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; I do feel the Danish mindset closer to mine than Hungarian or Romanian but still I a lot of things seem very strange and far from me. 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 how I feel. My question does not address what I am legally but rather emotionally.

  • 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.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Oct 30 '16 at 15:37

13 Answers 13


A possible answer might be cosmopolitan (or cosmopolite), meaning citizen of the world (Weltbürger in German, citoyen du monde in French).

Antisemitic Soviet propaganda gave it a connotation of "enemy of the nation"; while in the West, a fashion magazine was created with that name. But regardless of base deformations for political purposes, or exploitation for financial gain, it is a fine and noble word.

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It sounds like your sense of identity is at odds with the national identity.

You could say that you're a cultural misfit

One who is unable to adjust to one's environment or circumstances or is considered to be awkwardly different from others.

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    That seems a bit pejorative for this question don't you think? – BladorthinTheGrey Oct 29 '16 at 16:01
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    You might be right, it all depends on the context and how it's said though. – 0xFEE1DEAD Oct 29 '16 at 16:38

Nationless would seem like the obvious choice.

Belonging to no nation.

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    He said he does have a formal nationality, so that's not correct. – John Oct 29 '16 at 17:48
  • @John: They also emphasised they wanted to describe the emotional aspect of the issue, which, as follows from the post, is quite different from the formal one. "Nationless" seems to match what they feel rather well. – Andriy M Oct 30 '16 at 11:13
  • If I read about someone claiming to be nationless, I would not interpret it as anything other than its literal meaning. Is it common to use it in the way you suggest? Do you happen to have a source that shows some usages to support this answer? – hvd Oct 30 '16 at 12:35
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    @John I'm not certain that 'nationality' can be formalized, insofar as it's a membership that rests on both self-identification and group recognition. This qualitative difference between nations and states is, as I understand it, part of the reason for the term 'nation-state'. – bright-star Oct 30 '16 at 21:02
  • @hvd There are (at least) two literal meanings. There's the one based on the original, ethnic, meaning of the word "nation", where a nation is, essentially, a people, whence terms such as "nationalist" and "nation-state" are derived, and then there's the newer meaning, where a "nation" is essentially a sovereign state. – user203401 Nov 26 '16 at 19:07

It was thrilling to see all those clever conversations around this question, and it had produced quite a few potential answers. I did not expect that it would be as subjective as it turned out to be. For other users who might bump into this question, I wrote a list of all possibilities mentioned in the replies, in alphabetical order, not relevance.

  • Anational (@michael.hor257k)
  • Cosmopolitan (@fralau, @Peter Point)
  • Cosmopolite (@fralau)
  • Citizen of the world (@Mick)
  • Cultural misfit (@0xFEE1DEAD)
  • Cultural orphan (@Bookeater)
  • Expatriate (@Juan M)
  • Èmigré (@Juan M)
  • Identity crisis (@Russell McMahon)
  • Malcontent (@Mazura)
  • Man without a country (@Daniel R Hicks)
  • Multicultural (@Spehro Pefhany)
  • Nationless (@user203401)
  • Outsider (@bishop)
  • Person without identity (@Rathony)
  • Rootless (@Anton Sherwood)
  • Stateless (@Edwin Ashworth)
  • Transnational (@Steve Barnes)
  • Vagabond (@NonCreature0714)
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    Thanks! I'd love to see this kind of index for every question on English.SE. – bishop Nov 1 '16 at 23:27

You can say that your identity is multicultural. I think most would understand that, and it has not yet been turned into a swear word.

Some folks speak of being "hyphenated" citizens (as in Chinese-Indian), but I think the meaning of that is even more muddled than my above suggestion, as muddled as Hakka Indian food.

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    I would derive political inclinations from somebody calling himself "multicultural". – John Oct 29 '16 at 17:49
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    @John Yes and I suspect this is inevitable. – Spehro Pefhany Oct 29 '16 at 20:23
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    Yeah, the word 'multicultural' has been getting increasingly negative views in my country, too. – Stephan Bijzitter Oct 29 '16 at 22:27
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    In the UK, "multicultural" usually means two or more groups of "monocultural" people living in the same geographical region. I've never heard it applied to a single person. – alephzero Oct 30 '16 at 18:16

Perhaps you feel like an outsider:

a person not belonging to a particular group, set, party, etc.

Example sentences from OD:

  1. You may even feel like an outsider - a foreigner in your own country.
  2. There were the popular kids and then there was me, the outsider who didn't belong to any of the categories that made up our school.
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  • +1 - Sounds as good and well reasoned as most suggestions. I can't imagine what sort of outsider would have given you a downvote. – Russell McMahon Oct 30 '16 at 12:28

The most straightforward word that I can think of is expatriate. According to Merriam-Webster, it means "To withdraw (oneself) from residence in or allegiance to one's native country."

Depending on the reasons for leaving your country, you could also use émigré. Wikipedia defines an émigré as "a person who has emigrated, often with a connotation of politial or social self-exile."

Finally, I would invite you explore the expressions citizen of the world and global citizen. These terms also sound right, at least to my ear.

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You could consider transnational:

transnational : operating in or involving more than one country Webster

But my personal favourite would be tubleweed - in the sense of being rootless and a wanderer.

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Instead of answering your question, I propose to challenge it: Maybe you DO have a nationality, of sorts: Transylvanian, or perhaps even Székely. Lonely Planet says the following about Transylvania; does it capture your "nationality"?

Tongue-twisting Hungarian is the default language in eastern Transylvania. It’s also widely spoken in cities such as Miercurea-Ciuc, Târgu Mureş and Cluj-Napoca and the counties of Covasna and Harghita. That’s because the region had been associated with Hungary for over a thousand years, up until the end of WWI when it was united with Romania. Today, ethnic Hungarians make up around 19% of the population of Transylvania. Around half of these are Székely people, thought by some to be descended from Attila’s Huns.


Tam's reply has persuaded me that my challenge failed. Despite being a citizen of two nation-states and a member of a recognized ethnic group with links to both of those "nationalities", Tam doesn't identify with any of these and actually feels more sympathetic with the people he lives with in Denmark while remaining (perhaps painfully) recognizably "non-Danish". My experience as a lifetime citizen and resident of the U.S. has brought me into daily contact with people who have recognizable "non-U.S." linguistic and cultural characteristics who consider themselves to be and are recognized to be "American" by all (or most) Americans. This apparently is uncommon in Denmark.

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  • You are absolutely correct, I come from the very middle of the Székely region. Transylvanian could maybe be the best word for my ethnicity / nationality. In terms of where I grew up, also Szekler. In terms of how I feel (this is what is hard to explain), I am very little Szekler. Since I generally accept Danish values more than Szekler values, it's very hard for me to get into (good) contact with people at home. This has now came down to a very personal level but I do not really keep in touch with my former 'friends'. – Tam Nov 2 '16 at 0:37


One definition of which is "a person with no settled home." Another definition is "a person on a journey with no destination." Both of which seems to describe your situation.

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    That seems very pejorative, even derogatory, as such, I'm not convinced it's that appropriate for the question. Perhaps it used to have this meaning only, but nowadays it just seems like a general insult. – BladorthinTheGrey Oct 30 '16 at 14:22
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    @BladorthinTheGrey It was my understanding that the OP is concerned with the emotional connotations of a word, and I read that the OP doesn't feel necessarily good about the situation, though perhaps I misread, and vagabond can have some emotional weight, though not necessarily. While the word can be used derogatorily, it is still frequently used in a positive manner to describe travelers and back-packers -- there is even a sub-Reddit for such people, the Vagabond sub Reddit. Typing vagabond into Google yields a range of results, from positive to negative, with more or less even results. – NonCreature0714 Oct 30 '16 at 14:32

Stateless is the one word that comes to mind. Just to confirm, I checked a dictionary: A stateless person is someone who is "not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law". Some stateless persons are also refugees.

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  • I'm assuming that a document of Citizenship and passport would be the proof of being part of a State/Country would be the proof. – C. Storey Nov 1 '16 at 20:21

It sounds to me like you are homeless. Not homeless in the sense of someone literally without a home, but homeless in the sense of not having a home in the world, a place where you fit, where you belong, where you are among your own kind.

As per your question, homeless speaks not to what you are legally but to what you are emotionally. You have no place to call home, whether it be a nation, a city, a community, ...

From M-W:

homeless: having no home or permanent place of residence

I wouldn't take this definition to mean that you are literally homeless, i.e., physically without a place to live, but as a metaphor for your situation. Emotionally you are without a place to live. You have no home in the world.

I think you could use homeless to speak with others truthfully and without shame. Example dialog:

OP: Were are you are from?

You: I'm homeless. (smile)

OP: No, seriously, where are you from?

You: Seriously, I have no real home. I'm from everywhere and nowhere. (smile)

There are many possible scenarios. You'd only have to worry about over-fascinating the OP.

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You could consider "displaced person" - "A person who is forced to leave their home country because of war or persecution; a refugee." https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/displaced_person

That doesn't exactly match your description of yourself, but it might give strangers the right idea.

"Refugee" or "Asylum seeker" are more specific terms, but seem to be less appropriate to describe you.

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