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Culture Stereotypes

By Lillian J. Lara

        Some people think because I am Mexican I used to wear a long skirt and a colorful blouse while I was living in Mexico. One day, when I was in high school, a North American girl asked me, “How do Mexicans usually dress? I said, “Mexicans dress just like you do.” She told me that she thought that Mexicans usually wear big hats and boots. When I heard that I felt a little disappointed, but then I explained to her that just like here in the U.S in some places like Texas people wear hat and boots but that doesn’t mean that all Mexicans wear them. In my hometown, people dress like city people. I also told her that in Mexico there are a variety of people: city people, indigenous people and ranchers. I didn’t want to be mean to her because I also used to think that all Americans usually wore tennis shoes, long shorts and t-shirts. It is easy to stereotype other cultures or countries from what you see in movies, magazines, TV and books. Stereotypes can help to make a picture of other countries even if you have never been there because can help you to understand other cultures.
        Ayako Hirai, my classmate, who is from Japan, had some experiences about dress stereotypes with a friend of hers who is an American. This North American girl asked her if she used to wear the “kimono” when she went to school. Ayako told me that at first she laughed. The American girl thought that Japanese people usually dressed in the kimono and the samurai which are traditional Japanese clothing. Ayako explained to the American girl that Japanese only wear those clothes on special celebrations like when Ayako wore for the coming of age ceremony. However like me, Ayako didn’t feel bad about the comment of the American girl because Ayako said that she used to think in stereotypes about other cultures. Besides, Ayako thought that Africans usually do not wear any clothes in their daily lives. She thought that Africans lived in tribes, and they hunted animals for survival. Just like her American friend, Ayako was brave and asked an African friend about her doubts. Ayako used to think that about Africa because she saw a program on TV about this country. She said “It is easy to believe in what you see on TV and in the theaters.”
        To know more about cultural stereotypes, I interviewed Monica Salas, who is from Ecuador. She had other experiences about how other people think that Hispanic girls prepare for the future when they grow up and became adults. She remembers a North American lady who told her that Hispanic girls usually do not go to school because they just expect to grow up and get married, have many children and then wait for the husbands to pay the bills. When Monica heard that she felt disappointed and angry. She thought that it was normal that other people think in that way about Hispanic girls; however, she explained to the American lady that Hispanic girls used to think like that a long time ago but now there are many Hispanics that want to be independent and pay their own bills. In addition, Hispanic girls are educated to be part of a family because some Hispanics think that the concept of family is very important and if you decide to get married it is because you can take care of it, and it is part of the beliefs of the culture. Monica said that it will be hard to change this stereotype that other people think about Hispanic girls, but it is not impossible. The times are changing, so the stereotypes will change with the time.
Sarah Powell, a North America girl who is a student in Black Hawk College, told me that she heard that other cultures stereotype the USA like a rude country. For example, she heard that North American people do not care about elderly people. Sarah thinks that it is not because they do not care, but it is because they are trained to be independent. The older people usually do not like others to help them because they will feel useless. In addition, when the older people feel that they will need help, they prefer to go to a nursing home because they do not want to bother their family. Sarah’s grandmother is living in the house with her family, but her grandmother is a person who can do everything by herself and maybe in the future if her grandmother gets sick, Sarah thinks that her grandmother will prefer to go to a home. It is because she wants to. It will be her grandmother’s decision. Sarah told me that she would not like to be put in a nursing home, but she does not know what will happen in the future.
        In conclusion, I think people should not judge others by what they see or hear. Even if we make stereotypes of other cultures, we should look and inform ourselves about what is true and what is not because we can be wrong and offend other people. Each country is different, and I think this is what this life is about. Making stereotypes about other cultures is not bad when you do not offend others. What stereotypes do you have about other cultures? If they are not true, try to find out the truth!
You will be fascinated!


Last Updated: 12/11/03
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