Every culture and people have existing ideas about other cultures and people. These ideas that we believe about an entire group, culture or nationality are called stereotypes. So if you believe all Americans are fat, that is a stereotype you believe about Americans. Of course most stereotypes are based on some passed event or small part of the truth but usually they are not true for all the people of that group. Today we’re going to look at what some of the Western Stereotypes are for different people and where these stereotypes came from.
Just to warn everyone, stereotypes are generally offensive to the people you are talking about, don’t take them seriously. Also don’t forget to come talk about stereotypes in the forum after!
Canadians: We’ll start with my nationality, in fact there aren’t many stereotypes about Canadians simply because we’re not that often talked about. However, there are a few that we can look at.
“Speech” – The most common has to do with our speech, we are known to use American pronunciation for English with a few strange differences, for example Canadians often say “aboot” instead of “about” and we are often accused of ending all sentences with the word “Eh?” like they are all questions. And in fact Canadians do often do both of these things, not all and not all the time but if you hear someone say “What are you talking aboot, eh?” Chances are very good they are Canadian.
“Polite” - Canadians are also commonly called ‘Polite Americans’, in many ways Canadian and American culture is similar but Canadians tend to be more polite about things. Probably part of our British upbringing, as Americans worked hard to not appear British after their war of independence. Sorry, Please and Thank you are very commonly used in all kinds of situations, even where you wouldn’t expect it. I’ve seen many times where someone steps on someone’s foot and the person whose foot was stepped on says “Sorry!”.
“Peaceful” - Canada doesn’t usually fight in many wars (Afghanistan excluded) so we tend to get the reputation of being a peaceful country. For the most part Canadians are peaceful, just don’t insult our hometown hockey team or prepare for a fight.
“Snow” - Canada is covered in snow and is cold. Now this is partly true (except in Vancouver) in the winter. Canada’s winters are very cold and snowy so it has given tourists who come in the winter the idea that we’re always covered in snow. However our summers are actually very nice and comfortable, usually ranging between 20-30 degrees and no snow on the ground at all!
Americans: Probably the most stereotyped of all the people in the world simply because they do the most advertising of themselves so people tend to think they know them well.
“Gun Loving” - Everyone knows that Americans love their guns, but in fact they are very divided on this issue as around half the Americans like their gun laws as they are and half want them to be stricter. But Americans do seem to love their gun violence and it is a big part of their movies and TV shows, and it does seem to happen in the streets there a lot more than other developed countries. So why do they love their guns? There are many theories, I would guess that it has to do with their history though, they have gained their land, freedom and safety through violence in the past and many Americans have grown up believing that it is their guns that continue to guarantee their freedom against other countries and their own government.
“Fat” - This is a stereotype that tends to be quite true, America is the fattest country in the world with 63% of the adults in the country either Overweight or Obese. The American lifestyle is to blame for this as the food most people eat is high calorie foods and far too little exercise is done by most people. This is not to say that living in the USA will make you fat, there are still over 100 million people in the USA who are healthy, but if you are lazy and like high fat foods, the USA will make you feel at home.
“Equality and Freedom” - Another stereotype that has it’s roots in the USA’s past but has been having issues lately. Yes Americans are equal under law but in some areas of the USA there are very big problems with racism still. As well their treatment of homosexuals is falling behind the rest of the Western countries, most of which have no given them the right to marry and be treated equally under law. If Freedom and Equality is what you are looking for, you might want to look to Northern Europe instead.
“Ignorant” - What do you call someone who can speak three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who can speak two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who can speak one language? American.
In actuality there are many bilingual Americans who travel and learn about the rest of the world, mostly it is the poor and lower class people in the USA who have no knowledge of the outside world, but that is true of most countries. I think what makes people believe this stereotype so easily is that Americans tend to be extremely patriotic, often even nationalistic. When Americans are abroad you will often hear them comparing everything to back home, as in “This roast duck is good, but there’s a place in New York that’s better!” so people get the feeling they just don’t care about anything except their own country.
English: Jolly old England, such a wonderful place filled with history, the Queen and all kinds of terrible food.
“Food” - English food has never been thought of as one of the more interesting cuisines of the world. English food is often said to be very bland or lacking in flavour and boring. Whether this is true depends entirely on what kinds of food you like, it is true though that English food is mostly created to show the natural flavours of food and as such doesn’t use that much spice usually. However if you like spice and are traveling to England, do not worry, England has food from all over the world now, so enjoy your trip and try out the England’s Indian food especially as it’s become known as England’s second national food.
“Gentlemen” - Everyone knows the English are gentlemen, of course I have a couple of English friends and they often don’t behave in a gentlemanly manner. So why does everyone think of the English as gentlemen? Mainly due to the royal family and the formal English culture. In England’s past the royalty and upper class were expected to behave as gentlemen towards others, this didn’t mean that everyone was a gentleman but it did create a very strong gentleman culture which to some extent still exists today.
“Bad Teeth” - In the West the English have a bad reputation as having very terrible teeth. In fact multiple studies have shown that this is just not true at all but the stereotype stays around like the smell of wet dog. No one is sure why this stereotype was started but some guesses are that Hollywood might be to blame, what you see of the USA is usually made by Hollywood which hires impossibly beautiful people to portray regular Americans, where as BBC in England has always had more natural looking actors. Others say it may be caused by England having a much longer history than the USA so the English in the past may not have had such great dentists, whereas the USA has been around a much shorter period of time so they’ve always had decent dentists for their teeth.
“Rain” - Everyone knows that London is always either foggy or raining. This is one stereotype that is based on truth, no it doesn’t rain all the time of course, but England does get a lot more rain than most countries tend to. But this is pretty obvious as England is surrounded on all sides by water so it would make sense that it would rain there a lot. So if you go to England, be sure to bring your Umbrella!
Chinese: The Chinese were for a long time fairly unknown among the world as their borders were shut to the rest of the world, because of this their stereotypes often have to with their traditional culture.
“Math/Creativity” - Have a hard math problem? Bring to your Chinese friend, they can help! Chinese have a reputation for being great at certain subjects, such as Math, while not doing so well in others, like art or English. This is partly true, Chinese mostly do do better at Math, but I would say it’s not to do with them being Chinese as much to do with their style of learning in China where memorization is strongly favoured over critical thinking. This is also why many say Chinese are not very creative, in fact Chinese people are very creative people, just the schools don’t give students a lot of time to practice it so most students never get that good at using it.
“Kung Fu” - Never fight with a Chinese person because they probably know kung fu. As the only Chinese movies that ever seem to make it to the West are Kung Fu movies, it’s not surprising people think all the Chinese can do kung fu. Sadly, this is not really the case and more than all Westerners can box, Kung Fu requires years of practice to become good at and few people have that much time to invest it seems.
“Atheist” - When I first told my family I would move to China, my Aunt told me “That will be good for you! They are all Buddhists so there’ll be lots of vegetarian food!”, how wrong she was. Nowadays China is more known for being a strongly Atheist (No God) country, and this is one stereotype that holds true. Most Chinese do seem to have no religion, many of the old still claim to be Buddhist, others have converted to Christianity and many in the Western areas are Muslim, but the vast majority tend to be Atheist.
Other Stereotypes – How true are they?:
Australian - Loves to drink beer. – Most of my Aussie friends love to drink anyway. Though strangely never the brand Fosters.
Loves the outdoors – Often quite true, a very out door country.
Racist – Not really that true, but really depends which area of the country you are in I’m told.
Ireland - Drinks Whiskey a lot – I haven’t met many Irish who don’t like a drink.
Loves to sing (while drinking) – I haven’t met many Irish who don’t like to sing while having a drink.
Loves to fight (after drinking) – I haven’t met many Irish who don’t like to fight after having a drink.
French - Romantic – In the past the French were some of the more open minded people in Europe when it came to sex so they have become known as lovers.
Rude – The French have a great love of their own language and culture, to the point where many tourists who go to France claim to be treated rudely if they can’t speak French. This is also true in the Canadian province of Quebec where English is not very well loved.
Spanish - Passionate with a bad temper – I’ve been told dating a Spanish woman is dangerous.
Italian - Love great food and lots of wine. – They do have lots of great food so it would make sense!
Japanese - Mixed - A very traditional culture and people mixed with some of the strangest examples of modern open mindedness has led people to have a mixed view of Japan.
Racist – They tend to view foreigners as not capable of understanding their culture and way of life so foreigners are often not allowed in spas and many restaurants..
Do you fit your culture’s stereotype? What stereotypes do you have about other cultures and people? Come talk about it in the forum!