I logged into my blog after two months of complete neglect to see over 400 comments awaiting moderation. I thought it was the usual spam crap until I started wading through the list. Not sure how this post made it on someone’s radar, but it seems to have spread virally, and I spent a good two hours reading through the over-300 comments added to it. It was thoroughly amusing.
- There were a handful of people who didn’t hesitate to tell me that I was completely ignorant and was completely in the dark about Europeans. They were vastly outnumbered by those who agreed with me completely.
- I was amused by those who confirmed exactly those national stereotypes I had written about (the indignant Greek, the xenophobic Brit, the stupid Swede…ok, I’m joking about the last one)
- I really appreciated the insights about the Portuguese, Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians, ex-Yugoslavs, and others that I didn’t know enough about. (Truth be told, I’m part Croatian, and know a LOT about the ex-Yugoslavs, cak i govorim hrvatski, but at the end of the post I didn’t have the energy to go into it. Fortunately, “Serbo” was, for the most part, right – except for my family, who defy every possible Croatian stereotype, thankfully. He was only partially right about Serbs, but, being a Serb, of course he was.)
- Sorry – I always get “Nordic” and “Scandinavian” mixed up. So Finland is Nordic, but not Scandinavian. I’ll probably fuck it up again in the future. Fortunately, I don’t mix up Slovakia and Slovenia, though. That’s good because most Europeans do. (Add to that the eastern region of Croatia called “Slavonia” and you have a recipe for Europeans eating their words about American geographical ignorance.)
- I am aware that Spaniards are not Latin American. But when you hear a person speaking Spanish, even in Europe, it’s not all that unusual to find out that they’re, in fact, Latin American (the rich variety that moves to Mother Europe). They outnumber Spaniards about 9 to 1 worldwide. But if you dare ask a Spaniard if they’re from Colombia or Argentina, be prepared to wipe some venom from your eyes.
- The nationality that consistently told me I was wrong: POLES. Oh, the irony. I lived in Poland for 2 years (the other 2 years in Europe were spent in the Netherlands). I lived with two Polish families, in different parts of the countries. I speak Polish fluently. Alez Polacy….nawet MIESZKALEM w Polsce, to wiedze chyba wiecej o Wama niz to, co Wy wiecie o samym sobie. W odroznieniu od reszty nacji europejskich (oprocz Finow), jestescie ciszymi introwertykami (nie ma w tym nic zlego!). A nigdy w ogole nie slyszalem ani jednego zartu o Niemcach…..ANI JEDNEGO! Takich zartow “Polak, Rusek i Niemiec” nigdy nie slyszalem.
- Times sure have changed. When I was living in Europe (the beginning of this decade) there was not nearly as much resentment against Poland. But then again that was before Poland joined the EU and Poles streamed out of the country to the west.
Because I’m multilingual, nonreligious, and not fat, I guess I didn’t fit any European stereotypes of Americans, which are much worse than the fanciful (positive) stereotypes Americans generally have about Europeans. I heard “But you’re not a typical American” all the time – which, I think, the usual American would embrace like a badge of honor, but which I felt vaguely insulted by (maybe I’m not typically American, then!). But, regardless, Europeans opened up to me and told me what was generally thought of other nationalities within their Union.
But, of course, these are mostly stereotypes, and very temporal in nature. And the intensity of feeling, of course, increases as you approach the border. Poles and Spaniards have nothing but good things to say each other, because they’re nowhere near each other. But talk to a Pole in Cieszyn and a Czech in Tesin (hint: it’s the same city, split in half), and you’ll suffer 3rd degree burns as each fulminates about the other.
There was a request about how Americans feel about each other. It’s not as nuanced, because our country is much younger, and Americans are far more mobile, but there are stereotypes and feelings. Many of them might not be any surprise to Europeans and others familiar with US geography; others might seem inconsequential.
Give me a day or two and I’ll publish something.
(A boyfriend of a friend of mine was Ghanaian, and worked in Ivory Coast, and told me all about Africans, back in 2002. I wish I could remember all he told me – that was a great listen)
Update: Looks like Metafilter picked it up. Thank you, goodnewsfortheinsane!