I was in Vienna at a wedding this weekend and mingled with the other guests. When they found out I lived in Sweden, they wanted to talk about Stockholm and Swedish people. They were very pleasant and what was interesting is how stereotypes persist. Amongst other stereotypes, they thought Swedes were reserved and formal. When I explained that maybe some are but it’s not the case entirely,they actually looked sceptical.
This is the funny thing about stereotypes – they’re often outdated and almost always wrong. How can a single characteristic be applied to 9,000,000 Swedes, or 70 million Brits, and still be accurate? Stereotypes can be fun to talk about but if we start believing them, we’re in trouble. Instead, let’s look at the individual to form our perceptions of that person (understanding we can still be wrong) and try to avoid sweeping condemnations of the collective. I think we’ll get a lot further in our cultural sensitivity that way.