17. Stereotypes

Today we branch out and skim over a touchy subject that affects all of us whether we like it or not.  If you are easily offended and unable to stare humour straight in the eye then I suggest you forego today’s blog and go and tend to your vegetable patch…

I’ll give you a minute to decide…right then…

Have you ever wondered what other people may think of you?  Not on a personal level, but as a representative of your homeland, what are you being stereotyped as?  As we all know the UAE is a desert land full of people from all 4 corners of the globe.  With the possible exception of Greenland and obviously Israel, you will be sure to find someone from every conceivable country here in the Emirates.  So you meet someone at a bar, what is going through their minds?  You can’t escape it.

The other week I went to my local bar with my girlfriend.  We perched ourselves at the bar where a friendly man – who I suspect had been drinking since the night before – proceeded to ask me where I was from.  I never know how to answer this seemingly simple question, what do I say?  I’m from the United Kingdom?  I’m from Great Britain?  Just Britain? England? UK? The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?  It’s a minefield, no wonder people get confused.  Anyway, I responded with “London, fella.”

It was then that I could see his mind turning over; he was stereotyping me, or at least trying to.  I paused and thought what stereotype could I actually be?  Am I a drunken football hooligan who eats paving slabs and babies for breakfast?  Am I an old Etonian who goes to work in a black suit and a bowler hat?  Do I sweep chimneys for a living and pick pockets on the side?  I spent some time thinking about this by which point the man had moved onto asking my girlfriend where she hailed from.  She is Irish and no sooner had she told him as much, he had replied, “Ah! Ireland!  Guinness and Leprechauns!”  He seemed overjoyed that he was able to build such a rapport with her so quickly.  However he and I still struggled to make a connection and the cold silence continued.

I say there old bean, I haven't the foggiest what that foreign chap just said...

If my conversational opponent was French, I would be thinking garlic and mimes.  Mexican?  Obviously I would be asking him where his sombrero was.  We think that all Emiratis are billionaires with Toyota Land Cruisers.  South African?  He would naturally be wearing a rugby shirt.  What if he was Australian?  He would be wearing a hat with corks hanging from it and be drinking a can of XXXX of course. If he was Turkish I would expect him to be wearing a Fez.  Argentinean?  Well naturally we would discuss the pros and cons of Maradona, Sean Penn and the Falklands.  If he arrived with a massive camera around his neck and a Mickey Mouse T-Shirt on then I would peg him as Japanese.  If he was American then I would expect him to either be a Cowboy or Ken Block.  If he was Swiss I would ask him for a decent watch.  Indian?  Well naturally he would have a moustache and be wearing a shirt with slacks and sandals, and if he was Albanian then I would be keeping a close eye on my car keys…

The point is us Brits (sorry, apparently we English have brought the Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish down with us) really aren’t very popular, something to do with world domination a couple of hundred years ago or something.  As such I fear that the rest of the world hasn’t been totally honest with us and that they are keeping their stereotypes of us under lock and key for now.  Until someone can blurt out something like “Queen Elizabeth and fish & chips and Falklands!” every time we tell them that we are British, English, UK-ish or whatever we will never know what people really think about us…and that is actually quite scary.

So if you are reading this, inebriated man from the other week, please tell me, did you envisage me wearing a bowler hat or football shirt?  Or – gulp – something else…?  Because I was only joking when I said “I bet you drive a Land Cruiser”…

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3 thoughts on “17. Stereotypes

  1. Me & Beirut says:

    So interesting and so funny 😉

  2. Dan Parker says:

    really enjoyable !!

  3. This made me chuckle… especially the British stereotypes. And I’m a Brit…

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