Let’s be honest with ourselves, we have the capability to be so quick to paint a blanket picture about a country or a culture just from the small bits of information that we see or hear in our daily lives. One article comes up on Facebook about a crime in Colombia and all of a sudden Colombians are criminals. An article surfaces up about Shark fishing in Japan and all of a sudden Japanese people condone animal cruelty. We shouldn’t be so quick to make judgments, but the fact is we do.
It might be difficult to avoid the cognitive imagery we create in our minds but it is important for us understand that those stereotypes are just stereotypes, and in most cases (not all) they are far from the truth. Recognising that we make judgments about others before examining the evidence is an important way to stop prejudice forming.
These stereotypes we create are often influenced by our thoughts of other countries and cultures. So before you think about making stereotypical judgments about a place or culture you have yet to see, hear these stories from travellers around the world about how a stereotype can fade when you open yourself up to new perspectives, and see the world for what it really is, not what people perceive it to be.
Stereotype #1 – People in India are poor and are forced into marriages
Debunked by Pooja from A Bit Of This And A Lot Of That
“Yes India does have a huge population, which is below the poverty line, but what you see in the movies is just to make the films sell. People do live in the slums but the slums have thriving industries that could put rich businessmen to shame. The middle class is growing rapidly and the buying power of the average Indian has never been as great as it is now. There are very few women who do not own at least a bit of gold. Have you heard of the ‘Big Fat Indian Wedding’? That is the best example to show how not poor an average Indian is.
Yes arranged marriages still exist, and we’re not weird about it. How it happens is a lot more organic than it used to be several years ago. Just think of it as if you are being set up on a date, just that your parents set up the date. If all goes well, you date a bit and get married. Not different than your regular dating scene, right?”
Stereotype #2 – Americans are obese
Debunked by Miranda from Mirambling
“I was staying at a friend’s house in Hamburg, Germany. One night they had a BBQ at which I was the only foreigner and the only one grilling embarrassing little veggie dogs amidst a grill full of big, juicy bratwursts. A guy about the same age as me sat down and said inquisitively in English “So you’re American, right?” “Yes,” I answered cautiously. Then he continued “But you’re not fat. I thought all Americans were fat?” I know he wasn’t trying to insult me, most of my German friends are pretty direct so I laughed it off and explained that there is a rather complicated obesity epidemic in my country but that there are still many people in my country that he would consider fit or healthy.”
Stereotype #3 – Germans are unfriendly
Debunked by Marisa from The Traveling Storygirl
“When you think of Germany three things usually come to mind: World War II, beer, and unfriendly people. After living here for two semesters I can somewhat agree. Most Germans will not be overly friendly and talkative to people like Americans are. It’s just their way of life. This way of life often leads to the stigma that Germans are unfriendly people and overall are not nice people. That stigma could not be further from the truth. I have made some great friends here in Heidelberg who have never been unfriendly towards me. Once we became friends, they were even friendlier. The Germans just don’t see the point in being anything but polite to strangers. They don’t want to talk on the buses or trains or even at the check out counter. They want to mind their own business and focus on what they want to do. For those of you who think Germans are unfriendly, they’re not. It’s a different culture, which has different norms.”
Stereotype #4 – Arkansas is hicks-ville
Debunked by Emily from Adventures and Kindness
“I’m from Arkansas, a rather overlooked state in the U.S. It is often stereotyped as being full of stupid hicks who walk around barefoot and marry their cousins. Even other citizens think its just full of uneducated country bumpkins. Many travelers to the U.S. think that it isn’t worth their time because it doesn’t have any large cities, but in reality is filled with beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, hiking trails, and so much more!
I’ve met a lot of travelers while also visiting big cities like Los Angeles or New York City. Many Europeans have never even heard of Arkansas, or if they have they believe the stereotypes that they see on American T.V. Shows like 19 Kids and Counting with the Duggars have definitely not helped our case! I love telling them about the beauty of Arkansas and how it is the perfect place for any traveler who loves the outdoors. We may not wear shoes all the time, but that’s about the only stereotype that is actually true!”
Stereotype #5 – Russia has only uninspiring war-torn old buildings
Debunked by Vivian from Miss Happy Feet
“You’ll have to redefine uninspiring, I guarantee! The St Basil Cathedral is one of the most visually striking man-made structures I’ve ever seen. The candy-structured building is situated right in the heart of Moscow on the ever-so-crowded Red Square. The cruellest Tsar in Russian history, Tsar Ivan the Terrible, built this famous site that seems like it came right out of a fairy-tale! Now, take a PZD intercity train up to the north, where the “Venice of the North” is located. Saint Petersburg is named the most beautiful city in Russia for a good reason. With all those picturesque bridges over beautiful canals, world famous Hermitage and the colourful Church of Our Savior On Spilled Blood, buildings in Saint Petersburg is far from uninspiring. If it is possible, visit in the end of June, when you will have extra time to explore the city during a “White Night”.
Stereotype #6 – New Yorkers are rude
Debunked by Kacy from Travel Takes Girl
“Now when I travel I know to completely dismiss stereotypes before I even leave, but on my first international trip to the USA I wasn’t so wise and arrived in the Big Apple with the knowledge (or so I was told) that New Yorkers were incredibly rude and brash. This was so wrong. Instead I met people everywhere who would smile and say hello, who would give me directions or even take me to where I needed to be. I even had one family adopt me during a night out at the theatre where they treated me to wine, dessert and a taxi home! Moral of the story: make your own judgments wherever you may roam.”
So there you have it, the evidence that sometimes things are more than what they seem. If you find yourself forming a stereotype in your own mind, remember to take some time and realise that overarching ideas can’t be formed on small pieces of information. Let’s broaden our thoughts and change the way we see the world.
Do you have a stereotype to debunk? Get in touch and share your story.