The Xenophobe’s Guide To… is possibly a bit of a misnomer.
You might think that a xenophobe’s guide would pick out all the reasons to despise a country. Sure, these guides poke gentle fun at the character traits of the nationalities they cover. But they do so in an affectionate, tongue-in-cheek way—and, crucially, they do it on the basis of the characteristics the nationalities themselves take pride in.
This is no surprise, as the authors are usually long-standing residents of the country whose people they’re writing about. Quite often they’re married to one of the nationals. So these are people who are familiar with the culture of the country they’re writing about and liked it enough to make it their home.
Their own website describes the books as “Frank, irreverent and funny—almost guaranteed to cure xenophobia.” They’ve been so successful that they’ve been translated into 24 languages so far!
Despite their short length (you could probably finish one in roughly the same amount of time it would take to read a Sunday broadsheet’s colour supplement), these slim books convey a surprising amount of information. They typically look at: nationalism and identity; character; beliefs and values; obsessions; behaviour; manners and etiquette; culture; leisure; sense of humour; eating and drinking; health; customs and tradition; systems; crime and punishment; business; government and bureaucracy; and language. They’re not overly heavy on politics or history, but they do pick out defining moments and core shared beliefs, and show how these affect everyday life from cradle to grave.
They’re not practical “how to…” guides, so don’t expect that of them. If you’re looking for a walk-through of what to do to get yourself set up in a country, then you’d be better off asking for advice from others who have been there and done that, eg on the BE Forum. What they will do is help you understand the people you’ll be meeting every day, so that you don’t spend your first few months boggling at their strange behaviour. (Well, maybe you’ll still boggle a little bit. But certainly not as much.)
There are currently thirty of these guides, covering everyone from the Albanians to the Welsh. They’re available in print for £4.99 RRP, or you can get them as eBooks, including through the Amazon Kindle store.