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Travel Stereotypes

Dutch coffee shops flying high?

Travel broadens the mind.

For some people though it introduces them to pictures of people and nations that stay with them even though they have got out of date. For example, the Germans, rise at the crack of dawn to put towels on the sun lounges. The Americans are noisy and think that you can visit Edinburgh in the morning and do Buckingham Palace in the afternoon. Parisians are rude and India is dirty and poverty ridden. Spain is only ever sunny. English men wear bowler hats and all Welsh men sing. (Well here’s one that can’t) Australians drink beer like no others and kangaroos wander down the main streets of Sydney. Czech, Hungarian and Polish food is boring, Italians chase women, the Dutch are dour and Egyptians will haunt every corner trying to sell you anything. The Japanese are camera obsessed, the Swiss are short on humor but the Irish are jolly and break into music at the drop of a hat.

Is any of this correct? Was it ever? Do people still believe these things?

What brought this to mind was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald a week or so ago by Ben Groundwater who writes a regular travel column for the newspaper. He listed some stereotypes and then proceeded to point out that they weren’t, in his opinion, true. But the interesting thing was the reaction of Australians to his piece. Nearly 150 of them left thoughts on what they considered to be true or not. Firstly his stereotype” was aeroplane food is horrible; the Dutch are a bunch of stoners; (translation: smoke pot all the time) American beer is crap; Italian pizza is the best in the world; Poms hate showering; (this one has been around for about a hundred years when it was true!) Germans are obsessed with their towels; Chinese people are buttoned down and boring; Cambodia and Laos are dangerous and Australians are big drinkers.

Let’s deal with airplane food first. Groundwater likes it as do some of the people who commented. Did they travel in business class or first? Personally, I think it’s not good, especially the turkey/ham/mayo/salad things you get on some US domestic airlines. The breakfast on the BA shuttle is fine but it doesn’t happen on other early BA flights. Buying your own on no-frills flights isn’t much better with soggy muffins and fancy sandwiches where the plainer fare is sometimes preferred. Mind you the green tea on Air China and the meaty broth on Japan Air Lines are pleasant. Since I hardly ever use business class, I take my own food on longer trips – good cheese, French bread and maybe some off-the-bone ham. And, as I have written before, I have shared this, on occasion, with the cabin crew.

Germans, first with towels on sun loungers?

Now, towels and the Germans. Aussies believe this still happens and some have seen this with their own eyes. I haven’t been on a beach holiday since the kids were small so I don’t know. What do you think? Germans claim that it is the British who do this.

As for the Dutch being high on all the time, this isn’t my experience and no-one wrote to support this. Another myth.

As to American beer, comments ranged from yes it is to the quality and taste of the micro beers which make up for it. Try Anchor Steam from San Francisco, one person says. And I can vouch for some of the microbrews around Boston.

Beer-swilling Aussies?

From beer adverts on television, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Aussies could drink anyone under the table. Maybe getting Aussies to comment on themselves is not likely to reveal a true view but they claim that the British, the Irish and the Czechs drink much more than them. And pictures of our youngsters falling out of bars in cities on Friday and Saturday nights as well as in Ibiza, Benidorm, and Cyprus might support the Aussies claim.

These people thought that the Germans and the French weren’t arrogant as is often portrayed. Having been going quite regularly to France for 30 years I think there has been a big change. The only thing is they want to try their English on you which doesn’t help when you are trying to improve your French!
The writers think that Italian pizza is not very good, particularly in Naples. But then tourist food and the snacks we often eat whilst on holiday is convenient food. Pizza in Italy is very different from the type we get her and in the US and Australia. It is almost like asking for a chicken tikka in India. That would be very different too. You could exist on hamburgers in the US but you wouldn’t proclaim it to be great. It keeps you alive though. The old criticism about English/ British food being bad is also laid to rest by the writers. At the risk of not being allowed back into Australia, I’d say that it has some of the best food and a wide choice of different nations but the everyday food is pretty boring.

New Zealanders come out well. No-one has a bad word to say about them. The other thing that Aussie men (I assume) agree on is that Brazilian girls wore the skimpiest bikinis. More than one writer is now planning a holiday there!

Stereotypes are often used for grouping people together. Our sister company groups people by their travel habits. (more of that in September) But stereotypes take a long while to die. We know what we think and the Aussies have their thoughts. What do other nations think? Over the summer we will invite some other nationals to see what they think of holiday destinations and, importantly, what they think of us.

Any volunteers out there?

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