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I spend time each week to read about others who are in the same situation as me but I cannot find the word that describes it properly. My problem stems from not being able to identify with any nation.

I was born in Romania in an area where there has existed a Hungarian minority for centuries; but I hardly speak the Romanian language. My parents are Hungarian but Hungarians outcast me saying I am not a real Hungarian - and indeed I do not share the same mindset. I currently live in Denmark but I do not speak the language properly and quite a few things are strange for me, i.e. not my mindset. My primary language is English but I have never been in an English-speaking country. On the legal side, I have both Hungarian and Romanian citizenship and passports.

I tried to research the term of 'no nationality' that I can say to others without shame, but I did not find the exact word.

  • Stateless -> I am not stateless because I actually have two states
  • Third culture individual -> I was raised in the same area as my parents were.
  • Identity crisis -> Although I feel very uncomfortable talking about my nationality, I would not use the term when presenting myself as it sounds extremely depressing and negative.

I am not even sure if there is a word that describes the situation. I try to simply use 'international' but people don't generally accept it. I hope to see your suggestions. Thanks a lot!

  • 2
    The answer here is spot-on and I have nothing to add. I just wanted to say that I empathise with your situation. I left my country of birth, and I mostly just refer to it as my 'passport country'. It's odd to meet other 'persons without roots'. And I never know what to say either, because people like to categorise others by where they're from / the legal terminology - it's the first thing they associate with you. When you don't identify by that at all, it is indeed a bit of an identity crisis. So, solidarity to you! – la femme cosmique Oct 30 '16 at 11:21
  • @lafemmecosmique Thank you, I really like your way of saying 'passport country'! – Tam Nov 3 '16 at 7:19
  • Although there is a technical term as defined by the UNHCR Convention of the Reduction of Statelessness, it is clear that the OP is not referring to that. Rather this seems more of a reach for a more spiritual definition. – ouflak Aug 14 '17 at 16:12
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I'm happy to find people with a similar problem. My story is very alike as well. I've been struggling with this for quite a while. I look for an answer, do research, ask on the internet, monitor any similar topic on the web all the time.

I used these options to call myself:

  • Global citizen / World citizen / Citizen of the world
  • Independent from my heritage
  • Multi-local
  • Transcultural / Intercultural
  • Universal soul
  • Extraneous

Some friends kindly called me:

  • Cosmopolitan
  • Natural born explorer
  • Fair human being
  • Open-minded
  • International
  • Free thinker

People in my "home" country called me (derogatory):

  • Outcast
  • "Special"
  • Renegade
  • Dissident
  • Turncoat
  • Social pariah
  • Cast-away
  • Black sheep
  • Alien

People outside my "home" country called me (derogatory):

But to me the most difficult question is "where are you from?" and all the follow up after it. And I still haven't found how to deal with it. Even sometimes I manage to deal with it, later on it still pops up, particularly in every work place.

After author's clarification, I'm adding the answers to the "where are you from" question.

Here are some answers I use to give to the "where are you from?" (I somewhat tested most of them):

Workable

  • All over
  • I moved around
  • From different places
  • I'm a universal soul/world citizen/global citizen/citizen of the world (sometimes becomes a mocking topic)
  • I came from [name the last country visited] (sometimes becomes a mocking topic)
  • I am from [name the last country visited] (sometimes becomes a mocking topic)
  • I am living/live in [country]
  • I have no simple answers to short questions
  • I'm multi-local
  • I don't consider myself a part of any particular country

Funny

  • I'm not (and then start asking personal questions or "where are YOU from?", "oh, from the US, I like McDonald's")
  • Well, if you can't tell does it matter?
  • I'm am a mongrel/monggy
  • Uh, you know, here... There... You know how it is..!
  • I wear many hats
  • Krakozhia / Mordor / Tatooine / etc
  • Taiga / Europe / Asia etc

Rude

  • That depends
  • From my mom/a woman/womb
  • It's insignificant/inconsequential/unimportant
  • I don't care / It doesn't matter (to me)
  • My origin is unimportant to me
  • Does it matter?
  • Depends on what do you mean and why do you want to know
  • I'm not into labels
  • Why's this important right now?
  • Well, thank you (and then start asking personal questions i.e. "are you married?", "why?", "when are you going to get married?")
  • How much time do you have?

Pretentious

  • Perception stains reality
  • I possess no personal designation/categorisation
  • I have no place of personal association

Suspiciously weird

  • I cannot answer this question
  • It's not my favourite topic
  • This question makes me feel uncomfortable

Not helpful

  • Lived in [name the countries you lived in]
  • Was born in [country] (but lived in [countries])

Untested

  • I'm anational/nationless (derived from your topic in English Stack Exchange)
  • I'm cosmopolite/cosmopolitan
  • I'm transcultural/intercultural
  • I'm extraneous
  • Who I am is completely independent from my heritage
  • I don't deem myself coming from a particular place
  • My home is where I am (stand)
  • My home is where I'm happy
  • I don't belong
  • I can't name any particular place

I hope we can somehow connect to share our experiences.

  • Actually it was that question ("Where are you form?") that made me post this here on Expatriates. I also asked it on English.StackExchange where it yielded quite a few answers: english.stackexchange.com/a/356244/203390 I have been studying at international universities and the people at my workplaces are also really keen on meeting other cultures. Of course this is their first question. Despite often giving them a brief history overview, they still fail to understand how come I was born in a minority in the centre of another country. So I just use one of these phrases when possible. – Tam Aug 14 '17 at 12:07
  • @Tam Lol, my previous answer contained the answers to "where are you from?" but it was deleted by a moderator, I thought because that went off the topic so I removed it from this answer. – Nergüi Aug 14 '17 at 12:34
  • To the derogatory names, you can add citizens of nowhere or rootless cosmopolitans. – gerrit Nov 12 '18 at 14:42
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You can say Romanian/Hungarian without shame. You just aren't around the right people. In any case there is, for several countries, an actual legal distinction between 'nationality' and 'citizenship'. You are a dual citizen of both Romania and Hungaria. Anybody who has citizenship of a country also has that nationality. The obverse is not necessarily true. For your case, you have dual nationality as well as dual citizenship by the standards of any countries that make the legal distinction. You may personally feel otherwise. If you are asking if there is an expression in English for how you feel, then I think maybe your question is better suited for english.stackexchange.com.

  • Thank you for your advice, I posted the question to English.StackExchange too. I totally get your point but in my view 'nationality' is something that emotions and/or upbringing decide rather than law. – Tam Oct 29 '16 at 12:40
  • 2
    @Tam: The English word "nationality" has multiple meanings. In a technical context, "nationality" is a legal term meaning the relationship between a person and a state that allows the person to hold a passport of the state, etc. This is similar to, but not the same as "citizenship" in some countries, as e.g. people born in American Samoa are automatically US nationals but not US citizens; there are several classes of British nationals who are not British citizens; in some Latin American countries like Mexico, children born there are nationals as they only become citizens after turning 18. – user102008 Oct 29 '16 at 22:34
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    @Tam: You are trying to use a different meaning of the word "nationality", meaning something like ethnicity or national origin. – user102008 Oct 29 '16 at 22:35
  • @user102008 Thank you for the explanation, I did not know there were such big differences in interpreting the word. You are totally correct, I thought citizenship was determined by law and nationality 'by the heart' but now I understand it much better. – Tam Oct 31 '16 at 7:15
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This is now becoming more common for people to be born or grow up in one location and end up living somewhere else and move many times every few years. Thus the question where are you from is getting hard to answer? Honestly, Its hard to use a single word, global-citizen comes very close.

So usually I have a quick 30 sec elevator speech ready that helps provide context. You could say something like below:

I was born in Romania to Hungarian parents but my primary language is English.I have been in Denmark for last {x} many years. Thus I am a global citizen.

  • What's the joke about time zones? – Nergüi Aug 16 '17 at 14:59
  • Moving the joke in to the comments - I like to joke about the time zones I have lived in (4 already!) and may end up leaving in all of them :) and that helps break the ice. – pal4life Aug 16 '17 at 18:56
  • This is an interesting answer. I myself refer to myself as a "transnational". I note the longer answer with the many many terms, did not use this one, but it suits me best. – Douglas Held Aug 16 '17 at 22:13
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It is up to you to adopt which identity you really feel affiliated to. However, in my point of view, if you are asked your nationality, it does not matter much what citizenship you have or where you live. Where you were born matters even less. Only the nationality of your parents counts, and possibly in which environment you grew up. So in my opinion your are Hungarian.

If you were asked "where are you from" however since you were apparently raised in Romania, you should answer that. However if you do not want them to think you are Romanian, you can specify : "I'm a Hungarian from Romania".

If people do not understand that, you have to educate them about ethnic minorities, and how Romania ended up annexing a large part of Hungary due to the lost first world war in 1918. Of course I understand explaining this story 100 times to everyone is becoming annoying, but that's the price to pay to not loose your identity.

This is not that uncommon - there is a lot of Austrians living in southern Tyrol (part of Italy), Germans living in Belgium (in the region of Eupen), up to 6% of Finland is populated by Swedes... As far as I'm aware Hungarians comes in large numbers in all countries bordering modern Hungary, the largest group being in Romania but smaller group existing in Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia. Your situation really isn't unique. People who assume that "1 country = 1 language = 1 culture" are really not educated and should learn how wrong they are.

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