Kay Deaux’s To Be an Immigrant (review) devotes considerable ink on stereotypes that Americans hold about immigrants. Some immigrant groups have it worse than others, e.g. Haitians or Mexicans vs. white Europeans, but every immigrant regardless of their country of origin, nationality, or race experiences some form of stereotyping. Coping with with such simplified perceptions affects the immigration experience.
To confirm and expand my idea about natural-born Americans’ perceptions of Eastern Europeans, a more familiar category for the locals than Central Europeans, I posed this question on Facebook:
Eastern Europeans Are…
As is common with stereotypes, the answers conformed to my stereotype about what stereotypes Americans hold of ‘us’:*
- Women don’t shave
- Come from poor backgrounds or farming
- Like to drink
- Gangsters / thugs
- Sad / humorless
- Primitive / barbarians
Stereotypes don’t necessarily have to be negative, of course, as some of the responses showed:
- Are highly educated and hold world views. Seem to be hardy people – maybe because of the hard work or perceived harsh weather. Excellent cooks. Always up for a party – like to sing and dance.
- Beautiful, giving people
- Wear furry hats
- Drink beer
- Aptitude in hockey and basketball
- No BS (I think this means direct)
* By no means do I intend to say the particular Friends who responded hold these views. But just in case I hedged by posing the question in this specific way. In addition, the survey was highly unscientific. Needless to say, my Facebook Friends’ perceptions of Eastern Europeans may be colored by their perception of me.
Part 2 of this post will examine strategies for coping with negative stereotypes.