How do you guard against stereotyping other cultures?

How do you guard against stereotyping other cultures? Stereotyping fixes a person  according to a particular cultural type. We all know the common statements and they are usually not very complimentary, such as:

The British are cold.

The Americans are loud.

The Germans are rigid and time obsessed.

The Italians are emotional, and so on.

These kinds of statements are damaging and take no account of regional differences and personal experience.

In intercultural training we try to make generalisations about a culture and then use the generalisation as a platform for deeper analysis of regional cultural differences and personal cultural styles.  We also have to take into account the fact that traditional cultural styles change over time. The British today are generally very informal and are much more emotionally demonstrative than they used to be.

One way to deal with stereotypes is to examine them more deeply. Take a stereotype (which is usually a bit negative) and turn it round to make it positive.

For example, 'The British are cold' could become 'Most British like to preserve their privacy.' 'The Americans are loud,' could become 'Most Americans are outgoing', and so on.

Then you can refine that statement according to the different regions. For example, 'People in the North of England have the reputation of being more outgoing than people in the South.' 

Lastly, you can recognise the importance of personal experience. A person who has travelled abroad and who has lots of international experience will probably be rather different in cultural style from someone who has done all his /her education or work in his/her own country.

Finally, notice the language we use. Avoid phrases like 'The British' and use instead 'Many British' or 'Most British' and 'The British have the reputation of ...' These avoid the blanket statements that stereotype people.

How do you avoid the danger of stereotyping in your class?






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