National Stereotypes

Racial StereotypingWe were chatting with Ms P via the wonder of FaceTime™ and got onto the subject of national stereotypes for the places we’ve visited. Not in a nasty, xenophobic way I hasten to add, but rather the cultural differences and idiosyncrasies that are fond and abiding memories.

For example, in South Africa it was the Capetonians notions of time and the concept of ‘now’.

It doesn’t exist as a single word, but has three variants. three options: right now, now now and just now. Right now means now, as in immediately, now now means soon, within an hour or two, while just now is an indeterminable point in the not too distant, but probably not today.

In Las Vegas, it was the sheer commercialism. The place pretends that it is designed with pedestrians in mind, but only if you take the walkways to cross the road on which the exit sign invariably takes you into a shopping mall rather than the way out.

Utah had an air of friendly weirdness, where a waitress would reluctantly serve you a cold beer (if you also ordered food) and then happily give you a lecture on the evils of alcohol while you drank it.

OverloadFor Thailand it would be the ubiquitous tuk-tuk that whizz you around Bangkok, while in Cambodia and Vietnam it is the sight of motorbikes overloaded with anything you can think of – families, mothers riding side-saddle with a newborn baby in her arms, livestock and even an entire dining suite of very solid table and chairs.

Having spent more than a year in Japan, Ms P has had plenty of time to draw her own conclusions about the place and it seems there is an awful lot of eccentricities for the western visitor to scratch their head about.

But for her, Japan is summed up by the sight of family groups dressed the same – mum, dad and children all in identical hats, stripey tops, trousers and Converse shoes – in a way that is both endearing and odd.

If you’ve read this far, you may think that all this is by way of poking fun at other peoples, but it isn’t. All nationalities have their foibles that seem quite natural to them, but very strange to the outsider, and we wondered what memento of oddness a visitor to the UK might take away with them.

My first thoughts were that it must be our national obsessions with the weather, queueing, tea saying sorry every five seconds, but perhaps I’m blind to other eccentricities that feel normal to me. So what do you think are the defining characteristics of the stereotypical Brit?

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

13 comments… Add yours
  • Yorkshire Pudding 20th May 2016

    To begin with, I despise the term “Brit” and never use it unless I am waxing lyrical about the actress Britt Eckland. Bill Bryson is very good at capturing a sense of the British in “The Road to Little Dribbling”. However, I think that the more you know a country, the less likely you are to lean on stereotypical caricatures. The country I know best is of course England but I have seen so much variety here, so many idiosyncrasies that the very idea of coming up with a handful of typical characteristics seems absurd.

    Reply
    • Mr Parrot 20th May 2016

      ‘Despise’ seems a rather strong antipathy for a simple word. I suppose I should have said Britisher or something similarly clumsy?

      I think you miss my point though – I was in South Africa, Cambodia etc long enough to love the country, but not enough to know it beyond my simple stereotypes. They are still fond memories and, for those who don’t know the UK, my question what do they see as our peccadilloes. And for those who do live here, what do you imagine them to be.

      Reply
      • Yorkshire Pudding 20th May 2016

        “So what do you think are the defining characteristics of the stereotypical Brit?” The question seems clear enough SP so I don’t think I missed the point. By the way, “Briton” is a much older term and in my view much more acceptable. “Brit” is a product of Cool Britannia and all that jazz – a modern affectation.

        Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 20th May 2016

    I noticed one obvious dis-similarity on the continent (probably some backwater in Spain) some years back. Queuing for the bus in the village square to get us back to our resort, I was conscious that the Brits (sorry Mr Pudding) all observed the code of “last to come goes at the back”. Sadly, the locals, especially the old black-clothed grannies, were good at worming their way to the very front and couldn’t give two hoots for the idea of a queue. When the bus finally came, it was “every man for himself” and the only way to do it was to give the old grannies an elbow in the ribs. Not very nice but “when in Rome.”

    Reply
    • Yorkshire Pudding 20th May 2016

      But you weren’t in Rome Sir Trevor – you were in Spain and as every schoolboy knows, Rome is in Italy.

      Hee=hee-hee! That’s what you get for taunting me with the term “Brits”!

      Reply
    • Mr Parrot 20th May 2016

      That’s it Trevor! Manners and fair play is the thing peculiar to us Brits. (I decided to carry on using that term just to annoy Yorkie)

      Reply
      • Yorkshire Pudding 20th May 2016

        The words “Brit” and “Britisher” came out of America and were once considered to be very offensive to British people. My choice of the verb “despise” was both deliberate and accurate.

        Reply
        • Mr Parrot 20th May 2016

          “Despise” is subjective, so may be deliberate, but not necessarily universally accurate. I suppose I could have used “Briton” instead, but that would remind me too much of Leon.

          Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 20th May 2016

    …and please don’t get us started on the Germans and the beach towels!

    Reply
    • Yorkshire Pudding 20th May 2016

      “The Germans and The Beach Towels”? Is that by Adele?

      Reply
      • Mr Parrot 20th May 2016

        No, you’re thinking of the B-side of Autobahn by Kraftwerk.

        Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 21st May 2016

    According to Paul Merton on his “Secret Stations” TV programme (a peculiar homage to request stops) he feels that, quintessentially, Engishness is identified by our love of Radio Four and cream teas and rounded of by our avoidance of unnecessary unpleasantness.

    Reply
  • Roger Green 25th May 2016

    I’ll have to visit

    Reply

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