How To Deal With Clichés And Prejudices Abroad
Okay, so we all “know” Americans are all fat and obsessed with money, and that the Chinese are obsessed with work; while the Irish love to drink Guinness all day long, whereas the German people prefer the beer. We also all “know” that every Russian is a dangerous communist and that Italians LOVE to eat pastas and pizza while offing people Godfather style.
If clichés were true, France would be reduced to Paris, Chanel and cheese; Brazil to its music and transsexuals; Arabic countries to their deserts and terrorists; and, Australia to surfers and kangaroos. So, seriously, who can actually believes all of this is true?
I admit it would be funny, though, if I actually was living in a country where everyone wears a beret and a striped sweater, while holding baguettes and glasses of wine (I bet you know where I’m from now!). But apart from the joke, when you are an exchange student, wherever you are, clichés and stereotypes are following you – and you also take some with you. But how do you fight against them?
First of all, learn to know people for who they are, and not just see them for the cliché. Talk to them, hang out with them, consider them as individuals and not as member of a certain type of group or culture. Don’t hesitate to ask them about some of the stereotypes you think might apply to them, so then you’ll learn for the future!
And, in the worst case, you will have a great moment laughing about all the clichés people can have that are not true at all. But in the ideal, try to erase everything you think you know and see them with a brand new eye.
Then, try by yourself to fight against those clichés. Wherever you come from, when you will travel, people will have stereotypes in mind about you just according to you nationality or religion. I admit it can be annoying, but most of them will not think these act in a bad way, so try not to feel offended.
But if you show people you are not at all as they think you are, they will probably call into question the idea they have about a country and its inhabitants. To be frank, you might even be, for some people, the only one from your country they will ever meet! So, all your fellow country’s inhabitants count on you to spread the right image!
In the end, being an exchange student is all about meeting new people and learning more about a country and its culture. Part of doing all this is learning to deal with all these prejudices. But you’ll manage very well, as did everyone who was an exchange student before you!