The Power of Stereotypes

Katherine Baldwin
January 30, 2014

So we’ve finally started classes! You may think “Hey Katie! But you arrived in France over a week ago!?!?” Well yes…the program started with a 2-day orientation for all BIA students about Paris, culture, and our future lives here for the next four months or so. Then we eased into the semester with intensive french classes that prepped us for using a different language in daily life. It was during one of these intensive classes that we discussed something that is often remarked upon when travelling or adapting to a new culture: stereotypes. Now the rest of my classes so far have been great and very thought provoking, but this one subject really caught my attention. Before departing for France, my home school (Saint Joseph’s University) prepared me for my semester by educating us a bit about stereotypes. What are stereotypes we have of the French? What are some of the ones they have of Americans? How will this affect your life abroad? And what will you do to combat some of the negative stereotypes the general French population has about Americans? Think about these few questions and then follow the link to watch the video below (please)

(If you can’t watch it the original link is here Cliché!)

This video was shown (in french) to my class during the intensive language week. Obviously it makes fun of some of the stereotypes that foreigners have about the French. But why do we have such notions of their culture? I’ve been here for almost two weeks now and I can verify that these are misconceptions. But for some reason people continually talk about stereotypes that certain cultures have about others. I think this phenomenon occurs in part because it is easier to classify someone as belonging to a uniform group rather than understanding the complexity and variety that exists. I know it was actually helpful for me to watch YouTube videos concerning this subject to better prepare me for life abroad. There can be misconceptions about people but most have a layer of truth behind them. For example, one of the first stereotypes in the video is that the French always have a baguette under their arm. Now while this may not always be true, it’s not uncommon for more than half the city to have a baguette under one arm on their way home from work! The most popular stereotype about Americans is that we’re fat, loud, and only wear sneakers. But to my surprise, several people this week have mistaken me for a Parisian (didn’t see that one coming)! Obviously you can’t generalize an entire population. From what I’ve heard, Americans believe that the west, east, south and north are all different. Even though France is much smaller then the United States, they too have their different provinces. If there is one thing I’ve learned from my cultural lessons so far in France, it is that the different provinces are extremely varied. There are some parts of the country that are known for wines, others for cheese, and others for crepes; all of them have different traditions and various subcultures. I’m excited to get to know “the real France” in the upcoming months and leave the stereotypes I’ve heard behind me.

What do you think about stereotypes?

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Katherine Baldwin

<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hi! My name is Katie Baldwin. I am a junior International Business Major at Saint Joseph&#39;s University. I am a member of my school&#39;s Gaelic football team and a sister of Alpha Omicron Pi. I also work as a technician and a brand ambassador at SJU&#39;s Technology Service Center. I love travelling, painting, and dancing with my friends. I have always dreamed of studying abroad in Paris and that dream is finally coming true!</span></div>

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International Business
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