Is it Rude to Ask Someone What Ethnicity They Are?

There are over 650 estimated ethnic groups spread around this diverse world that we live in. 

But, when you meet someone new, and you can’t peg what ethnic group they belong to, is it actually rude to ask them? 

Read on below and learn the answer.

Is it Rude to Ask Someone What Ethnicity They Are?

Asking someone about their ethnicity may be something that you are inclined to want to do, however, you should know that it is considered extremely rude to do so.

If someone does not volunteer information regarding their ethnicity to you, you should never ask them about it unless you are a law enforcement border patrol agent (or similar).

How Rude Is it?


On a scale of 1 to 10, asking someone what ethnicity they are rates 10 on the rude meter. If you have a need to know, or a reason to ask, that is a whole different animal. 

But, if you are just meeting someone for the first time… forget about it. Otherwise, you are being rude and there is no other way to perceive it for many people belonging to many cultures and ethnic groups.

Why is it Rude?

Asking someone what ethnicity they are is considered a very rude thing to do. In fact, unless you are in a position of authority that involves needing to know someone’s ethnicity and country of origin, you should never ask about it.

A person’s ethnicity is a personal thing. It is not something to be taken lightly, as people are killed, beaten, and mistreated all around the world on any given day, based on their ethnicity.

Other Options to Do Instead

The best thing to do is simply not ask someone what their ethnicity is. However, if you feel that you need to know what someone’s ethnicity is, try one of the following other options:

  • Bring up your own ethnicity in conversation and hope they will tell you theirs
  • Talk about cultures around the world, if you hit on their culture, you may see it in their face and body language
  • Call your buddy in law enforcement and ask them for a favor

Common Questions

How do you ask someone about their ethnicity?

Asking someone what their ethnicity is considered rude because it is a private matter, in most cases. In other words, if you are not ICE or a government worker that literally needs to know someone’s ethnicity and other personal information… what someone’s ethnicity is, is none of your business unless they want you to know.

Is ethnicity a public or private matter?

Ethnicity may be both a private or public matter, depending on the person, the situation, whether a business is involved, and more. An immigrant to another country may want to conceal their ethnicity, out of fear of racism and unfair treatment. But, regardless, they must admit their ethnicity on a job or university application.

Is it rude to ask where people came from?

It isn’t exactly polite or rude to ask someone where they came from if it is done after you get to know them a bit. In other words, where someone came from should be one of your first ten questions to someone you just met.