, I am Caucasian and still getting the same question, not everything about the race…

    • "Everything is racist"….

      Everything is cool when your part of a race!

    • The question in itself isnt racist but it can be used in a racist context. Usually its just people making smalltalk or geniunely interested though!

    • -1

      Its only racist if you think it's racist.

  • +3

    Where do you work from?

  • +10

    I would say asking about someone's name / accent and where there are from is OK. I think these could be asked on face value. How long and why did you come to Australia are not something I would ask without knowing someone a little more.

    • -4

      How about the first thing they ask you it's that. Do you find that racist?

      • +9

        Maybe they are just curious?

        • -6

          Maybe, but sometimes it's also the way the ask you (voice tone, body language) . I can't be in their head, that's why I posted this forum.
          They might be just curious and I am overthinking it.

          • +7

            @Scrooge McDeal:

            I can't be in their head, that's why I posted this forum.

            You could ask them, we can't be in their heads either.

            A few, it probably is racism to some degree, others are just looking to make small talk and trying to find a topic, most people like to talk about themselves. If that's the worst thing you're getting asked as a retailer worker, you're probably pretty lucky.

            • -2

              @apsilon: Hahaha, there are much worse things happening as a retail worker. But I feel like if I post them in forum, my identity might get compromised. 😄

              • +4

                @Scrooge McDeal:

                But I feel like if I post them in forum, my identity might get compromised

                1.3 million people in OZ work in retail. I don't think you would stand out that much someone here may identify you.

                • -3

                  @CurlCurl: Believe me some of the incidents that occur at my workplace are very specific that someone might link the puzzle pieces.

                  • @Scrooge McDeal: This is smart. Don't identify yourself. I'm very disappointed in some of these responses and you don't want some whacko working out where you work and making a scene because they're bored.

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