Monday, April 12, 2010


Have you ever been told that you are guilty of using stereotypes? Many of us are told that we should avoid stereotypes at all costs. Some stereotypes are so far out that one can't take them seriously. For example, there's the nursery rhyme that begins "Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief..." Because of my upbringing in England, I learned that the Scots were mean and the Irish were drunkards. Such stereotypes are obviously prejudicial.

However, few, if any, stereotypes are made up out of "whole cloth". There is often some folk wisdom behind them: just because some concept depends on a stereotype doesn't mean it is always wrong.

My late mother, who died in 1996 at the age of 105, had a favorite joke. She said that Heaven was where the French were the cooks, the English were the police, the Swiss were the organizers, the Germans were the mechanics, and the Italians were the lovers.

Hell, on the other hand, was where the Italians were the organizers, the French were the mechanics, the English were the cooks, the Germans were the police and the Swiss were the lovers.

See? The whole joke is based on stereotypes. Most of us would say that there is a good deal of truth behind these supposed national characteristics.

Judging people based on stereotypes is clearly inappropriate. Nevertheless, we probably all know of situations in which the stereotype accurately reflects some personality characteristics. There is certainly some truth when I sign myself, as I sometimes do, as "Nitpicker". It's quite ok to grin at that!


  1. But Nigel, if I understand your reasoning, it would only be a stereotype if after knowing you for a time we all assumed that all Expat Englishmen were nitpickers!

  2. 旁觀自己的悲傷是解脫,主觀自己的悲傷是更加悲傷........................................