Stumbled across this graphic on ‘How to be Swedish – a guide for Southern Europeans’. I have to say that there are many things I don’t recognize from living among Swedes. ‘Eat eggs every day’? ‘Complain about the Danish’? ‘Drink alcohol until intoxicated every day’?
With tongue in cheek, one can have a giggle at images like this. As long as one remembers it’s all just stereotyping and not the truth, then it’s ok. In my work with cultural training, this is an issue that comes up time and time again. Just when we think our society has risen above stereotyping, our cognitive biases take hold and we start putting people in boxes again. This is the biggest barrier to intercultural exchange, as it effects how we communicate and how we trust. It is both a stumbling block and a danger.
It’s good to be aware of cultural tendencies, or potential stereotypes, but then we must never forget we are meeting an individual. We don’t meet a culture, we meet a person. If we can always keep that in mind, then we are closer to creating an interaction based on curiosity and openness rather than on prejudice.