I am having a problem, big problem.

I am from Syria, and as you know, nowadays all the media is on Syria and what's going on there.

Now, I am in Europe, I am not refugee at all, I work to support myself. I refused to be a refugee though that would've saved me a lot of efforts to work and support myself.

My problem is that whenever you meet new people (and I want (need really)) new people, I tell them I am from Syria, so directly, they get the idea that either I am a terrorist, or at least they try to avoid hang up with me. Some of them are really nice, but still they don't want to contact with me. They think directly that I am Muslim, but I am not.

How can I deal with this situation?

Another problem is that they think I am a refugee, and for example, I can't tell anyone I meet that hey I work, like let's say I met someone in the metro, I can't say hey I am Michael, from Syria, I work, I am not refugee

  • 1
    Is it usually the other people that you meet that ask you where you're from, or are you bringing up that topic yourself? Are you a recent immigrant?
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 17:00
  • 1
    @DanGetz i have been out of syria for 14 months. they don't ask about where i am from in the first 5 minutes, but imagine you are in a club or a bar, okay you asked what's your name, how is it going? are you a student or not, but then they will ask, where are you from. specially that i just speak english so when for example, i buy something from a grocory they will ask oh sorry where are you from Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 17:16
  • @michaelSalam For stores just learn how to say Hello, thanks and goodbye. Also the numbers from 1 to 100, cashiers never tell where you're from :)
    – user8598
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 10:01
  • How many people assume you are a terrorist just because you are from Syria? What an uneducated, racist country...
    – Blaszard
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 21:27

3 Answers 3


One way to handle this is to answer in a more general way than with specific facts.

Where are you from?
I'm from the Middle East.

Or, you can refer to a more general timeframe, implying that you left your country of origin a while ago:

Where are you from?
I grew up in Syria.

You can even embellish this with words that describe your new situation:

Where are you from?
I'm originally from Syria, but this is home now.

You also mention that you "just speak English", and you're in Europe - so I'm assuming that the local language is not English. In this case other people might assume that you are a tourist, or with the current situation, a newly arrived refugee. A way to avoid that impression might be to make a dedicated effort to learn and use the local language.

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    I would add, since the OP says he works, get some clothes that are used a lot by the locals. That way they understand indirectly that you live there and provenance becomes second hand information.
    – user8598
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 9:59
  • thanks for the anwer but that doesn't help me too much, because if i say i am from middle east, they will say where in middle east. the same thing when i say i grew up in syria. i am asking about a way to handle the situtation, not to hide it. for the language thing, yes i can somehow manage myself in the local language in stores or in restaurants, but still as you know the native speakers knows exactly the accent. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 10:38
  • again thanks for your help, but i would really apprciate if you can suggest me a way to handle it not to hide it, if i try to hide it, i feel less confidence, and i guess people will think about me that too. right? Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 10:38
  • @StivenLlupa yes that is a good approach and actually i am following it. looking like local people (either by clothes or by learning how to dance like them, or by some traditions) helps me in the first step which is start conversations with people. but this when they know i am syrian. bom bom bom bom bom , they go Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 10:44
  • @michaelSalam As to the last suggestion, it's possible to be even more circumspect: "Where are you from?" -- "I live in [name of neighborhood, town, etc.]." My wife does this frequently.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 28, 2021 at 9:34

I have a situation similar to you. Not from Syria, but from a Country which is listed third in Germany by refugee applications.

What I found helpful from my experience was:

  • Body Language: You are a foreigner and need to adapt to your new surroundings. Try to understand what is different and keep that in mind. They become a habit easily.
  • Clothes: Wearing clothes that are very different from everyday life of the country will make you look odd. Of course you are free to have your own style, but I found it easy to purchase some everyday clothes from H&M, Zara etc
  • Toiletries: This may sound weird, but when I first came here people smelled different and I probably did smell different to them. Just start using local brands

That would be my advice for subconscious signals. On how to socialize:

  • Be proud: When they ask me where are you from I always answer with a big smile exactly where I am from. If I am confident, they don't have any reason to assume I am hiding something.
  • Now how to react: If they make assumptions let them know. It's sad that there are still some people who think that of [Country]
  • Be the first to bring it up: Did you know that in Syria we always stand up when we meet another person, that was strange for me when I first came to [Country]. You people stand seated, laugh - This way not only you make it clear that you will not take it to be prejudiced, but actually stir up a conversation about small cultural exchange talks. This will lead to them being interested on what you do etc.

If you are working, and I believe you had your fare share of hard time getting a job in another country, you have to understand that it is you who has accomplished something. And you can't let people make you feel bad. People in Western Europe are very open to discussion, if they assume something wrong don't blame them, help them understand.

If you meet impolite people (or another bad word) just let it past you, it's not worth your time and your country has those type of people also. It's just the way it is.

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    wow this is inspiring :) Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 10:19

There is no need to try to obscure or downplay where you are from, or feel negatively about it.

People who assume that you are a terrorist because you are Syrian are not people you would want to hang out with anyway. The same goes for people who avoid you because they assume you are Muslim. You might think that this is unfair, because you are not Muslim, however, I would say that such ignorant and judgmental people are not the best company.

If someone does not know much about Syria, but is genuinely curious, they will ask you. Then, you can explain about how not every Syrian is a refugee or a Muslim.

Also, do not let the negative experiences discourage you from meeting new people. Try to socialize more, and hopefully you will meet people with whom you can have meaningful conversations.

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