Where do you come from?
What do you miss from where you came from?
Especially the first one is not my favorite question, and let me tell you why.
Just because you were born one day somewhere doesn’t mean you should associate yourself with that place. Just because you grew up somewhere doesn’t mean it would “explain” and “help understand” how you are to a greater extent, if you have happened to live significant parts of your life somewhere else. That wouldn’t be as bad a definition if the places where one grew up were either ver heterogeneous by their composition in population and culture, or the places were somewhat related, or even just compatible, in culture.
But when the locations happen to be monocultures, and not too compatible, you have to explain, and you have to explain again and again why, how, and what. And then people will just associate you with those locations, not as what you are, what you have become. Not everyone does that association, but based on years of dealing with people who never went anywhere else, who think they can understand everything about the others by applying geographical labels, yes, there are those who are happy to apply a few labels to me, and then treat me as nothing more than someone who came from the place or places I don’t identify myself.
The place I was born I can define in essence as this: I don’t belong there. I have never felt I belonged there. I don’t live there; I haven’t lived there for a long time, and I have personally no desire to visit that place either. The only reason I do visit it every few years is because of my mum, who has never visited me anywhere, and who complains when I don’t want to spend all my free time where she wants. Let me do something a bit more explanatory in this post than give you a few geographical labels; I try to describe the places and people in locations. The majority of the people over there subscribe to a religion I have never identified myself with. The state-sponsored schools spoon-feed you the state religion until you are 18 and can sign yourself out of it, and you can guess what I did the day I turned 18. The food people eat over there are weird, and I would not define a single one of the traditional foods or foods I knew there as a comfort food, or as a food I’d ever want to cook. The landscapes, especially the people there tend to define as their national mental landscape, don’t impress me. I need oceans, sea, mountains, very old cities, heterogeneous cultures; everything except a small place where everyone is taught to think the same. I have most of my life failed to understand most of the interpersonal cues there as I seem to lack the cues that belong to that place. I also fail to grep most linguistic expressions and what is generally deemed funny, again something associated only with that one culture and location. In many cases I can understand the words in an expression, but I can’t translate it to anything as I lack the context or meaning of it.
The other places where I grew are very different. I belonged better, even if for some I didn’t belong. I could express myself with language, I could understand better what people don’t say by reading them. I could understand what is funny. Even the food didn’t make me feel like I was continuously in a Bizarre Foods episode. If you want to apply a geographical label to me, add the label of that location. It’s still a rather monoculture, but much cultural and regional variation (sometimes two miles in a city making it impossible for the people born there to understand the others), and with way more of what keeps me happy. But that label and the first label don’t usually complement each other. People see a conflict and apply the first one to me and quit wanting to understand anything. The same way as they knew Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana, that itself would have the magic to explain and help them understand everything about Michael Jackson, who he was, what he thought, what he liked, what he wanted in life. No, I don’t think Gary, IN, had anything else to do with him than the fact he was born there.
After the second place where I grew up came the others, and they helped me learn more, redefine myself etc, but to a lesser extent. Still, apply all the labels you want, even though I don’t want any.
And now I live again somewhere different. I belong here now is a good enough description. Pick your languages, religions, subcultures as you like, or just be yourself.
I know most expats miss something from where they grew up, usually foods. My sister also keeps asking what if anything I would miss (that she could send), and the answer is usually nothing.
Or what I would miss (such as the sweet above) is not something that even she would know of, as she belongs and belonged somewhere else. All the foodstuff, sounds, smells etc that I would miss belong to the “second label” of myself. How could I really miss something from somewhere I never belonged, meaning the first place in this case?
(Note: the picture in the flag does not associate to any of the labels you would really want to stick to me, it’s just a flag I took a picture some day)