Because international dating is trending, more and more couples come from different cultures. But how about cultural stereotypes?

  • What is a cultural stereotype?

We do not change our stereotypes very easily. Even when there is lots of evidence against the stereotype, we often keep our obviously-wrong beliefs. When we do change the stereotypes, we do so in one of three ways:

  1. Bookkeeping model: As we learn new contradictory information, we slowly adjust the stereotype to adapt to the new information. We usually need quite a lot of repeated information for each change.
  2. Conversion model: We throw away the old stereotype and start again. This is often used when there is significant evidence against the stereotype.
  3. Subtyping model: We create a new stereotype that is a sub-classification of the existing stereotype. Thus, if we have a stereotype for Americans, a visit to New York may result in us having a ‘New Yorkers are different’ sub-type.

We often remember stereotypes in two parts. First there is a description and the attributes. We may add examples to this to prove the case, such as ‘the policeman next door’. We may also remember them hierarchically, such as ‘black people’, ‘Africans’, ‘Ugandans’, ‘Ugandan military’, etc., with each lower level having the characteristics of the higher order, with additional characteristics added.

Stereotyping can go around in circles. Men stereotype women and women stereotype men. In certain societies this is made worse because the stereotyping of women pushes them together more and they create men as more of an out-group. The same thing happens with different racial groups, such as ‘white/black’.

Stereotyping can be something we are unaware of in ourselves.  In this case, it affects our decisions and actions, even if we are people who do not want to be biased.  It often does not happen because of aggressive or unkind thoughts. It is more often a simplification to on what is not considered to be an important topic.

Stereotyping can be reduced by bringing people together. When they discover the other people are not like the stereotype, the immediate evidence leads to improved thoughts about the other group.

  • Issues with cultural stereotypes:

It is normal for people to categorize things, events and people because it helps them organize and make sense of the world around them. It also highlights differences between groups of people. However, people use stereotypes to make decisions about coworkers, managers and customers with no information about the person. Stereotyping stops a business from choosing the best person for each task.

“Effects of cultural stereotypes are diverse,” says an international dating expert, “Many people tend to ignore these things.”

Cultural stereotypes limit management’s ability to make good decisions about employees. If a manager sees John as an Asian person who is good with numbers but not people, he may never be given the opportunity to develop his people skills and he may eventually leave the company due to lack of opportunities. Cultural stereotypes affect employee morale and productivity. Employees are more likely to leave an organization if they believe that stereotypes determine how they are treated. Stereotypes lead to lower productivity, unhappy customers and lower profits.

The following are some stereotypes that Spanish speakers listed about Americans.  Not all the stereotypes are relevant to the workplace, but they are interesting because they show how one culture can be perceived by another.

“Appearance and dress can be another aspect of cultural stereotype,” says another international dating expert, “Although we all know that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we all do it unconsciously.”

Spanish speakers think that most Americans are very tall with blue eyes and blond hair and that all American men are as handsome as movie stars.   They believe that men in the U.S. have muscular builds; they resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. American men like to wear short, sleeveless T-shirts to show off their physiques. American women are either unusually fat or unusually thin, never of normal build and wear a lot of make-up.   They also think that Americans wear very bright colors and mixed patterns, and they wear summer clothes even in the winter. They have no sense of style, but the typical American “native dress” is jeans, cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat.

“Cultural stereotypes in work and leisure are very common as well,” says an international dating coach, “These influence the way people approach dating and relationships.”

Spanish speakers are convinced that Americans spend almost all day at work; they have very little free time. Although they are extremely punctual and efficient in their jobs, Americans don’t consider their work important; family comes first. They state that the first two things an American wants to discuss are salary and age and that the two favorite leisure-time activities in the U.S. are movies and rodeos, but they think that young people usually just take walks for fun, because they’re not allowed to drink or go to discos.

“When it comes to home life, cultural stereotypes also exist,” says an international dating consultant, “Couples who come from different cultural backgrounds may understand this better.”

With regards to home life, many Spanish speakers believe that most Americans live either in skyscrapers or on farms.  In big cities everyone has a large car like a Cadillac, but outside of cities people usually travel on horseback.   They think that Americans divorce repeatedly and have very complicated private lives; in marriages, the wife always dominates. Finally, they generally think that American cities are so dangerous that a person has a good chance of being killed in the street; therefore, American men either know kung-fu or carry a gun.

How about food culture? Well, when it comes to food, a lot of Spanish speakers think that Americans eat almost nothing but hamburgers, hot dogs, popcorn, and Coke.  Americans generally eat fast food Monday through Saturday, but never on Sunday, and America men are always drinking beer, even at breakfast.  Breakfasts, in America are believed to be huge. A typical one might consist of eggs, toast, bacon, and pancakes with peanut butter.

“Of course, communication is key in dating and relationships,” says an international dating advisor, “A healthy relationship is characterized by effective communication.”

Finally, Spanish speakers are of the opinion that Americans speak very quickly and very loudly. They use their hands a lot, often gesturing in an exaggerated way when they talk. Their strange intonation makes their speech sound like singing.   They think that American English is extremely difficult to understand because people speak as if they were chewing gum and that the typical American is very rude, often putting his feet on a desk or table and frequently belching in public.  He yawns a lot, never trying to hide it. Lastly, they think that in international affairs as in personal life, Americans do whatever they want and don’t care what other people think.

“We are analyzing the most common stereotypes in the United States and assessing how cultural stereotypes influence the modern dating climate and international dating.”