Friday, December 07, 2007

Same sky: Scathing stereotypes

In class today, I shared some excerpts from a heavily-researched nomad4ever blog post on national stereotypes. I'd picked out those that represented my students' nationalities, including Brazilian, Korean, French and Swiss, and we started out by agreeing that although stereotypes are often negative, they are sometimes founded in fact (and sometimes not!).

Then I got them to guess what the stereotypes for their own and their classmate's nationalities might be. We got into some very interesting discussions. A French student led the way in proclaiming the arrogance of the French (I tried to defend them!) and complaining about the dirty streets of Paris, and everybody agreed that Koreans were quiet and hard-working, except for the Koreans themselves.

Last on our list was Swiss, and I started off trying to suggest that a multilingual country like Switzerland might actually not be able to be labelled with just one stereotype. Not true, said both the Swiss and the non-Swiss. Everybody happily applied the stereotypes of being rich and having Swiss army knives (true in this case), and laughed when I read that the women were all blond, lived in the mountains and were named Heidi. Back at home I stumbled across a scathing attack of Swiss precision in a BootsnAll article, On Time in Switzerland, which made me wonder if more of the stereotypes were true than I thought, and I've been visiting an "alternative Switzerland" all this time.

Of course we all try not to judge, although I still expect my Brazilian students will have a tendency against punctuality (sure enough, the list of Brazilian characteristics says "always late"). Have a look at the 55 nationalities list and see if there's any truth for your home country.

Image from Brother O'Mara via Flickr/Creative Commons


  1. Hi Amanda,

    thanks for linking back to my article. Yeah, unfortunately people have plenty of stereotypes about other nationalities and foreign people.

    Thankfully a lot of those turn out wrong once we take the time to get to know each other. ;-)

    Cheers from Bali,

    Life is what you make it!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Chris. I agree completely that most of the negative stereotypes turn out to be wrong - and I certainly see people in my very mixed nationality classes of English learners realising that too. People are just people! By the way, your website is fascinating, keep it up!


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