Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Just a fun question for those with European DNA: Where is your "face country"?

Just a fun question for those with European DNA: Where is your "face country"?

Old Mar 25th, 2024, 09:02 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,560
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Just a fun question for those with European DNA: Where is your "face country"?

Where have you gone in Europe where someone has assumed by your face that you are from somewhere specific in Europe?

Today I was musing if I shall ever finally find MY face country. You know--a place where you look around and find people who look more like you than not. My other family members have had that happen; I have not.

When we travel, we look like some sort of tourist whether we're in the US or Europe or New Zealand, but with no clear identity. Because we've traveled throughout Europe, mostly one-bag packing, in our long years (we're 70 and 79 this month), we've accidentally morphed to dressing as your basic European tourist that travels a lot and packs light, a look that also works quite well in say Colorado or Vancouver, neither an area in which we live. Our clothes have become quite utilitarian and modest. While our clothes and shoes don't hide that we're American, they just don't blatantly advertise our nationality. Hotel guest clerks with often react when they see our reservation in the system, "Hmm-you are Americans." As though they are surprised.

It would make sense, then, that my husband and my two daughters have often been mistaken for locals. In the Czech Republic and in Austria, my oldest daughter was automatically assumed to be a local teenager. In Ireland and in France, our brunette youngest was always assumed to be from either Ireland or Brittany; she was either expected to be taking part in the local Ceili or was being addressed in a Breton dialect in food stalls (she speaks perfect French, but not that dialect). In Ljubljana, my husband was always assumed to be a local, even though his half of the genetic pool comes from a Slovakia area adjacent to Hungary. OMG--at our Ljubljana hotel's wedding celebration, he was almost dragged into the middle of the dance floor from the hotel lobby because there was an assumption he was a long-lost cousin and was to be part of some salute to the groom.

On the other hand, he told me he was often told he looked Basque in Spain when he and his friends were doing the area in the 70s. What the???

None of that has ever happened to me. I always assumed I just looked English or Scots-Irish because of my DNA%s and my significant English/Scot-Irish roots and because of my brown hair (now streaked with gray), fair skin and blue eyes, but I never saw my doppelganger in all my trips to England and Scotland and Ireland. I was hoping I'd see my "twin" when we went to Liverpool last year since most of the English DNA I inherited is shared with Northwest England and Wales, with a specific concentration in Liverpool and Lancashire. Nope. Maybe the closest I came was in the Causeway area of Northern Ireland (my 24% Scotland DNA I'm sure is shared with that specific area), but not quite.

I have a lot of German ancestry from an area near Switzerland. Perhaps I look more like them--I've been to Switzerland (no face twins I recall) but never to Germany. This summer we go to Scandinavia where I have DNA from Sweden, Denmark and Norway, due to Viking incursions on my British Isles ancestor's turf, I'm sure. I'll let you know if I find a twin.

So what have your experiences been?
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 09:16 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 841
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
German. Always assumed German, especially in Croatia, Slovenia and Czechia. While I do have some ancestry from Bavaria, it's only about 8% whereas I am 92% English.

Two summers ago in Rovinj, a shop attendant asked me, "Deutsche?" And I answered, "No, worse, American." She laughed. Similarly, in Ljubljana with my parents in 2015, we were in a local bar where they switched to the FIBA game that featured Germany against another country (can't recall) and we recognized Dirk Nowitzki. The locals thought we were rooting for Germany because...we look German and our recognition. Oh the long discussion of basketball that followed - a fun one, actually!
Travel_Nerd is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 10:03 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 18,107
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Americans assume both DH and I are either Irish or Scots, based purely on our colouring. We are neither. He is Lancastrian back many generations, and I am half North Welsh, going back many generations and half English with origins in Rutland and Surrey.
Europeans don't care, but just assume we are Dutch because we drive a Dutch car. We are Dutch, but only by naturalisation, not blood.

Never done a DNA test nor do I intend to. It is the one bit of me that can't be sold commercially because I won't let them have it.
The results depend very much on which company you choose and the percentages of people with certain ancestry that take part. Germans don't like DNA tests for instance so there aren't many who do them voluntarily.

I have no desire to see my doppelganger.
hetismij2 is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 10:15 AM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,560
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well no one assumed I was German in Slovenia or Czechia. Hmm. That might wipe off my need to go to Germany to find out.

I'm musing about our sons-in-law, now. Should have done that right off the bat for this post. One is of South American descent on both sides; the other is of Middle Eastern descent on both sides.

The Hispanic ancestry son-in-law has two major complaints in life--the first is in the US where everyone assumes he, a highly educated guy, is their landscaper (I'm not even joking--he finds strangers waving at him and saying "Jose, we need you to come around tomorrow). He says he's at the point he feels he should enter Home Depot in a suit and a tie. The second is the ribbing he gets in Mexico or Puerto Rico or Spain when they hear his specific South American accent. I see his doppelgangers all the time around us in are US location. We not only have a heavy Hispanic concentration here but also have country-specific demographics.

The other son-in-law, however, is never identified as Middle Eastern. He is always assumed to be Hispanic or Italian. No one even guesses his Middle Eastern ancestry unless they hear his complete name and even then... His patients when he did his residency in Texas always assumed he spoke Spanish and were quite upset that he did not understand them (he's a nice guy so he always found a way to make that work); restaurants in Italy were always sort of mad that he wasn't ordering in fluent Italian. When he and my daughter were in Brazil, everyone assumed he was Italian and that he MUST be an Italian actor. He does have a doppelganger--an actor who is of French-Canadian and Italian descent and my son-in-law thus frequently gets asked for autographs on airlines. Yet his youngest daughter is the doppelganger of my VERY English grandmother--she could step into a BBC Victorian production right now.

DNA is sure funny.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 10:19 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 25,769
Received 4 Likes on 4 Posts
I've been assumed to be Morrocan and Syrian in those countires (Note that both those countries have some very complicated DNA mixes)

I tan very easily (part of my Roma heritage, or not, who knows).

One of my bosses, from Northern Ireland, with strong Received English, clear Han facial structures, very large body completely confused some Koreans we were working with.

On all occasions that I have been tested I have proven to be from the human race and that is what I answer to.
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 10:32 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 3,078
Received 17 Likes on 10 Posts
During the past six weeks in Europe, (Poland, Austria),I have been mistaken for a:

Jew
English
German

The cashier at Frombork castle,despite my Polish, insisted I had to be a native English speaker and was reluctant to give a Polish language brochure.

My cousin says it is because I am too relaxed to be Polish.

cdnyul is online now  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 11:12 AM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,560
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
bilboburgler,

Genetics are indeed funny. My father, whose immigrant parents were from Wigan and Tipton, would get super dark in the summer like his Wigan father. So would his sister. I was never able to test my father but his sister, my lovely 90ish aunt, was delighted when I asked her. Not a bit of Roma ancestry BUT she did show a strong % of common DNA with Wales. Maybe Dad and Grandpap did too. I've not been to Wales yet (on my list) so I'd love to check that out. Not for me--I am pale, pale, pale.

Their brother, whose facial features were almost identical to my father's, had an English Rose complexion all his life like that of my mother and like that of my granddaughter. Yet my uncle's own daughter didn't inherit it!

Yep, biboburgler, we all must remember in ALL circumstances that we share a common humanity. Good for you to state it again!
--------
hetismij2, I've had fun with it. Good and bad. For example,
--I found out that yes, indeed, the great grandfather that scared the wits out of my mother was not only a wife beater but also a bigamist. Had two entire families only ten miles apart (a clear demonstration of transport limitations and domestic violence in the 1800s) and left two widows fighting over his estate to feed their quite large families.
--My husband's great great grandfather was jailed three times in Cornwall for failure to support his familly. He had two families going at the same time two. I always refer to him in my computer conversations with Australian DNA cousins as "The Rotter."
--And I got to trace one delightful immigrant branch from a shipwreck in Nova Scotia down to Philadelphia, over the Alleghenies, over the Chisago Minnesota Territory, to homesteading in Kansas, to following the Oregon Trail. That was EXCITING.

AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 11:36 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,421
Received 79 Likes on 8 Posts
My first trip to Ireland was with a group of fellow grad students from Edinburgh, and somehow we ended up going to a ghastly "medieval banquet" in Bunratty Castle in Co. Clare, one of those things where the performers all dress up like lords and wenches and the "mead" flows before the "banquet" is served. Kill me now.

Anyway, next to the castle is a famous old pub, Durty Nelly's (which has now become a chain establishment with branches in well-known Irish towns like Amsterdam and San Antonio.)

Anyway, at the pub before the "banquet," a bunch of us students are standing around drinking Guiness, while other people present are drinking their half pints of Harp Lager (aka bat's p*ss.) Most of them have American accents (the pub is not far from Shannon airport) and one in particular, wearing a half Cleveland, is covertly snapping pictures of the "locals."

My bearded California-born self is standing next to my bearded friend Ed, who hails from a very not-Irish fishing village on the Angus coast of Scotland. With us is another bearded friend, Graham, who's from not-Irish West Kensington, chaps, and another friend, Hassan, who's from not-Irish Cairo (originally from Palestine, raised as a refugee.) Hassan is drinking a coke and doesn't have a beard.

The picture snapper snaps all of us about five times, confident he's captured images of real-live Irish persons. I guess he figured anybody with a beard and wearing a P-coat or an anorak and standing in an old Irish pub is the real deal. I don't think my face is especially Irish looking (I'm Benjamin Franklin's eighth-great grandnephew) and there's no Irish in the family tree) but evidently I'll do. Ed, maybe, Graham, no chance after he's spoken in his BBC-accented voice, and Hassan? Bismillah.

So I go to the guy and try to affect my best Oklahoma accent and ask if he could spare copies of them pictures once they're developed. He turns and scampers, his wife laughing.


Last edited by Gardyloo; Mar 25th, 2024 at 11:39 AM.
Gardyloo is online now  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 12:05 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 18,107
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
AZ I am assuming you found those details from genealogy not from DNA testing. That is how I know where my family is from, and interestingly that both my maternal grandparents neither of whom I knew, appear to have been bigamists.
I am lucky in having cousins who are happy to put in the legwork on family trees and are generous with sharing the results of their efforts.
hetismij2 is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 12:07 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 4,495
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Lots of funny stories!

I am of Polish and Ukranian descent, and in many places I have been told right off the bat that I look Polish, or Ukrainian, or some other Slavic country.

My husband is Chinese so, of course, that makes our children bi-racial. We have two daughters; our oldest daughter resembles the both of us in her facial features but she has my lighter coloring so I don't think anyone assumes she is bi-racial. But our younger daughter has very dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, and looks tanned all the time. When she was a toddler, strangers would stop me in stores and ask me if I adopted her from Colombia or Mexico! They were quite shocked when I told them I am her biological mother! When we were in Jamaica when she was older, people would immediately start speaking to her in Spanish. And when she was studying abroad in Prague, one of her classmates thought she was from Venezuela! We always got lots of laughs over this.
KarenWoo is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 12:08 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 4,300
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
My husband is often taken for a Norwegian. We were at a bar in Paris and these two guys were talking rapidly to him; he finally interrupted and said "I'm sorry, I have no idea what you're saying." They were shocked that he wasn't Norwegian. They chatted with us for a short while in English, then finished their beer and said: "It was nice to meet you but we must go find women now."

I am sometimes taken for a German, sometimes for a Swiss. Esp since I have fair skin, that particular shade of red hair you see in parts of Switzerland and no freckles (I do have ancestors from the Basel region).
WeisserTee is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 12:44 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,494
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm mixed race, but I've always wondered how many people in Iceland might look like me, as I've always thought I resembled Bjork (on one of her bad days). But my dna is 50% Okinawan (Southern Japanese islands), 27% English, 14% Scottish, 7% Sweden/Denmark, 2% Irish.
ChgoGal is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 12:54 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 1,538
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I’m from India with dark hair and eyes and people think I’m Hispanic and start talking to me in Spanish, especially in the US. In Europe too quite often, though in the UK they mostly correctly identify my ethnicity.

My husband and I have business interests in Cameroon, where we spend several months of the year. Here they think I’m from Lebanon, even the Lebanese themselves. All of this makes me laugh 😃
geetika is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 03:44 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 4,470
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I've never really thought about this. I have been mistaken for being French in France but then Québecois once I opened my mouth. All this despite having almost entirely Scottish ancestry, with a little bit of Cornish blood thrown in.

What does happen more frequently, almost anywhere, is being mistaken for being American. A few years ago I was pulled over by a police officer in New Zealand (happily, a case of mistaken identity) and once the formalities were over, I was asked where I was from in America. "I'm from Canada, actually," which prompted a great laugh and an apology. "I am so sorry," he said, "We hate it when people mistake us for Australians!"
AnselmAdorne is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 03:49 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 1,754
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I had one woman refuse to believe I wasn't American. Basically accused me of lying for claiming I was Canadian. A little strange to say the least

I find the more lost I am the more I get stopped and asked for directions by people assuming I'm a local. Never understood that one.
Traveler_Nick is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 04:07 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 23,547
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
CDNYUL: I'm curious about your sometimes being mistaken for a Jew......on what basis would that assumption have been made? Speech, facial features???
That kind of implies that Jews are a race of people with common characteristics....

What do you all think??

ekscrunchy is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 04:12 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,313
Likes: 0
Received 3 Likes on 1 Post
I've been mistaken for Italian in Italy, also British, same place.

Now my son, who in addition to my Italian/Scots-Irish has his mother Italian (Sicilian) and Polish genes, was regularly mistaken for Iranian when we traveled with him in Turkey. He'd grown a rather unkempt beard, but shaved it off after some friendly restaurant people kept laughing and murmuring "Hadji" . . .
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 04:15 PM
  #18  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,560
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Love reading all of these. ChgoGal--"Bjork on a bad day" may be my favorite entry so far.

hetismij2--Maybe I should start a new thread--"How many of your European ancestors were bigamists?"
--------
Just to clarify, I started on the genealogy thing years before I reluctantly dove into the DNA testing pool, hetismij2. I had a good handle on our paternal ancestry in terms of origin and great grandparents, simply for the fact that my grandfather and his brother, immigrants from Wigan, married my grandmother and her sister, immigrants from Tipton, not long after they had arrived in the United States with quite a few other siblings. The entire crew on both sides would have Sunday dinner together or have Sunday picnics in good weather and most often would vacation together. My paternal grandmother's side kept in constant touch with their Tipton siblings and cousins back home, plus had copies of the family Bible that listed everyone from my great great great grandparents forward.

Yet DNA has come in handy. One branch of my paternal grandmother's family I was trying to trace back to Devon was named "Smith." You can imagine the difficulty there. As long as I could find other family trees with genetic links to my Smiths, I would always know I was on the right Smith track. And it was only through DNA that a 2nd cousin in Wigan contacted me, and we both were able to flesh out the holes and mistakes in each other's trees. DNA is what led to the bigamist history info on my mother's side and to my husband's Aussie cousins from an out-of-wedlock branch of the family. We've all had fun with it.

Sidenote: The Aussie Cornwall branch and we have exchanged pictures. We see no resemblance whatsoever to my husband and his brother, yet one of the Aussie sisters looks EXACTLY like my youngest daughter (the one everyone always assumes is from Ireland or Brittany). Scary. My daughter could show a picture of that Aussie cousin next to a picture of me to 10 total strangers and ask, "Which one is my mother?" I doubt I'd get any votes.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 04:20 PM
  #19  
J62
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 12,017
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Skin tone, features, and hair I could pass for just about anywhere around the Mediterranean - especially if i grew out a 2 week stubble.

A northern European friend once me that he pinpoints place origin more by haircut, watch, shoes, and clothing. Once claimed he could spot an American from 100m simply by the shoes.
J62 is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2024, 04:28 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 4,470
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Traveler_Nick, you should have rolled out your Canadian lexicon; you know, things like double double, two-four, loonie, toonie, on the pogey, zed, pencil crayons, klicks ... there are probably a few more.

Last edited by AnselmAdorne; Mar 25th, 2024 at 04:33 PM.
AnselmAdorne is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -