"Where's that accent from?"
April 26, 2019 10:06 AM   Subscribe

People comment on my accent a lot. My accent is not one that is usually associated with my country of origin. I am tired of having to constantly explain my accent almost every time I meet a new person. How can I respond politely and briefly, while at the same time making it clear that I do not welcome this question?

I am not white, and thanks to a childhood spent moving across countries I have a mixed up accent mostly derived from watching a lot of American TV as a kid and having parents who were missionary-school educated and had very English accents despite not being English. I can fake the accent of the country where I live, but I prefer to keep my own.

However, every time I meet a new person, I can expect to have my accent interrogated. "Where are you from originally?... Oh, really? But you sound like you're from America!" or "That accent. It's Canadian, right?" or "Oh, really, you're not from America? Then you must have gone to an American school." (I don't live in America. American people never ask me this question!)

People flat-out don't believe me when I say I got my accent from watching American TV. It becomes a whole conversation about my upbringing, and how I don't look or sound like someone who comes from my country of origin.

I have now resorted to just smiling and saying, "Yes, I went to an American school" (which I did not) just because it ends the conversation. I would prefer to not have to lie or misrepresent myself, but I would like to have some wording to hand that just ends this entire line of inquiry without being a jerk about it. Any suggestions? I would also prefer to avoid the "it's a long story" route because I don't want people's interest to be further piqued!

When I first moved to the West I did not mind answering this question. I know people don't mean it badly, but after all these years I have grown to find it tiresome and offensive and I almost use it now as a shortcut for figuring out whether I'm going to get on with a new person or not. In all this time, I have not hit upon the perfect wording that just closes that line of inquiry in a polite way. Instead I have to give perfect strangers my life story and have a whole conversation about how, yes, I don't sound how they might expect, before they back off. I feel like I have to justify myself because I don't fit into people's pre-determined notions of what someone who comes from my country sounds like, which I find borderline racist. I get this from people of all ethnicities and countries of origin.

It is possible that I am wrong in finding this offensive but I would prefer if people kept their responses to the question asked and perhaps not go down the tangent of telling me I'm wrong to be offended.
posted by unicorn chaser to Human Relations (47 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If someone asks you where you are from and they express disbelief over your accent, I think it's a great opportunity to smile and say "Yeah, what can I tell you!"
posted by cakelite at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2019 [9 favorites]

Hmm no it's fine to be offended, it's a rude question. I think it might be best to say something like you mention above -- "Yes, I don't sound how you might expect!" with a big smile.
posted by tooloudinhere at 10:17 AM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Basically don't indulge the question. Part of the issue is that you're answering their initial questions, and they're taking that as a chance to ask you _more_ questions. So smile and shut it down with your attitude.
posted by tooloudinhere at 10:18 AM on April 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

"I get why you're curious, but I don't like to talk about it, you know?"

Say it like OBVIOUSLY they know why you don't like to talk about it. This usually gets people to agree that yes, unlike those people, they know what's up.

Then immediately ask them where their accent is from or just start talking about the weather (really, just shift to something banal and stupid).
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:20 AM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

That sounds pretty annoying. I run into similar problems - I lived 20+ years in one country, and then moved to another country where I've lived for 20+ years, so my accent is a bit of a mix. Sometimes I just don't want to go into the why and wherefore - it's can just be tiring - so I respond with a "eh, I've moved around. How about $random_topic?". If people are persistent in the face of friendly deflections, then I think it's fine to use their response to determine if you're going to get along with people. I know I do.
posted by buxtonbluecat at 10:20 AM on April 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

Best answer: As an Australian living in the US Midwest, I deal with similar sorts of things everyday too. I just look them dead in the eye & go "I don't have the accent you do." then smile. Basically saying everyone has an accent get over it. It works pretty well in most casual situations, they either insist that no they don't or get it & smile, but it's enough of a non sequitur it shuts them up.

I can see why you're offended by it, I for the most part find it so damn annoying, some days I just want to buy my bread & milk & not explain to the cashier that yes I'm from another country, how I got here, why I live where I live when I could live in Australia how, I met my husband & what I think about the USA, with a possible slide into political conversation about socialized medicine. Yes we have it yes it's great can I have my receipt please.

I wish I could offer better suggestions, I'm still trying to figure out a way to handle it that doesn't make peoples lack of exposure to the world a problem that requires my emotional energy to handle.
posted by wwax at 10:21 AM on April 26, 2019 [20 favorites]

At the second question (when they don't accept your first answer) I would say "Yes, I've been told that a lot" and then ask them a question or otherwise change the subject.
posted by metahawk at 10:23 AM on April 26, 2019 [10 favorites]

"Lots of different places" - Connor MacLeod
posted by jozxyqk at 10:25 AM on April 26, 2019 [15 favorites]

Best answer: In your shoes I'd likely say something like "I moved around a lot when I was a kid" with a very low affect.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:28 AM on April 26, 2019 [24 favorites]

Miss Manners says it’s ok to shut nosy questions down by saying it’s a personal matter. And if they continue, just repeat it. You could soften that by smiling and saying something like, “I just think of that as a personal matter,” which might make it seem more like your personal quirk. But there is absolutely no need for strangers to know why you have the accent you do.
posted by FencingGal at 10:34 AM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: "I don't know what to tell you!" with a shrug sounds pretty good to me.

I had a pronounced lisp when I was a kid that I practiced away, and I have a slight.. something going on with my speech that people can't quite place and will occasionally ask if they can "detect a slight accent?" and when I tell them I had a childhood speech impediment they usually are super embarrassed they asked. Maybe you can think of something that makes them feel how inappropriate their question was?

"most countries have a pretty wide range of accents." ?
posted by euphoria066 at 10:36 AM on April 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

If it were me, and I am sort of a wise guy, I would make up a story that is unbelievable but cannot be questioned. I would have fun with it. "My parents were CIA agents and we moved around a lot. I spent so much time undercover that I no longer have my own accent. Of course, I can tell you no more. You understand, right?"
posted by AugustWest at 10:40 AM on April 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

Best answer: "That's just how I talk."
posted by sacrifix at 10:40 AM on April 26, 2019 [16 favorites]

Best answer: "[It's a product of] globalization." If you can say that in a sufficiently quelling, knowing, or tired way that might be enough. If people keep asking, then "Honestly, the details are pretty boring/I don't really feel like going into the details. I grew up in ___, and this is my accent now."
posted by trig at 10:41 AM on April 26, 2019 [12 favorites]

I lived abroad for a while, in addition to growing up in a bilingual household, and when I came back I had... something... in my speech that was just enough to make people go, "so where are you from?" etc. (This "something" has faded. Nobody asks anymore.) It lasted a couple years, though, and finally I had enough of this and just would answer "oh, I'm from (name of state I was born)" with a neutral expression. Very few people inquired beyond that.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 10:49 AM on April 26, 2019

Best answer: I think "I moved around a lot" is your best bet, since it's sort of a non-answer answer that, for most people, should communicate that you're not especially interested in talking about it. If anyone persists after that and asks for specifics, you can try to put them off with a friendly "aw, come on, you don't need my life story!" and then you can change the subject. I feel like any "I don't want to talk about it" style answers could come across as touchy, which sucks because it's the other people who are being rude, but a bland and vague answer followed by a redirection of conversation should satisfy both courtesy and your preference.

Anyway, I feel you on how one simple question can somehow end up leading to strangers expecting you to relate a whole multi-generational family origin story to them. (For me, it's the dreaded "so where are you really from" question.) Giving the most boring or vague answers possible usually gets people to back off.
posted by yasaman at 10:55 AM on April 26, 2019 [9 favorites]

"No I am not American but I learned English from Americans" might work sometimes. It's less intriguing than learning from TV, they might elide over and assume that you went to an American school or had some kind of tutor. Most people are just curious and trying to connect in some way, and as humans we are very reliant on observing in-group and extra-group traits. They don't realize that you have to do this constantly. However, most people also really want to talk about themselves, so you can use this to your advantage by quickly changing the subject to something about them, ideally something that shows them as an authority on something or other.
posted by vunder at 10:58 AM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I come from a bi-cultural family and spent almost a decade living abroad. I'm someone who tends to either say "I love you accent," or "May I ask where your accent comes from?" - honestly out of genuine love of learning about other accents/cultures/countries and this being a pet favorite subject (along with music of the 60s-90s, mental health advocacy, and disability rights). I'm naturally quite shy, so striking up a conversation like this shows how interested/enthusiastic I am about hearing the answer(s). So! I am answering to tell you the way that folks have shut me down in a quick & painless way:

"Oh, I find that subject so boring," with a smile - and change the subject.

My intention in asking is always to communicate my genuine interest and care about the other person's experience (I know how alienating it can be to feel like The Outsider or The Unwelcome, and part of why I ask is to make someone feel Invited In and Welcome), and often folks seem happy to chat about themselves and their experiences. But sometimes I see that look of "Oh god not this again," and a little pause is enough to make me change the subject myself. But the above communicates succinctly that my interest/curiosity is infringing upon their comfort/enjoyment of their day, in the event that your accent is especially exciting to me (for example, if I think I hear an accent I've heard before and am hoping to chat about your presumed home country's X, Y, or Z).

I hope this helps. I have found that folks with more unusual accents tend to not want to talk about them, and the above suggested quote comes directly from one. I do tend not to ask now, if I can't place the accent, not wanting to be a bore (or a boor).
posted by pammeke at 11:16 AM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As suggested above, I deal with this with "I moved around a lot as a kid".
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 11:32 AM on April 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

Best answer: “Oh, I moved around to different counties a lot growing up and this is just how my accent came out! It’s one of a kind. How about you?”
posted by sallybrown at 11:34 AM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My intention in asking is always to communicate my genuine interest and care about the other person's experience (I know how alienating it can be to feel like The Outsider or The Unwelcome, and part of why I ask is to make someone feel Invited In and Welcome), and often folks seem happy to chat about themselves and their experiences.
That is really interesting, because as someone whose accent is a bit hard to place as well, that's not really what I hear when people ask me where my accent is from. It sort of rubs in that I don't sound like I grew up here and am thus permanently The Outsider, even if I've lived here for a decade or whatever.
posted by peacheater at 11:40 AM on April 26, 2019 [16 favorites]

My friend also uses "I have a speech impediment"
posted by Jacen at 12:07 PM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Cheerfully: „Really? I have no idea!“ Then smile a lot as they keep dashing themselves against the rocks of you having no idea what they‘re talking about. Smile until they‘re all run down and upset at not being able to force you to conform to their notions of what accents are supposed to signify.

Sighing: „ I get that all the time.“ With time, I‘ve developed a look in lieu of that, enough so that random strangers stop asking and say guiltily, „I‘m not the first person to ask you that, huh.“
posted by Omnomnom at 12:08 PM on April 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

I get asked that a lot. My family moved a lot and I went to various boarding schools; long, not very interesting story.
People in the US and many other places are curious about accents for many reasons. One is that it helps place your social status/class, so decide how you want to respond, and tailor your brief reply accordingly. It's also a conversation starter, so saying it's not interesting is a signal that you don't want to discuss it. Immediately follow your reply with an alternate conversation starter to turn the conversation in a new direction. Where did *you* grow up? or What did you think of that keynote? I thought she was an excellent speaker, especially about climate.
posted by theora55 at 12:32 PM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Oh yeah, my parents moved around a lot" + redirect/change of topic
"Oh, I get that all the time" + redirect/change of topic
"Yup, missionary parents" + redirect/change of topic

I think people are less likely to ask about your parents than if you say "I moved around a lot." Especially if you look bored when you say it.

But really, it's all about the redirect. You can say anything at all, followed by a redirect, and achieve your goal of not talking about it. Subtly changing the topic of conversation is itself an art. I liked this article on it. But a good starter is asking them a question about something in your immediate environment:

"Did you catch what the presenter said about...? I didn't catch the last part."
"Do you know if it's supposed to rain today?"
"I was just going to check out the buffet table, have you tried the cheese?"
"I've been hearing a lot about [movie, restaurant, event, whatever], have you tried it/are you planning to go/etc.?"
posted by danceswithlight at 12:38 PM on April 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

Slight variation on the above:

"Oh thanks! Are you keen on travel?"

The thank you ends the conversation before they know it (even if it doesn't fully make sense in context, it's a very strong social convention). And the question about where they've traveled is a great redirect because it's tangentially related to the original topic and people love to talk about where they've been.
posted by danceswithlight at 12:47 PM on April 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

Have you seen this previous Ask? Lots of good ideas, many of which boil down to "short, truthful answer and immediate segue to something else."
posted by Questolicious at 12:55 PM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

In your shoes I'd likely say something like "I moved around a lot when I was a kid" with a very low affect.

In my experience of frequently being racialised and interrogated about my origins, this just opens up an entire other avenue of insensitive nosy questions that you probably don't want to answer ("why did you move around? Are you an army brat? What places have you lived? What made you come here?" Etc).

Honestly ime best way to deal is to completely ignore the question. Don't even acknowledge it. Either remain silent or go into a non-sequitor. If they persist, "why are you asking?" Or (depending on how willing you are to offend them) "why do you need to know that/ how is that relevant?". They'll usually say something like how they were just curious or make up some nonsense to cover themselves. If I'm invested in maintaining cordiality with them, I'll use that to segue into asking them about their lives/interests (eg. Are you fond of travel?). If not, "oh" or "hm". I used to try harder to hedge and still do at times if I'm unprepared, but I have little patience for this nonsense. I hope one day to get to "none of your business" or "that's rude".
posted by windykites at 1:01 PM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Where's your accent from?"
"Its just a mix of a bunch of different things, there's no real answer".

To be as vague as possible, or even just straight up tell them there's no answer should shut down any further questions. Saying you moved around a lot will invite them to ask where, saying your parents also have a mixed accent will invite questions about them, etc. Follow any other questions with "This is just how i talk".
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:14 PM on April 26, 2019

"I don't have the accent you do."
Seconding this. My father had a strong Dutch accent, worked in New York City, and got the question a lot. So he'd say, "I'm from the Netherlands, but I don't have an accent, you do." Asked to explain, he'd say, "Well, this was New Amsterdam before it was New York; then the British took over and had to teach all those Dutchmen to speak English, so now you Americans all speak English with a Dutch accent."
posted by beagle at 1:25 PM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

So the key to do this as gracefully as possible, if that's your goal, is really a minimal answer with a re-direct: "We moved around a lot when I was a kid, so it's a mish-mash. Are you from here or elsewhere?"

Then, if they ask again, it's okay to be a bit more direct, "Oh, I'd rather not get into that. Are you enjoying this lovely weather?"

I try to avoid asking folks where they are from because I know it gets tiresome for them. But it might be helpful (or not) for you to know that at least some of us ask this question because we have a connection to other places that might not be obvious. And some of us ask for less charitable reasons we would never admit to ourselves or others, which is perhaps why this gets so tiresome for you.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:56 PM on April 26, 2019

"I get why you're curious, but I don't like to talk about it, you know?"
This will pique curiosity and have folks speculating wild theories about your childhood. Not wanting to talk about it will indicate to people you are hiding some exciting, tragic tale. I would avoid this as a first answer.

"I don't have the accent you do."
"That's just how I talk."
Depending on the person, your affect, and where you are in the US, these answers might strike some people as profoundly rude.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:01 PM on April 26, 2019

Suzette Haden Elgin, who wrote books about verbal self-defense (among other things), had a statement to throw into conversations like that:

"You can't tell which way the train went by looking at the tracks."

It's meaningless. She said it's meaningless; it just sounds like it means something, and people will then move on to another topic.

"I don't recognize your accent; what is it?"
"I am [nationality]."
"Oh, but you don't sound like it!"
"Well, you can't tell which way the train went by looking at the tracks."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:31 PM on April 26, 2019 [34 favorites]

Best answer: I really relate to your question! Thank you for writing it and I'll be watching closely for insights. The strategy that's worked the best for me has been a quick, jokey comment and then quickly moving on the conversation on to what I want to talk about. You could ask people about them, we all love talking about ourselves. On preview, what danceswithlight said.

Whether your response comes off as polite or snarky depends on tone, body language and a bunch of stuff that strangers on the internet can't speak of but here's a few ideas:

"Oh, it's one of those messed up accents. Confuses a lot of people." Then change the subject.

"Yes, I get that a lot. People can't place my accent." Then change the subject.

"I moved around as a kid. Did you grow up in one place or did you also move around?"

"I know, my accent's hard to place." Then change subject.

"I have no idea where my accent's from. It's just one of those things." Then change subject.

"My alien overlords taught me to talk this way. So where are you from?"

"Someone has to be the exotic foreigner." I used this yesterday and was quite light-hearted but this speaks of how tiring the postcolonial narrative gets sometimes (for me).

More often than not, I tell people where I come from and then quickly move on to something else.

Not what you asked, but my new favourite is this:
Them: Your English is excellent.
Me: Thanks! Your English is excellent too : )

posted by mkdirusername at 2:51 PM on April 26, 2019 [7 favorites]

I am American but my parents are from India, so I have to deal with a lot of people who don't believe me when I say I'm from Virginia, as my accent doesn't "match" my face. My solution has been this:

Them: where are you from?
Me: DC
Them: No really
Me: *as though I'm admitting a secret* OK, you got me, the suburbs. Do you think it's gonna rain?

If there's a big recognizable city near where you grew up, maybe something similar would work for you. After all, your accent belongs to you, and if you are Croatian (for example) it's a Croatian's accent.
posted by basalganglia at 3:40 PM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

"Nope, I just talk weird!" is what I say. Because I'm not from anywhere interesting: I actually just talk weird.
posted by potrzebie at 4:30 PM on April 26, 2019

I can relate, but don't have a good answer. After 19 years in the US it's clear that my accent is not going anywhere during this lifetime. The accent/ where you you are from questions are tiring as it's very repetitive and usually don't lead the conversation to anything interesting.

The worst is the "Where you from?" question on the twelfth ski lift ride of the day. I usually say Boston and don't elaborate even (especially) as they are confused. "What's the accent?" gets "Finnish, but I live in Boston." "What is it like there?" is just plain aggravating even if unintentionally so.

"How's the skiing in Finland?" question shows at least some effort in contextualizing the conversation. Although, I can talk much more intelligently about skiing in Vermont as I've skied over 200 days here vs. Finland where I last skied 20 years ago.

I think ignoring the question or very short answer are typically the best approach. Although non-sensical answers are sometimes amusing to me.
posted by zeikka at 4:45 PM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

I get this all the time. I'm from Scotland, but have a hyper-local accent which means that many Scots don't think I'm Scottish. Now I'm in Canada and been a citizen for umpty years, people ask where I'm from all the time. It's fucking tiring.

I have used many responses, depending on my level of grumpiness at the time:
  • “Other me some more, willya?”
  • “It's a product of my cosmopolitan lifestyle. You should try it!”
  • Good!” (this is a clixby response, and is particularly good for the “I love your accent!” one because the politely rude / briskly vague / firmly uninformative comeback shuts most things down)
  • “Sorry, can you repeat that, I don't understand you” (repeat until they stop)
  • “What accent?”
  • Outlander, but I got fat.” (sadly country-specific. Substitute the most annoying Magic Ethnicity show you can think of.)
  • “You got a problem with me, pal?” (risky)
  • immediately start sobbing uncontrollably (very risky; not recommended for general use)
  • “Scarborough, the getting-stabbed capital of Canada!” (best said perkily with a tiny bit of menace. And I do live in Scarborough, if Canada Post are to be believed.)
  • shocked silence, or a quiet “Really …?
  • “Indeed, I am from (exaggerated) Scot Land. May I say something quaint for your lordly amusement?”
  • “not in the mood for that shit right now, sorry”
  • (monotone) “well, my people are mostly from Auchinleck, but some are from Sorn, except from my great-grandfather on my mother's side who came over from Ireland, and … oh, they've gone away.
  • “But I took so many accent reduction classes!”
  • “Yes, my accent is different after my thyroidectomy, isn't it?” (again, specific to few folks. If the verbal assailant persists, show 'em the oogy scar at collar level.)
  • ding!”

posted by scruss at 5:01 PM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would give a short answer (“I’m from Country$ and first learned English from American TV”) and then my redirect would be “tell me about what languages you speak.” If they are multilingual, then you can talk about their various accents and language learning experiences, and if they are monolingual, they’ll be on the back foot feeling awkward about that — and either way the conversational spotlight is back on their life story.
posted by hungrytiger at 5:18 PM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

I am hearing impaired and get this question a lot. Sometimes I have fun when it’s a stranger that I know I’m never seeing again and make up I’m from germany (once got awkward when they replied in German).

Other times I laugh and say “it’s actually because I’m hearing impaired...and don’t worry! I get this question all the time!”

I’m going to go against the grain and try to assume best intentions. 99% people ask this question in an attempt to connect with you and learn more about where you’re from - and even if they unintentionally annoy you - try to assume best intent.

It doesn’t matter what you respond but your facial expression and tone will give it away you’re annoyed, and then you end up alienating people. I find it’s too much energy to get offended.

So my suggestion is to just reply honestly but in a way that’s disarming - “yeah I’m Canadian but moved around a lot growing up! It’s kind of random but cool, right?”
posted by pando11 at 5:52 PM on April 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

Best answer: People always are delighted to compliment me on my wonderful English accent, or my wonderful Irish accent, or my wonderful Australian accent. I'm an anglophone Canadian. I finally realised why they think it. "It's a leftover speech impediment, not an accent. I over-enunciate."

I think it counts as a speech impediment as when I started school I used to talk so fast that almost no one outside of my own family could figure out what I was saying, and I have consciously worked on slowing my speech down. But I never had speech therapy or anything like that so maybe it doesn't officially count as having been a speech impediment to people who diagnose things like that.

I'm always smiling and friendly when I say it but now people no longer argue with me and tell me, no really, they can tell I'm from Ireland. It shuts them down completely.

I think part of why this shuts them down is that it completely dodges the question of nationality or education or travel, and makes them feel that they intruded a bit by asking what turned out to be a question about a disability. And speech impediments, like hemorrhoids, aren't interesting so they don't start asking more questions. Maybe if you can come up with something along the same lines it might cut them off.

But in your case, I think that just about anything you say would cause them to make an end run and ask more questions. With my speech impediment they can assume that I am American, or Canadian, or from the Maritimes, or from Ontario, or whatever they are. In your case they likely do have a racist agenda, even if they don't realise it, and are trying to figure out how much of an Other you are. You might try, "Born and brought up in (country of origin). I have no idea why I have an accent." The first part will give them the shortest possible answer to their nosy question, which is probably necessary to keep them from pursuing the subject, and the second part gives them no leads to base other questions on.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:26 PM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

I see this thread is a mile long, so let me add just one response:

"I get asked that a lot."

Just that, and continue with your conversation. I'm guessing this wouldn't be a direct friend, so if they ask again, throw a look to your mutual friend.
posted by rhizome at 7:41 PM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would not assume racist intentions either. People who are racist don’t need to hear an accent. They’ll conclude someone with the most conventional TV announcer accent doesn’t belong. I often would love to ask people where they are from just out of curiosity, not because I’m trying to figure out if they’re “other.” The reason I don’t is because I’ve had it drilled into me that it’s rude to ask personal questions. But it’s normal to encounter something that isn’t part of your daily life and want to know more about it. People with broken limbs get asked by strangers what happened, and people who are very tall get asked how tall their parents are. It’s not because they’re trying to figure out if they’re “other.” It’s because humans are curious and not everyone has been taught the same rules about manners.
posted by FencingGal at 7:42 PM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

I get asked about physical disabilities a lot, so I've come up with a list of standard "fuck off" responses that amuse me to varying degrees. Ninja battle, skydiving, swam with sharks one too many time, running with the bulls in Pamplona, tried to hike the Great Wall of China, never going to Cedar Point again, I'm 86, what do you expect, I just use good skin care (actually had someone believing that one for a few minutes - when I was 35), etc. Mostly I go with "Would you believe... ?" People who don't know me well or at all TOTALLY would believe, while people who know me, well, their question is "What did you do THIS TIME!?" and no, they wouldn't believe. Not until I get to tripped over my own shadow, stood up out of a chair, tried to vacuum the floor, sneezed, etc., which are the real answers.

So were I in your shoes, I'd go with similar answers. Grew up in the circus, undercover CIA agent since the age of 3, you're the voice of Rosetta Stone so you had to master ALL the accents, grew up in Zimbabwe and had to speak all 16 official languages, wanted to be a diplomat when you grew up so you learned the top ten most popular languages on Earth, you wanted to learn how to say "I am cheese" in every language on Earth so now your accent's all screwed up (went to school with a girl who had that goal), you've been practicing your whole life to join Starfleet and the Klingon accent's throwing you off completely, you've had a life-long dream to be a veterinarian so you decided to emulate Dr. Doolittle so you can talk to the animals, you get the idea.

As far as where you're from? Earth. Third rock from the sun. Yonder. Elsewhere. Neptune. Alpha Centauri. Deep Space Nine. Lilliput. The Emerald City. The Hundred Acre Wood. Hogsmeade. Narnia. South Park. Over the Rainbow. Gotham. The Shire. Jurassic Park. Neverland. Atlantis. Punxatawney. The Death Star. Or you could practice your best resting bitch face dead-eyed stare and say "Here." like you're daring them to decree otherwise.

Have fun with it. Be a jerk with it. Make it a source of amusement in your life, instead of a pain point. There are enough pain points in the world.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 12:31 AM on April 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I appreciate the responses! I have best-answered the responses that I will be trying out the next few times I get asked this question, but really I'm grateful to everyone who took the time to answer.
posted by unicorn chaser at 3:53 AM on April 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

"I'm not from here, I from somewhere else." Say it with a really off and funky accent not your own. This is my go-to, but it is meant more fun and jokey than "stop talking about it."
posted by Meatbomb at 4:07 AM on April 27, 2019

Make up a fictitious name for a fictitious province of whatever country you choose. From there you can gild that lily for as long as you care to.
posted by megatherium at 2:36 PM on April 27, 2019

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