04 August 2014

Stereotypes, part 1: Booze and beauty

When I lived in England and said that I had a Czech partner, the most common response was, 'Cheap beer and beautiful women.'

Mmmm, Czech beer

This was marginally better than when I lived in the US, where the most common response was, '.....'
'From Prague,' I'd say.
'The Czech Republic,' I'd say.
'Europe,' I'd finally say. 'He's European.'

But with the Brits, I was the one who was stumped. I mean, were the roles reversed, I'd be set.
'My girlfriend's Czech.'
'Cheap beer and beautiful women.'
'I know, right? She's gorgeous and I get well-pissed whenever we visit her family.'
High-fives for everyone.

But in my case, I never did think of an appropriate response.
'My boyfriend's Czech.'
'Cheap beer and beautiful women.'
'Yup, he's a drunk and I'm uglier than his exes.' 

'My boyfriend's Czech.'
'Cheap beer and beautiful women.'
'Yeah, the men aren't as good looking, but the beer goggles help.' 

You can see why I mostly opted to follow my compatriots and reply with the simple, '...'.

Suggestion: when in doubt, revert to default mode. 
'My boyfriend's Czech.'
'Lovely weather.'
Polite smiles for everyone.

I was curious if Czechs have a similar stereotype of themselves, and so I did a little research project using my students as my research subjects. Our final unit of the year was on stereotypes. I had the students make a list of different national stereotypes, talk about them, refute them, and then make a list of Czech stereotypes. They also drew me pictures of the Stereotypical Czech, which were brilliant, but were tragically lost in the end of year paper shuffle.

The Stereotypical Czech, according to my students:
- Is lazy
- Is fat
- Has a mullet
- Drinks beer
- Is unpatriotic
- Only cares about himself
- Wears denim head-to-toe

By the fifth class of hearing the same thing, I asked one of the students why he thought he and his fellow students took such a pessimistic view of their fellow countrymen.

'Pessimistic!' he said. 'That's the word I was looking for.' 

And added it to his list.

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