Where are you from? My Ethnic Ambiguity

Where are you from?

questions asked by everyone I meet. This has always been a tough one to answer.

I was born and raised in Dubai by Pakistani immigrants. Both my parents are from two different provinces in Pakistan, my dad is a Pathan, Khattak and my mom was born and raised in Karachi by a Punjabi mother and Delhi-wala father.

I studied in Australia and then moved to England after marriage. My association with Pakistan has merely been a couple of visits and also, my husband is from there.

Being raised in a country that doesn’t accept expatriates as a citizen even after years of residency leaves you with ethnic ambiguity. I thought why not write down about the benefits and problems that come with it.

Benefits of my ethnic ambiguity:

  • Living in different countries helped me personally and professionally. I am more malleable to various cultures and have easily adjusted in different countries.
  • In Dubai, I use to hear a lot ‘Oh you look like an Arab or Iranian whereas in western countries, people assume I am Greek. All I hear is I am exotic.
  • People start speaking to you in different languages. This is fun because I know how to say hello and how are you in Arabic, Persian, Pashto, and Urdu.
  • You get treated differently when people assume you might have the same ethnicity. I have got a lot of discounts when I tell them I am from Dubai or Pakistan.

Problems of my ethnic ambiguity:

  • I am not Pakistani enough. Pride for my country is a challenging concept. Even though I love the food, culture, and clothes; there are a lot of things I still don’t understand because I wasn’t born or raised traditionally. My parents were very open-minded and progressive. I didn’t have a lot of cultural restrictions.
  • It’s hard to fit sometimes, grueling process of finding people who understand you. I can be quite upfront which sometimes can be interpreted as rude. Diplomacy isn’t my strongest trait.
  • The constant guessing of where are you from? My very long answer is ‘I am ethically Pakistani, but I was born and raised in Dubai.
  • You don’t sound Pakistani. Yes, I don’t because I wasn’t born in Pakistan.

I am a proud Pakistani and will always be. I hope to raise my daughter with the same culture and ethnic values as I was raised with.

Pakistan is one of the nuclear states. We have doctors, engineers, traders, designers, cab drivers and any other profession you can think of in one khandan. We are notorious for asking favour which our friends and family have to comply with. We love our food; we are known as over feeders ensure that no one ever leaves with an empty stomach. Our friends are our family and our family is our friends. We stand by each other or anyone who is remotely close to us. Our weddings are like concerts and we can bhangra all night.

I am proud to be called a Pakistani this year because Imran Khan is my Prime Minister.

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