Every time I get asked that question, I have to give it some thought. Not because I don’t know but rather that the majority of the world’s population has no clue what or where my home country of Aruba is. I don’t blame anybody, its a tiny island in a sea full of other tiny islands.
My answer depends on where I am. The easiest is the US, Aruba has done a good job marketing itself as a tourist destination in the US and most people are familiar with it and being referenced in popular media such as Friends and Mission Impossible also tends to help. And off course there is always the eighties hit song “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys which has Aruba as the first word in its chorus.
In Europe Aruba is only really known in the Netherlands since it is part of the same kingdom. In the remainder of Europe I tend to get away by mentioning it’s a small island in the Caribbean since a few countries there have a colonial past there.
In Asia, Aruba becomes a whole different concept. Even the Caribbean doesn’t ring a bell most of the time. In India I use the term “the West Indies” and because of their cricket past this normally does the trick. In the Philippines I had some luck with the older generation because a former Miss Aruba settled down there with a local celebrity.
When I notice the Caribbean doesn’t ring a bell, I go for the general, it’s near South America. Most people pick up the America part and to me, that is close enough.
That gets me to the second part where people say “It’s funny but you look Malay/Indonesian/ Filipino/Indian/Mexican”. I just reply that I get that a lot and I try to move on because what else can I say?
In the end it does always make for an interesting icebreaker and I feel like a sort of ambassador since I probably will be the only Aruban most people at least here in Asia will meet.
So, where are you from?