Stereotypes and Ignorances

 

 People have all sorts of stereotypical ideas about other cultures: The French are rude, Germans are militant and direct, all Russians are mobsters, Americans have a crappy education system-Hey one of those is unfortunately true.  you get it, I don’t need to go on. Most of the time, these opinions are based on word of mouth or what we see on television. A lot of these stereotypes come from ignorance for other cultures norms.
It is my opinion that if you go to a place thinking that its people are a certain way, you will never be disappointed by lack of evidence. If you go with an open-mind you will be surprised about how most of the assumptions you had were wrong. When I met Loek’s friends for the first time, I was extremely nervous about what they thought about Americans, (Would they ask me about the Bush years? Would they think that I talked like the Jersey Shore cast? Yes, that show has even made it to The Netherlands.) I was arming myself for what stereotypes I would have to overcome, after all, I was an American.
Much to my relief, the only questions I was asked were about dining habits. I was asked if I ate pancakes everyday like the Americans on tv. To which I answered that I haven’t had a pancake in probably a year and that I live in the South so I eat a lot more waffles, because of Waffle House which is open 24 hours a day. (Man, am I going to miss the hashbrowns)They also asked me if in America it was polite to eat with a hand in your lap. That one threw me for a loop. They explained that was how Americans ate on tv. It wasn’t until later in the week that I realized that when I was eating my left hand in my lap. I noticed that everyone around me was eating with both their knife and fork and I was using only my fork unless I was cutting something. Hence the assumption that it is polite to put your hand in your lap. Because I can’t really put it too many other places.
As I live in The Netherlands, I am sure I will encounter many cultural differences. I will do my best to describe them to my readers not from a place of ignorance but from more of an anthropological study, it was one of my 9 majors in college (some habits die hard)
Do you believe stereotypes about other cultures or do you make your own opinions when you travel?