Lesson 18. Small Talk: Where are you from?

The last few lessons discussed important matters of Russian grammar. Today we are going to apply everything we have learned so far and will try to strike a conversation.

We already know how to properly introduce yourself, and now we will continue this conversation. What do you talk to people you just met? Right, quite obvious topics, such as home, family, job, etc. When you talk to Russians you should not be surprised when they openly discuss topics that in Western countries are considered to be kept discreet. You can easily be asked why you are not married yet, or why you don’t have children. Asking about age, income is common, too. Of course, you don’t have to answer the questions you are not comfortable with. But still you should be prepared. In the next few lessons we will learn how to discuss some of these topics.

Today we start with a simple one.

Where are you from?

When you are a tourist everyone wants to know the answer to this question.

The question sounds: Откуда Вы? (formal) /Откуда ты? (informal)

You can use the following answers. (As of now we assume that you are a US citizen.)

  • Я из Америки (I am from America)
  • Я живу в Америке (I live in America)
  • Я американец (I am an American)

Following your answers you might be asked new questions.

  • Из какого Вы штата? (What state are you from?)
  • В каком штате Вы живете? (What state do you live in?)
  • В каком городе Вы живете? (What city do you live in?)

No matter what country or city you live in, your answer will begin like this:

Я живу в (name of the state, city)

For example,

Я живу в Нью-Йорке (I live in New York).

Я живу в Лондоне (I live in London)

Or you can simplify it:

Я из Нью-Йорка (I am from New York).

Я из Лондона (I am from London).

Another variation of the same question might be asking about your nationality. Russia is a very ethnically diverse country itself and people tend to be interested in other nationalities and cultures. So the question “Кто Вы по национальности?” (What is your nationality?) should not catch you unaware.

So, how do you answer this one?

Based on your gender you can say:

Я американец = I am an American (if you are a man)

Я американка = I am an American (if you are a woman)

And finally, if there is a group of you (two people or more) you say:

Мы американцы = We are Americans.

The conversation can go in the same direction but take a different path. For example, your new acquaintance might not ask you the question but try to guess your nationality.

Вы американец? – asking a man

Вы американка? – asking a woman

Вы американцы? – asking a group of people

Your response? Well, you know the words “да” and “нет” and will be able to say if you are American or not.

Now, it’s not like every student who reads these lessons is an American. Below you will find a table of some nationalities. Feel free to ask in the comments if your nationality is missing.

Nationality (Man) Nationality (Woman) Nationality (People) Translation
Немец Немка Немцы German
Китаец Китаянка Китайцы Chinese
Японец Японка Японцы Japanese
Англичанин Англичанка Англичане Englishman(men)
Француз Француженка Французы French
Итальянец Итальянка Итальянцы Italian(s)
Испанец Испанка Испанцы Spanish
Аргентинец Аргентинка Аргентинцы Argentinean
Еврей Еврейка Евреи Jewish
Индус Индианка Индусы Indian
Грек Гречанка Греки Greek
Турок Турчанка Турки Turkish
Мексиканец Мексиканка Мексиканцы Mexican
And just for reference
Русский Русская Русские Russian

Read the dialog and try to understand as much as possible. Translate the dialog into English.

Michael and Olga are on board a flight from Berlin to Moscow. They have just met.

Olga: Майкл, откуда Вы?

Michael: Я американец. А Вы русская?

Olga: Да, русская. Я живу в Самаре. А где Вы живете в Америке?

Michael: Я из штата Висконсин. Я живу и учусь в Мэдисоне.

Olga: Как интересно! Вы не похожи на американца. Кто Вы по национальности?

Michael: Моя мама итальянка. А папа мексиканец.

Olga: Понятно.

Here are some words that you might not know or could not understand from the context.

Как интересно! How exciting! How Interesting!

Вы не похожи на You don’t look like…

Понятно. I see.

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