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An accidental Social Experiment

My English is improving everyday as I practice more and more, writing for this blog and reading other amazing bloggers, but it has not always been the case.

There’s a question I used to ask people I met along my way around the world: “What are you?” And though this question is grammatically incorrect, unless I wanted to be sure they were human, it has became a social experiment. Now, even if I know the question is incorrect, I keep asking, just to see what people answer.

Meeting a lot of people from Americas and Europe, and less from Asia and Africa, my “experiment” is based on those two regions of the world only.

So, when asked the question “What are you?”, here’s a few answers I got:

  • From a woman from United States: “I’m a teacher.”
  • From a man from Mexico: “I’m an engineer.”
  • From a man from Italy: “I’m Italian.”
  • From a woman from Germany: “I’m German.”
  • From a woman from Canada: “I’m a student.”
  • From a man from England: “I’m British.”

And so it goes… None of them asked me what I meant by my question: if I wanted to know their nationality or what they were doing for a living. They just answered what they thought I was asking.

See the pattern?

People from Americas seem to define themselves by their jobs as people from Europe seems to define themselves by the country they come from.

I find it very interesting!


Because I’m not a sociologist, I would not venture in analyzing those answers, but it made me think of the way I am defining myself. Am I my job? Am I the place where I come from? What am I?

I found a beautiful video from Marie Forleo on how to answer the question “What should I do with my life?”. She brilliantly suggests that instead of asking ourselves what we want to do, we should ask WHO do we want to be? This has been so much a revelation to me! You can watch the video here :

The answer is now so much more easy to answer : I want to be inspiring, loving and creative.

Special mention to one of my friend :

When I asked “What are you?” to a friend from Brasil, his answer has been “I want to be a good man”.

That is far away the most sincere and beautiful answer I got.

What about you… What are you?

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2 Commentaires

  • Reply Cyra @ Gastronomic Nomad 24 novembre 2014 at 5 h 02 min

    Hey Annie,

    Good observation. I live in Spain, a country where it is sometimes not even considered polite to ask someone what they do for work, as their job does not define them. And it’s true that Europeans can be very patriotic so I can understand that where they are from defines to some of them what they are. :)

  • Reply Annie Anywhere 24 novembre 2014 at 8 h 45 min

    Hi Cyra!

    I didn’t know that about Spanish people. Good to know so I won’t make a “faux-pas”. :)

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