recognizing people's nationality?

Before the question, here’s a little background:

I live in Israel, a country made up almost entirely of immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. About half the country is made up of Ashkenazim, Jews from Eastern Europe.

On the Sabbath, in the synagogue, there will be many people, dressed very similarly – dark pants, white shirts. And in the synagogue, people don’t talk much, but primarily pray.

Now in this synagogue there may be Ashkenazim from many backgrounds – American immigrants, British immigrants, Russian immigrants, French immigrants or native Israelis.

The unusual thing is that without speaking to these people, and without them wearing some sort of identifying dress, I can generally identify their background. Why?

I have a hard time believing there is any evolutionary aspect to this. The American immigrant’s parents may have come to America from Poland or Russia, just as the Israeli’s parents did. In any case, for most of these people if you go back 3 or 4 generations, their ancestors were in Eastern Europe.

So what in their face allows me to identify them? My only theory is that perhaps the language they speak influences their facial muscles enough to create a difference. Is this likely? Has anyone heard of any research on this?

My WAG would be that if you did anything like a scientific poll, you would find that you aren’t nearly as good at this as you think you are. No offense.

Actually, I meant to put that option in the OP.

But even if I’m not as good as I think I am, there is still something in the face of an American that looks different than that of a Russian or an Israeli.

Perhaps you’re really recognizing mannerisms and subtle nuances - you know - the things that get spies in trouble.

I know what you’re talking about but haven’t really been able to pin it down. I suspect Knead’s option may be true. There are some facial “types” that are more common in certain parts of the world, though. Like the Slavic high cheekbones kind of look, or Nordic types…

curwin where in Israel? My sister lives in J’lem (Germantown area). I was last there June of last year.

Another factor may be diet and lifestyle, such as smoking, exercise, etc. These things are weakly correllated with nationality and have an effect on one’s appearance.