National stereotypes

JUNE 2011
National stereotypes
Definition: A stereotype
is "...a fixed,
overgeneralised belief
about a particular group or
class of
people.” (Cardwell, 1996).
In other words
stereotyping is believing
that people of a certain
group, race or religion all
have the same
characteristics when they
Learning from the media
and communicating with
people of some European
countries, we pick up a lot
of stereotypes about other
nations. In every country
there are plenty of
stereotypes about
residents, some may be
true but most of them are
untrue and very wrongful.
This issue of our magazine
deals with stereotypes of
some of European nations
and what people around
the world see as the
stereotypes of them, but
remember that it is all for
fun. Humanity is defined
by how good we have
been to ourselves and
other people, not by the
country we live in.
Heaven is where the cooks are French,
the police are British,
the mechanics are German,
the lovers are Italian
and everything is organized by the Swiss
Hell is where the cooks are British,
the police are German,
the mechanics are French,
the lovers are the Swiss,
And everything is organized by the Italians.
The British
Personal characteristic
British people live in the UK. They are people who live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern
Ireland. British people can also either be English, Scottish, Welsh, or Irish (from Northern Ireland
The British are said to be reserved in manners, dress and speech. They are famous for their
politeness, self-discipline and especially for their sense of humour. British people have a strong
sense of humour which sometimes can be hard for foreigners to understand.
"No hugs, dear. I'm British. We only show affection to dogs and horses."
- Jocelyn Dashwood
Appearance, clothes, fashion
The most common image people have of a typical Englishman is a man wearing a bowler hat,
a pin striped suit, a newspaper under the arm and carrying a long unopen umbrella."
Favorite topics for conversation
The weather, definitely. As this is impersonal topic. The British are reserved as already
mentioned and they don´t like speaking about themselves and their private life.
Pastime/leisure time activities
Saturday is traditionally the day for shopping and watching sports.
The British are known as a nation of gardeners. Most
people have a garden on their property. Gardening
has been a popular pastime since Roman times.Many
people in Britain are proud of their houses and
gardens. They want their houses and gardens to look
nice. Every town in Britain has one or more DIY (Do it
Yourself) centres and garden centres.
Many of the world's famous sports began in Britain,
including cricket, football, lawn tennis, golf and rugby
England's national sport is cricket although to many
people football (soccer) is seen as our national sport.
Football is our most popular sport. Some of England's
football teams are world famous, the most famous
being Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Going to the pub is the most popular leisure activity outside the home.
Pubs are an important part of British life. People talk, eat, drink, meet their friends and relax
There is an English saying My home – my castle.
The most popular type of home in England is semi-detached (more than
27% of all homes), closely followed by detached then terraced.
Britain is famous for being a nation of animal lovers, and many people in
Britain keep pets. More than 50 per cent of British families own a pet. We
keep some 7.7 million cats, 6.6 million dogs, one million budgerigars and
18 million goldfish.
Holiday destinations
Two-thirds of all British people have their holidays in July and August, which are the most popular
months for holidays. English school children are on holiday from the end of July to the beginning
of September.
The traditional British holiday is a seaside holiday. There are places near the sea, such as
Blackpool, Scarborough and Bournemouth.
Favourite food/drink
British food has traditionally been based on beef, lamb, pork, chicken and fish and generally
served with potatoes and one other vegetable. The most common and typical foods eaten in
Britain include the sandwich, fish and chips, pies like the cornish pasty, trifle and
roasts dinners. Some of our main dishes have strange names like Bubble &
Squeak and Toad-in-the-Hole.
The English like tea and drink it in all possible ocassions:
Tea solves everything. You're a bit cold? Tea. Your boyfriend has just left you?
Tea. You've just been told you've got cancer? Tea. Coordinated terrorist attack
on the transport network bringing the city to a grinding halt? TEA DAMMIT!
The British are proud of
Their country, the Queen and Royal family.
Good Luck
Lucky to meet a black cat. Black Cats are featured on many good luck greetings
cards and birthday cards in England.
Lucky to touch wood. We touch; knock on wood, to make something come true.
Lucky to find a clover plant with four leaves.
White heather is lucky.
A horseshoe over the door brings good luck. But the horseshoe needs to be the
right way up. The luck runs out of the horseshoe if it is upside down.
Horseshoes are generally a sign of good luck and feature on many good luck
Bad Luck
Unlucky to walk underneath a ladder.
Seven years bad luck to break a mirror. The superstition is supposed to have
originated in ancient times, when mirrors were considered to be tools of the
Unlucky to see one magpie, lucky to see two, etc..
Unlucky to spill salt. If you do, you must throw it over your shoulder to counteract
the bad luck.
Unlucky to open an umbrella in doors.
The number thirteen is unlucky. Friday the thirteenth is a very unlucky day.
Friday is considered to be an unlucky day because Jesus was crucified on a
Unlucky to put new shoes on the table.
The Scots
Personal characteristics
By world standards Scots are very well-educated
people. And although the location of Scotland,
tucked away in a distant corner of Europe, might
have once kept Scots out of touch with the rest of
the world, they have had, since the 18th century,
a distinctly global outlook. Generations of Scottish
emigration means that few Scots are without
relatives in countries such as New Zealand,
Australia, Canada, South Africa, or America.
The Scots view of themselves is often quite difficult
for visitors to understand. That view tends to be
a mixture of outrageous pride and incredible
cynicism. It's a complex mixture.
Typical Scots can never praise Scotland without a hint of irony in their voice - and can never
criticize it without betraying a deep love of their country.
Scots have a deadpan style of humor; a reluctance to express enthusiasm for anything in direct
terms - thus, " It's no bad, " becomes the equivalent of " It's fantastic. "
Pastime activities
On many occasions - at New Year, at weddings, ceilidhs, at parties, at major
soccer games - Scots will dance, sing, kiss, embrace, cheer and let
themselves go. Scots also have a tendency towards what can only be
described as sentimentality. When a few Scots are gathered together,
looking back on a history of lost causes and what-might-have-beens, it can
very quickly bring on a general communal malaise. Add a few beers, the
right music, or poetry, or song, and the combination can be melancholic in its
effect. Not that all Scots would describe themselves as traditional-music
fans. But sit in a Scottish pub at the end of the evening when a singer strikes
up the opening of Scotland's only real national anthem, " Flower of Scotland,
" and you will see the tears well up in the eyes of grown men.
Kilts probably come to your mind when you think of Scottish fashion.
The kilt is the symbol most people think of as irrevocably Scottish. The kilt has its origins in
ancient Highland garb but despite its origins, both Highlanders and Lowlanders are proud to wear
During re-enactments fairs, Tartan days and other such occasions celebrating all things Scottish,
the kilt turns up in all its glory. It has become the accepted traditional costume around the world,
and like all such attire it is usually worn on special occasions as proof of continuing cultural
heritage and national pride.
A joke
Did you hear about the thoughtful Scotsman who was heading out to the
pub? He turned to his wee wife before leaving and said, 'Jackie - put
your hat and coat on lassie.'
She replied, 'Awe Iain that's nice - are you taking me to the pub with
'Nah, just switching the central heating off while I'm oot.'
The French
Personal characteristic
The French are friendly, helpful, romantic, sophisticated.
The French will say "pas mal" (not bad) even if they win the lottery!
They are not loud, and they are reserved in their expressions.
The French strike a lot, smoke a lot and are hypochondriacs (pharmacy can be foun almost in
every street!).
Appearance, clothes, fashion
Fashion and style is often closely associated with France. The French are, as
a whole, well dressed and take pride in their overall appearance. Jeans, tshirts, and sweatpants are far less common in France.
And they never wear sandals with socks in them and plastic bags!
Women are known for their high heels, and the graphic t-shirts. There is
a feeling of formality, and well-made, well-tailored clothes are the norm.
The French do not like foreigners and their president.
Pastime/leisure time activities
The game of boules, otherwise known as pétanque, is
perhaps the sport that is closest to French hearts.
Similar to British lawn bowling or Italian bocce, the
French version is traditionally played with metallic balls
on a dirt surface beneath plane trees, with a glass of
pastis at hand. The local boulodrome is a social focal
point in southern France.
The object of the game is to throw your balls — usually
with somewhat of an arched back-spin — so that they
land closer to the small object ball (cochonnet ) than
those of your opponent, or strike and drive the object
ball toward your other balls and away from your
The French have a lot of children because the maternity leave is well-paid.
Holiday destinations
Many French go to the South of France, and relax on the beaches along the Mediterranean Sea,
Alps, Provence. Camping is very popular and French campsites are wonderful.
Favourite food/drink
The French love their food, and mealtime is a leisurely affair to be spent with family and friends.
The French eat slowly and long. The culture and customs of French eating trend toward smaller
portions of rich foods. The French sit at the table to eat (not in front of the television), and debate,
enjoy not only their meals but also their friends. And wine almost always accompanies the meal.
French wine is immensely popular all over the world. The country is one of the largest wine
producing nations in the world. There are 17 distinct wine producing regions like Bordeaux,
Burgundy, Champagne, Loire and Provence that continue with the tradition of wine making in
The French are proud of
their nation, their country and their language.
The Italians
Personal characteristic
The Italians are sociable and friendly. They often
gesticulate and talk loudly, are short temperred and
always start discussions about the most banal topics.
Italians are good lovers but bad workers.
Spaghetti, mafia, musical accent, gestures, romantic,
loud, fashion, chaos - these are all words often used to
describe Italians.
They are chaotic. Nothing in Italy is well organized or
easy-to-use. You have to fight to get the smallest scrap
of information. Don't be surprised to see Italians fighting
to get into the buses or jumping the queue to be served
first at the coffee bar. Italy’s slow-moving and stressful
bureaucracy has made us more pushy and resourceful.
Appearance, clothes, fashion
They are also fashion victims: you can recognise Italians by the way they dress from the head to
feet (strictly black Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses; Calvin Klein boxers; Levi's jeans; Gucci
handbags; tanned skin all year long; perfect make up). They will dress stylishly for every possible
occasion. You won't ever see an Italian wearing sporting short pants combined with long socks:
it's simply against our fashion rules (let alone our sense of style)!
However, Italian men are often presented as arrogant machos who walk around with a shirt open
to show their pertorial muscles and chest hair.
Italians like their regular time to rest between 1 and 4 p.m.
They like good melas, good strong coffee, music, matching fashion accessories.
They do not like cultural barbarians and Mafia.
The Mafia is real: nothing to be proud of it but it does exists, especially in the South and the
island of Sicily. Obviously, not every Italian is a Mafioso and most will feel offended and insulted if
you use the term, even when if you mean it as a joke.
The Italians do enjoy romance (just like everyone else - more or less) and maybe the stereotype
of the Italian romantic lover is not completely dead. An Italian guy will never let a girl go home
unescorted. Also, the macho ideal is still alive and well in Italian culture.
Favorite topics for conversation
Italians love to talk. The way they speak is completely original. The
most important elements of communication are the gestures: the
way they move their hands, hold their heads, move their shoulders,
their facial expressions. They simply cannot talk without their hands.
Italians speak very loudly in public whether on the bus, in the street
or on the phone. Don't worry, they are not all deaf. A lot of foreigners
think they are fighting when they talk that way but it's just the way
they are.
Italian families are characterized by a strong community.
Italians stay at their parents' home until they have saved up enough money to pay for a flat. This
can take a while, which is why many Italians leave their homes when they’re already 30 years
old. This, by the way, has earned Italians a reputation of being mummy’s boys.
Family is the most important thing in their lives and male as well as female roles are based on it.
Men should be strong and protective, whereas women should be gentle and feminine.
Holiday destinations
They like to travel a lot, but do not speak many foreign languages - maybe because they trust
body language more than words.
Favourite food/drink
The Italians are said to be excellent cooks.
A good meal should always be shared with someone else. It is a way
to share conversation and jokes, forget about work for a couple of
hours and enjoy life. Be assured, an Italian will always find the time to
eat properly.
Spaghetti and pasta in general are sacred. You cannot take pasta
away from an Italian meal otherwise it won't be complete. A typical
Italian meal usually includes:
Starter (primo): pasta
Main course (secondo): fish or meat with salad
Fruit or dessert (dolce)
The Italians are incredibly superstitious, and their blind belief in dark forces killed about
60 thousand black cats a year (!). For Italians, these animals are
the epitome of evil and bring bad luck.
The Evil Eye (Malocchio)
Concepts of the Evil Eye are some of the most ancient and
prevalent superstitions. Every culture seems to have their own
version of the Evil Eye and their own ways to combat it. One thing
they all have in common is that the Evil Eye is caused by jealousy
and envy. By coveting somebody's possessions or more
importantly admiring another family's newborn baby can cause a
curse, even if envious person did not mean it.
The Devil's Horn (Corno)
An offshoot of the Evil Eye curse is the use of the Corno, or
Devil's Horn amulet. These
twisted red coral, gold or silver amulets are often worn as
necklaces by men to ward off curses on their "manliness" very similar to a Mojo. The devil´s horns can often be seen
sold in Italian jewelry stores and especially during Italian
traditional festivals.
No Birds in the House
Italians often believe that having a bird in the house brings
bad luck. I have heard this growing up and none of the older
generations I knew to never had pet birds, but today many
Italian American families have pet birds. Some versions of the
superstition include even bird feathers, especially peacock
feathers with their potentially "Evil" eye. I was told growing up
that the reason for birds being bad luck stemmed from the
Bible, when St. Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times
before the cock crowed.
The Poles
Personal characteristic
The Poles very religious, and patriotic,love freedom.
God, honour, the motherland - this has been the motto
of the many generations of Poles who have fought for
The Poles are a bit lazy and always complaining.
Never expect, that if you ask somebody in Poland how
he or she is, you will get a simple ‗I‘m fine‘ answer.
Most probably you will get a long list of lists of all the
failures and bad luck that the person encountered
recently. Unfortunately complaining very often stops
them from doing. But what is important – the Poles are
aware of that and even make jokes about it.
Some Euroean nations sees the Poles as car thiefs and there is even a joke: If your car was
stolen, you should go to Poland. It surely would be there.
Like all Slavic people, Poles are emotional and sentimental; approach life with passion, but
also with a certain amount of diffidence. They will do anything for their family and friends,
they would give them the last shirt off their backs or sit down with them to eat a barrel of salt.
We are a little worse when it comes to equal rights; although we open doors for women, we make
it difficult for them to achieve career success.
Appearance, clothes, fashion
Polish girls and women are said to be the most beautiful in Europe. Mostly they have long blond
hair, pale velvet skin and blue eyes.
Poles are said to be fond of coloured clothes.
What does the bride wear at a Polish wedding?
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, something green,
someting yellow, someting purple.
Pastime/leisure time activities
The Poles love picking up wild mushrooms and berries,
sailing and fishing.
A typical family in Poland has one or two children.The most
popular names are: Natala and Maciek. Their hobbie are:
playing computer games, reading books.Polish typical
family has one family pet - a dog.The family has breakfast
together and the favourite meal is scrambled eggs.
At the weekend they spend time together and once a year
they go abroad.
Holiday destinations
Almost 80 % of the people who go for holidays spend them
in Poland. The main reason of this situation is the lack of
money which affects most often the elderly and children.
Poles do their best: they visit relatives and friends, spend
their free time in allotment gardens or go camping.
The most popular Polish destinations are the Baltic sea,
Mazurian Lakes, the mountains and historical cities such as
Cracow, Gdańsk or Warsaw.
Favourite food/drink
They say in Poland: The way to a human is through the stomach.
The Poles also say, "Jedzcie, pijcie i popuszczajcie pasa"... "Eat, drink and
loosen your belt".
Bigos (Hunter´s stew) and pierogi.
Vodka Zubrovka is perhaps the most famous and popular.
Pierogi: very traditional small white dumplings, larger than ravioli, filled with
sauerkraut with mushrooms, cheese and potatoes or with fruit. They can be also with meat
(z mięsem).
Bigos: appetizing, seasoned "hunter" stew made from sauerkraut with chunks of various meats
and sausages.
Red slip-knots are also a popular superstition in Poland. As red is said, in many cultures, to undo
spells, it is very common for Polish people to attach red slip-knots to a babies stroller or clothes
to protect the baby if someone looks at it with an evil eye.
People also believe in the magic power of lucky objects such as horseshoes, elephants with
raised trunks and four-leaf clovers. Many superstitious people wear talismans or carry lucky
stones to scare evil spirits away. Some students often bring their lucky pens to exams, and
others who graduate from school wear red underwear during the
traditional ball, which is organized a hundred days before final exams
and then they wear it on the day of the exam.
Polish jokes
Identity crisis
There was once a Polish man who was extremely sad with life
because people always made fun of him. He decided to do something
about it. He sat down to contemplate the situation, and after a few
hours, he thought, "I have never seen anyone making fun of Italians.
So, if I start talking and behaving like them, no one will be able to
make out that I am Polish and make fun of me."
He went into isolation for three months and after a lot of practice, he
walked confidently into a shop and said, "I am very hungry. Give me
some pepperoni and zucchini." Immediately, the man behind the
counter said "Are you Polish?" This guy was taken aback and he
repeated his request.
The man behind the counter said, "Are you Polish or not?" This man was finally very ashamed
and amazed at the shop owner's discerning ability and so he admitted to the fact after which he
asked, "But how did you know?" The shopkeeper replied, "This is a hardware store!"
A Guy walks into a bar, sits downs and starts to make conversation with guy at next table. "Want
to hear the world's worst Polish Joke?" The other guy says "Sure, but before you tell it, let me tell
you something. See those two bikers over there by the door, those tow real mean-looking dudes?
They're Polish. And those two bouncers by the bar? They're Polish too! The Bartender is also
Polish! And one more thing pal, I'm Polish too... Now, do you still want to tell that joke of yours?"
"Hell no!", replies the first guy, "I don't want to have to explain it six times!"
Ending it
A Pole came home one day from work, hung up his coat, took off his hat and walked into his
bedroom shouting "honey I'm home!"
What should he see but his best friend in bed with his wife. Infuriated, he rushed to the
cupboard, pulled out his gun and put it to his head. His wife started laughing. "Don't laugh!" he
screams. "You're next!"
The Spanish
Personal characteristic
Spain is the land of sunshine, beaches, bullfights and flamenco. It is a very
popular destination for British criminals on the run.
Spanish people are said to be quite lazy, they like the siesta.
The Spanish way of life is somewhat slower than the rest of Europe, especially
in the south. This may be seen as lazy, but when the Spanish work, they work
Spaniards in general are a very friendly, warm and fun-loving race.
Appearance, clothes, fashion
Spaniards are temperamental, affectionate and good looking. Many people have tanned skin and
deep black eyes, like crying in funerals and usually shout out while they are driving their cars.
In general the Spanish have a very modern outlook on clothing. They are keen on designer
clothes but quality is more important than a designer name. Spanish made clothes tend to be
high quality and reasonably priced.
Teenage girls tend to wear trousers more than skirts. Denim is definitely 'in'. Teenage boys are
keen on designer wear and appearance is important to them. Mature Spaniards dress
conservatively and with style. Older men in particular tend to wear high quality clothing.
Spaniards often start the evening with el paseo, a leisurely stroll through
the main streets or along the paseo maritimo in the coastal resorts.
Much of Spanish life is lived in the streets and the atmosphere is
especially vibrant at fiesta time. On a warm evening the street cafes and
bars can fill to capacity as people sit and relax. The nightclubs open late at
night and don't close until late the following day.
It is quite common for life to begin when the sun goes down, especially in
the summer. They are a very happy people who enjoy life to the full. They
love music, dance and food.
Pastime/leisure time activities
Spain is the land of fiestas. Every city, town and village has a fiesta once a year. Many times it is
to honor their patron saint. People in Spain like to have fun and the fiesta is the time to have it.
This is the reason that many foreigners come to visit Spain, to see and enjoy the fiesta.
Most of the fiestas are very colorful events, when the Spanish put on the costumes of their region
and cook the food their region is famous for.
Favourite food/drink
The Spanish love paella and in almost every part of Spain one can find some sort of paella in the
restaurants. In many parts of Spain, when people go out to the countryside to partake of nature,
instead of a barbecue, they will cook a paella. The paella has many different forms and the most
famous one is the paella Valenciana.
The Spanish love their ham.
The most appreciated ham among the Spanish is the ―pata negra‖ from the province of Huelva.
The pigs from this region have black hooves, and that is the meaning of ―pata negra‖. The pigs
eat acorns in oak forests. The acorns have very high contents of antioxidants, so the ham from
these pigs are quite lean and healthy.
In Spain, the most unlucky day is Tuesday the 13th.
It is also said that eating the last olive or peanut on the plate brings bad luck.
When offering a toast, always look every person in the group in the eye.
Never toast with a glass of water. If you do, you will get seven years‗ bad sex!
A lighter should not be passed among more than three people.
A salt shaker should not be passed from hand to hand. Instead, it must be placed on the table for
the other person to pick i tup themselves.
If, while sweeping, the broom hits the feet of a single person, that person will never get married.
What are they proud of?
Spanish people are very proud of their history and culture and are very happy when foreigners
take an interest. They love to show off and this is so evident in their dance such as flamenco.
hrdý na
proud of
fier de
The Finnish
Personal characteristics
The fascinating character of the Finns can be summed up in a
word "sisu". The best way to describe it is a quiet determination:
the strength to face difficulties head on, to not give up, to quietly
go about one’s business in hard times.
The Finns are considered to be quiet, uncommunicative and a bit
unsocial, which may be caused by their previous living in wild
nature, namely forests.
Finns listen very carefully. They seldom interrupt the speaker;
they usually wait for him/her to finish and then speak.
Finns don't often address one another by each others' first names
unless they are close.
They are highly competitive – they host championships in
almost anything.
Other aspects of the Finnish character are easy to deduce from
what you see around you when you visit Finland. Litter is rare.
People wait their turn in queues. Young people offer seats to the elderly on public transport and
nobody would put their feet up on the seats of a train without first removing their shoes.
Even though many Finns suffer from depressions, they do not like showing anger in public. They
tend to bottle up their emotions with obvious effect. Finland is a country, where wearing your
heart on your sleeve is the real taboo.
Appearance and fashion
Finns are usually tall, blond and they have blue eyes and white skin. Women are known for their
beauty all around the world. Finnish people wear clothes with bright colors and made of warm
fabrics, in order to combat the typical months of cold and darkness.
Likes and dislikes
The Finns like the technology (Nokia), especially the cell phones and even though they do not
talk much, they would not go out without their handy. Finns like vodka and they are proud of their
own numerous vodka blends.
Favorite topics for conversation
As Finns do not speak much, their favorite topics for conversation are unknown.
Favorite pastimes
While most people would think of a sauna as relaxing, the Finns have
made it into a sport; every year, there are international sauna
championships held in Finland. Finns love endurance sports and if
they are winter sports, so much the better. Nordic skiing is more
popular than downhill even though there are plenty of opportunities
for downhill. Extreme sports are very popular as well and if there is
jumping high up in the sky and twisting around involved in the sport,
you can bet, there are many Finns on top of the chart.
Finns love music and dancing, especially tango, polka etc. There is
a dance restaurant in every town.
Finns also like gambling. One can place a bet on anything from first
score in a hockey game to who will win the singing competition.
Lottery is very popular too.
Finns love motor sports. There are many famous drivers, who come
from Finland, for example Kimi Räikkönen, Mika Häkkinen (both F1).
Just about every Finnish family has a place to go by the lake, little cottage and a sauna and they
like spending their time closer to the nature fishing and picking their own berries.
Meals and drinks
Fins are crazy about fast foods, but besides McDonald’s and such they have their own chain of
fast foods which use much healthier ingredients.
Walking under a ladder is considered bad luck.
Never hug someone across the threshold (in your home), it is considered bad luck.
If you pick up a snail and it pokes its eyes out after you ask: “Snail, snail, show your horns, will it
be sunny tomorrow?” it will be sunny. If not, expect rain.
If you kill a spider, it will rain the next day.
What are they proud of?
Finns are proud of their nature, system of sauna, holidays and cultural tradition.
How many Finns does it take to change a light bulb?
Five. One to hold the bulb and four to drink enough Kosu (vodka) until the room starts spinning .
The participants in this issue competition were to create a picture of a Czech representative.
They tried to describe a typical Czech from different points of view, such as prejudices,
personal characteristics, appearance, likes and dislikes, family, favourite pastime activities etc.
More than 30 students of the second and the third form participated with their works which in
many cases were quite original and interesting. We have chosen the best ones:
1st place: Petra Němcová 3. A
2nd place: Lucie Zíková 3. A
3rd place: Patricie Kočová 2. L.
The following pages show extracts of the winners´ works.
The complete presentations can be seen on the school websites.
Petra Němcová