Whenever I work on multiple market projects at work, there is usually some sort of collaboration with people in our offices in Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Soon enough, email chains and phone conversations will eventually end up with fun-filled niggling stereotypes.
Let me give you an example. Last year we pitched – successfully – to an automotive company, and the stereotypes quickly began to infiltrate the conversation, in this case between Germany and Spain. This is an accurate transcript of a Skype conversation about the client. For the purposes of this example, let’s call them DE and ES.
ES: “We need to stamp these documents with our company logo. Do you have a stamp in the UK?”
Me: “No, stamps went the way of the dodo in 2007”
DE: “We have two stamps here, one for the Munich office, and one for Cologne. Brilliant stuff”
ES: “Good old, efficient Germans”
DE: “Stamps are fun. I started stamping everything”
ES: “We don’t have stamps, or even a scanner. But we do have a smartphone. Improvisation is very important in Spain”
DE: “By the way, [car manufacturer name] is German”
ES: “They’re not, they are Spanish”
DE: “All cars are German”
ES: “…ok, you’re right”.
European stereotypes always amuse me. Especially what other Europeans think of the English (drunks, hate them), Scottish (love them), Irish (fun guys) and Welsh (who?), and especially what we, the Brits, think of Europeans. If we played word association and I said ‘French person’, how many of you would think of a mustached gentleman dressed in a black and white striped top, wearing a beret, sat on a bicycle with French stick in his basket and garlic round his neck? Thought so.
With the Eurozone in crisis, all the European countries are looking at each other, and some of the perceptions and antagonisms are going right to the heart of what each country stands for. Their stereotype. Earlier today, the Guardian published a list of European stereotypes, and it makes interesting reading. Do you agree with them?
There is also a brilliant, visual collection of European stereotypes and American stereotypes, that were produced by Alphadesigner.com.
Feel free to share any stereotype stories you’ve come across 🙂