Blog Squad prompt #6:
Hafez Adel, a University of California at Irvine student who studied in
Barcelona, Spain, wrote an article entitled “Slashing Stereotypes” for the
magazine Abroad View. Wrote Adel:
“Living abroad taught me that stereotypes endure because they provide a
comfortable shortcut to understanding complex matters and that they
usually emerge to fill a vacuum of knowledge. Talking with my roommates,
classmates and strangers on the streets of Spain dispelled many of the
stereotypes I held, while studying and hearing stories about Spanish
history dispelled my misconceptions even more… What we [Hafez and his
Spanish roommate] learned is that we know much less about each other’s
cultures than we thought. But what we lost in certainty, we made up for in
understanding.” (Abroad View, Spring 2009, Volume 11, Issue 2, page
Has studying abroad caused you to question any stereotypes? Is there a
stereotype that the residents of your host culture hold about Americans
that has intrigued, surprised, or infuriated you? Why do you think this
stereotype has developed? Do you think the stereotype emerged to “fill a
vacuum of knowledge” as Adel suggests, or do you think there are valid
reasons for the stereotype?
Conversely, are there stereotypes that you held about the residents of
your host country that have been either dispelled or validated? Blogging
about these kinds of considerations can be an excellent way to document
the way in which study abroad is improving your critical thinking skills.
Hmmm…I don’t really like answering this prompt, because all of my stereotypes about the French have been validated.
Plus a few common stereotypes I thought were ignorant before I came here
Of course I don’t stereotype every person I meet simply because they are French. As in any country/culture, a lot of individuals have been drastically different than the norm.
However, the French in general, have proved themselves to be…well…something. I’m not going to go into drastic detail, because I can think of at least 2 French people who read this and I don’t want to offend anyone. I’ll focus on one positive and one negative though, just to give a couple examples.
They do eat well!! Lots of cheese and pastries….mmmm, but also they focus on well balanced meals with fruits and veggies. Something that I think Americans often overlook. Having that balance at EVERY meal is very important here in France. (Even with the balance…the skinny girls everywhere are a mystery…it has gotta be in the genes!)
They strike ALL THE TIME!!
This is driving me off the wall! I’ve been through so many stressful situations because of the strikes! From the ordeal coming home from Rome, to returning from Spain yesterday to discover no one wanted to sell me tickets home from the border to Pau, because they are still on strike after a week! I don’t know enough about the success rate of their strikes to pass a judgment, but I will say it is one thing that has made me appreciate the US more. This was one of those stereotypes I did not think was true before I arrived. Boy was I wrong. So very very wrong.
Okay so onto the US…I’m not sure exactly what the French think of us. Most of them keep rather quiet about their stereotypes around me (for obvious reasons). But I do know they consider American girls to be sluts and think we are all fat. I also think we have validated those to be pretty true.
From what I have seen over here, French girls are actually much much easier than Americans, but when American girls go to Europe (or meet a French guy in the US), things change. Obviously the accent is appealing, and then there is that whole thought process of “I’m young and in Europe – this is my opportunity in life to go crazy!”. Many American girls in USAC have lived up to the stereotype.
And we all know the statistics show that USA is the fattest country, so I couldn’t argue that one even if I disagreed.
There is one stereotype I do disagree with though. That is that the French believe we all chug massive amounts of coca-cola every day. From what I have seen, they drink way way more coke than we do. And the only people I know back home who are addicted, are addicted to diet coke.
Every French person I’ve discussed stereotypes with sincerely believes we can’t get enough of our coke. This one surprises me, but it is a pretty minor stereotype so I don’t even both to argue it most of the time.
In regards to other countries I’ve visited….
~ I was never hit on by an Italian and the biggest stereotype I had was that they are sleazy catcallers (sorry Marco – don’t think that of you at all!), but I do know many girls who had pretty negative experiences in that area.
~ the Spanish are kind of a mystery to me, no stereotypes come to mind for them. Especially since I cannot understand anything they say.
~ The English kids I met here gave me the stereotype that they drink massive amounts of alcohol on a daily basis. And come to think of it…they were all really perverted….
~ Finally there are the Irish. I seem to have this stereotype that they are all light-hearted
Oh and I now know that they know Americans love Irish accents:
I also think I don’t really take them seriously (because of my whole “light-hearted” stereotype). Just last week I met an Irishman in Barcelona who was not breaking any stereotypes for that country by wandering lost and drunk on a subway at 7 am. I needed to catch my bus back to San Sebastian, but luckily I had left early, because he really needed help going home and was begging me to help him find his bus. I spent a good half an hour trying to figure out where he was going and how to get there. Finally I was sending him on his way when he started begging me to come with him. He said we had a connection, because I was “beautiful, sweet and innocent” and he claimed to be charming and said “I have a nice accent”. I told him that is not a connection and he added that he has a swimming pool as well as everything else a girl could want. I shamelessly laughed at this guy (because I don’t think he’ll remember being laughed at) and then finally found a metro worker to ditch him with because by this point I really needed to get to my bus. Probably would have been creeped out by anyone else I met on a subway drunk at 7 am, but I kind of just thought, “meh, he’s Irish”.
What all my close-minded outlooks are leading up to is that I know Studying Abroad is supposed to “expand your horizons”, “open your mind” and all of that junk, but honestly I feel more stereotypical and nationalistic than ever. I sound like a prick in this blog, but that is my honest answer. I would love to travel more and see the world as I age, but I think I’ll always reside in the US. It’s my home and I never realized how important to me our culture is until I left it.