Cultural generalization is a slippery slope that leads to stereotyping, and that leads to your eccentric aunt having some strong but possibly unfounded opinions about Asians loving Capri pants. And in case you think such ideas are only reserved for Christmas dinners and Facebook pages, there are plenty of globally accepted cultural stereotypes that are as easily debunked as a flat earth. For example ...
For all of us nodding off behind a desk at noon, the Spanish way of life seems ideal -- a day of long naps, little work, and plenty of late-night drinking. But the truth is that the Spanish siesta saga is much more of a nightmare than a sweet dream. And like many weird nightmares, it somehow features Adolf Hitler.
While the siesta sounds as Spanish as tapas or not wanting to be Spanish, Spain was never really all that into the noonish nap. Some studies claim only 16% of modern adult Spaniards are taking afternoon naps consistently, and almost 60% of them don't siesta at all. But if these Spaniards don't like to snooze away their day, why do they take some of the longest lunch breaks of any country, lasting up to three hours? That has nothing to do with laziness; quite the opposite.
In the aftermath of the horrid Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, many Spaniards worked two jobs in order to support their families. In order to accommodate them, businesses started implementing longer midday breaks so they could change clothes and commute. By the time the economy recovered, the Spanish had gotten so used to this rhythm that they preferred to keep working much later (and more) hours than their neighbors in return for a nice long lunch break.
Speaking of the Spanish Civil War, that brings us to another Spanish sleep stereotype. Talk to any pasty tourist snowbirding in Benidorm, and they'll say that Spaniards act like lazy college students, staying up late and getting out of bed scandalously close to noon. But again, this is neither their fault or a sign of laziness. It's because Spain is literally out of sync with the rest of the world. Instead of being in the GMT +0 time zone, as geography and logic would demand, Spain has been GMT +1 for over seven decades. That's because back in the late 1930s, Francisco Franco was so fond of his friend/idol Adolf Hitler that he made Spain change to the German time zone. Because what fun is being a crazy dictator if you can't force an entire country to pretend the sun rises at 10 a.m.?
In other words, the Spanish have been screwed by their own clocks, have the latest sunset in Europe, and work later hours than almost anyone else on the continent. Honestly, we need to lie down just thinking about that hassle.
Saudi Arabia isn't exactly known for gender equality. And, somewhat ironically, that also applies to academia ... where women vastly outnumber the men. Statistics from early 2010 show that Saudi women made up 58% of all undergraduates, an intellectual crevasse that only grows wider with every new generation. And for a country that consistently ranks near the bottom in surveys of gender equality, being 25th in terms of women enrolled in universities is quite a shock, to say the least. This even applies to typical academic sausagefests like STEM studies and postgraduate degrees.
This is largely thanks to a series of investments and reforms that have also led to the creation of women-only universities. The latest, Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University, is the largest female-only academic institution in the world. Now if all those brainy ladies would be allowed to actually have jobs and do something with those fancy degrees, maybe Saudi Arabia could work its way up those gender equality lists.
Cuba suffers from what you might call the postcard effect. Instead of thinking about it as a real country with many different people and issues, most outsiders envision it in sepia-filtered retro tones, where everyone wears white fedoras and drives around in vintage Studebakers with the top down. But if you ever make your way to the cigar island, you'll more likely get picked up at the airport in a 2017 Toyota Corolla than a classic Chevy.
Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of cars in Cuba are modern models. In recent years, the country has seen a massive influx of foreign cars, especially Asian and European brands. But their sanction-hobbled economy relies heavily on tourism, and they know full well that a big appeal for visitors is LARPing as '50s colonialists. So most of their cute ancient automobile specimens wind up as expensive rentals and Instagram fodder, with the tourism board quietly praying you don't notice the many boring modern sedans zooming around in the background.
That's not to say this perception is a total lie. Due to America cargo-blocking the island since the '60s, and because it's easier to maintain your old beater than buy a new Japanese model, those iconic '50s Chevys still make up roughly 10% of all Cuban cars. But that embargo was as much a vintage car curse as it was a blessing. For every cool-looking pre-embargo American classic cruising around, there are two sad Soviet breadboxes:
If there's any country that's allowed to hate the U.S., it has to be Vietnam. And yet Vietnam has become one of America's biggest fans. From the '90s onward, Vietnam and the U.S. have been strategic allies. But it wasn't just the governments that got all into the red, white, and blue -- so did the people. Thanks to a great economic revival (thanks in part to Western tourism), the country started to embrace good ol' American capitalistic ways ... to the extreme.
A big reason for this love is that while the U.S. was so worried about Vietnam falling into communist hands, most of the country wasn't too keen on China either, having to go to war with it almost immediately after chasing out the Americans. And of the two invaders, Vietnam eventually decided to go with the one that had the best coffee chains. So now, despite still technically being a communist one-party state, the Vietnamese people are really into Facebook, Big Macs, and entrepreneurs.
Although it's not a hard and fast rule. Many Vietnamese youngsters don't care about either capitalism or communism in the slightest and merely want to have fun. Which happens to mean spending their money on Marvel movies and unicorn fraps.
There are few stereotypes as widespread as German efficiency. Yet like any other screw-up country, the German government can be rife with delays, pointless bureaucracy, and baffling inefficiency. Just ask the good people of Hamburg, who had to wait through almost a decade of delays for an opera hall -- which came in nearly a billion dollars over budget. That's easy to do when you mismanage funds so badly you wind up spending 300 Euros per toilet brush.
Berlin's still-unfinished Brandenburg Airport was supposed to open in 2012, but airline experts now think will never open at all because it's so shoddily made that they're pretty sure it will explode on the spot. And if Germans miss the ball that badly on precision engineering vehicles and operas, do any of the stereotypes even apply?
So where does this stereotype come from? Some historians think they can pinpoint it to a very specific event: the Franco-Prussian war. Before that, the German states were nothing more than the Central European equivalent of hillbillies, but when they unexpectedly organized and beat the greatest military might in Europe, the rest of the continent was so baffled that they had to assume it was because Germans were ruthlessly efficient by nature.
Then, during the World Wars, it was in the Allies' best interest to keep portraying the Germans as emotionless evil automatons, because that made them easier to shoot. Even after the wars, people kept the stereotype alive by ignoring the billions of dollars in foreign aid and debt forgiveness West Germany received and pretended the country bounced back so darn fast because "those Germans sure know how to organize."
For more, check out 6 Insane Stereotypes That You Still In Every Movie - After Hours:
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