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British Expat Newsletter:
6 April 2005

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Stereotypes
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Joke and quotation

This week

“An Englishman, a Scotsman, a Welshman and an Irishman walked into a pub… The barman said, ‘Is this some kind of joke?'”

Aye, the old ones are the best. Don’t worry – we’ll be having a joke at the bottom of this newsletter as usual. In the meantime, though, let’s look at national and racial stereotyping.

We’re all familiar with them. The Scots are stingy, the Irish are thick, Essex girls are even thicker (and have loose morals), Swedes are boringly socially responsible and talk in a sing-song. And, although many people recognise that the stereotypes are exaggerated, based on misunderstanding or simply not true, they persist. Why?

Well, some of the time they can be a way of breaking the ice. While I was training to become a chef – not that I planned to take it up as a career, I just wanted to be able to cook to a professional standard – I spent some time on work experience in a major multinational company’s kitchens on the Strand in central London. My accent immediately made it clear I was a Scotswoman, and my new-found colleagues took great delight in ribbing me about all the usual kinds of stuff – haggis, parsimony, the whole “Miss Jean Brodie” thing. Desperately unoriginal, all of it, but as they didn’t mean any harm by it and were just trying to be friendly I laughed it off.

You’ll note that the English don’t have any very clear stereotyped image among the other home nationalities – just a generalised feeling that they’re bad neighbours. Both the Scots and the Welsh have variations on a joke where God tells one of his angels he’s about to create a beautiful country called Scotland/Wales, endow it with all kinds of natural resources (listed) and bestow all kinds of wonderful characteristics on its people (also listed). When the angel asks whether God isn’t being a bit over-generous to these Scots/Welsh, God smiles knowingly and replies, “You haven’t seen the neighbours I’m giving them!”

The Europeans, with the benefit of a bit more distance and little or no history of being dominated by the English, perhaps feel more able to poke fun. Your typical Englishman/Englishwoman in Continental humour is renowned for lack of sexual passion and appallingly bland cuisine. (Is it any wonder the rest of us Brits object to being called English?)

But stereotyping is quite a serious matter. It even has implications for business. The US’s major export earner these days is software and entertainment products. It’s been found that, even forty or more years after the successes of the Civil Rights movement, the Blaxploitation movement in entertainment in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and so on, foreign markets pay more for entertainment products that feature white people in lead roles. And advertising charges for slots during TV programmes with a predominantly white cast are considerably more expensive than those during shows with mostly black actors – even when the latter attract more viewers.

Some stereotypes do appear to be true, on the surface. For many years passengers on aircraft flying into Bangkok Airport were greeted with a sign from the Tourism Authority: “Welcome to the Land of Smile [sic]”. The bad grammar can be forgiven – the sentiment is true. I won’t say that every single Thai is always smiling, because they have their hardships too, but it’s amazing how often you do see them smiling.

Then again, that particular national characteristic – wonderful though it is to live amidst – has another aspect to it that doesn’t always show through: face. If you lose your temper and let it show, you’re seen as having lost your dignity and are treated accordingly. Smiling, even when you’d rather snarl, can sometimes be a way of keeping “jai yen” – a cool heart. It’s notable that farangs who storm into a shop and shout about poor service seem to get nowhere, even if their complaint is justified, while all obstacles vanish for others who smile and keep their cool.

Sadly, some stereotypes do travel around the world. Last week in a local German paper Dave and I spotted a letter from a German long-term resident of Pattaya talking about why the numbers of German tourists visiting were dwindling so much. Apart from the Thai Prime Minister’s allegedly authoritarian style, he cited the “hordes of mentally handicapped, permanently drunk and half-dressed Englishmen on the lookout for a scrap with other Europeans.” What’s even sadder is that the writer had a point, even though he chose to express it in extreme terms. People like this do exist here, and they spoil it for the vast majority of their countrymen who aren’t.

Virtual Snacks

“Many consider Immanuel Kant to be the great moral philosopher of the Enlightenment, but even he fell prey to racial stereotyping, as shown in the following excerpt from his essay, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime (1764).” Some of this is quite disturbing – especially the last line.
http://www.public.asu.edu/~jacquies/kant-observations.htm

And there’s some disturbing research into the effects of unconsciously held stereotypes on policing and justice:
http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/research/

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • usa australia world gardening gloves
  • philosophy communication
  • flight attendant pilot has turned
  • free stuff for vulture day celebration
  • handling an angry cat
  • was there truly an inspector abeline?
  • chatting scams
  • what is the food curry
  • dancing on tables snags
  • is there a of money flying out of the pocket?
  • red hedger
  • morris rice cooker manual

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay
Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

“Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices – just recognise them.”

Edward R. Murrow, US broadcaster (1908-1965)

Joke

Jock’s digging peat at his croft when a passing American tourist asks,

“How much land do you have here?”

“About two acres,” Jock replies.

“You know, back home it takes me a day to drive around my ranch!” the American boasts.

“Aye,” says Jock. “I once had a car like that.”

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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