Stereotyping in Europe

by on May 14, 2013 at 6:23 am in Current Affairs, Data Source, History | Permalink


Each column is interesting, for instance read down for “Most Compassionate.”  It’s funny how many individuals do the same for themselves, I might add, in what has to be one of the simplest and most common of all intellectual mistakes.

Those results are from the new Pew report, summarized by David Keohane here.  The French are growing increasingly disillusioned with the European project, and on key questions the French see the world as the Italians or Spanish do, not the Germans.  And there is this: “The report also takes down a few German stereotypes. Apparently, Germans are among the least likely of those surveyed to see inflation as a very big problem and the most likely among the richer European nations to be willing to provide financial assistance to other European Union countries that have major financial problems.”

1 Gabriel May 14, 2013 at 6:29 am

A sign of how everything in Europe is now about Germany, people in Poland seem to see Germany as both the MOST and the LEAST trustworthy nation in Europe.

2 Vanya May 14, 2013 at 8:36 am

The only countries in the EU that really matter for Poles are Poland and Germany.

3 Pizza Man May 14, 2013 at 11:31 am

It’s a statistical paradox. Since there are many choices for each category, Germany can have the most votes for “least” and the most votes for “most” without a single Polish person choosing Germany for both categories.

Your essential point is correct. The implication is that Poles think about Germany a lot.

4 msgkings May 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm

And the French think themselves both the most and least arrogant

5 Matt Flipago May 15, 2013 at 2:57 am

I think that means the French think about the French a lot. So that might mean French probably were right in thinking themselves the most arrogant.

6 TomM May 14, 2013 at 6:30 am

Well it’s true that the French are likely to be more empathetic with other French, the Germans are likely to be more empathetic with other Germans, etc, etc. It’s no surprise that we like people like us.

I particularly like that the Greeks see the Greeks as the most trustworthy. What was the status of Greece’s budget when it joined the European project?

7 Alexei Sadeski May 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Indeed, the “most trustworthy” column is perhaps my favorite.

8 Rahul May 14, 2013 at 6:41 am

The only broadly agreed sentiment seems about the Germans as trustworthy, arrogant and least compassionate.

70% average consensus. Not surprising.

9 Steve Sailer May 14, 2013 at 11:17 am

Seems pretty accurate.

10 Rahul May 14, 2013 at 11:58 am

I agree.

11 German May 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Hi Rahul..

why so racist, whats wrong with you ?

12 Rahul May 15, 2013 at 1:11 am

Am I racist even if I say Germans make great engineers or Germans are strong and athletic?

13 Honza May 15, 2013 at 4:15 am

You are racist if you say thing I don’t like.

14 Asiren May 16, 2013 at 6:26 am

Ah, thank you. That was a good giggle.

15 whatsthat May 15, 2013 at 8:00 am


16 Rahul May 15, 2013 at 10:29 am

So, what can I say about Germans without it being racist?

How about “Germans speak German”?

17 Brian Donohue May 15, 2013 at 10:21 am

Of course. How dare you implicitly slur non-Germans this way.

18 don't quote me May 20, 2013 at 7:25 pm

this is why Germany gave rise to Hitler…”this” attitude. Flame wars. good for the internet. so that one day it will justify enslaving humanity…starting with Germany 😉

19 0x008831 May 14, 2013 at 6:41 am

Interesting that the French consider themselves to be both the most and least arrogant. Must be some kind of plurality opinion going on there.

20 Andrew' May 14, 2013 at 7:57 am

Their well deserved pride is only exceeded by their impressive humility.

21 Yancey Ward May 14, 2013 at 10:45 am


22 Brian Donohue May 14, 2013 at 10:55 am

Oh come on. Andrew’ got that one from my dad.

23 Go Kings, Go! May 14, 2013 at 1:15 pm

No doubt he got it from someone old, the kids call it “humblebrag”.

I think the Czechs misinterpreted the question as, “Least reason to be arrogant.

24 Sam May 14, 2013 at 6:43 am

Fascinating. Italy and Czech are the only ones humble enough to not claim themselves as least arrogant.

25 Rahul May 14, 2013 at 6:52 am

Italians are better: They even admit themselves to be least trustworthy.

26 Frederic Mari May 14, 2013 at 7:29 am

Peuh. This is nothing compared to the French declaring themselves to be both the most arrogant and yet the least arrogant! Beat that!

(NB: ‘might be that they asked provincials about Parisians when they asked the most arrogant question and Parisians about Parisians when they asked the least arrogant question… 🙂 )

Anyhow, fun survey and thanks to Sam and Rahul for noting other weird replies…

27 Vanya May 14, 2013 at 8:38 am

But how can we trust that the Italians were being honest about their responses?

28 Paavo May 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm

This humbleness maybe just internal division. Italians not in the North think that Northerners are the most arrogant people on earth and thus spaniards are less arrogant.

I didn’t read the article, but I guess it said that it’ victory for the european project that stereotypes are not just about your immediate neighbours.

29 Danton May 14, 2013 at 6:44 am

Greece having Greece as the most trustworthy country made me laugh for some reason.

30 Rahul May 14, 2013 at 6:54 am

Patriotism and hate-Germans for all that’s wrong. Being Greek is easy.

31 Adrian Ratnapala May 14, 2013 at 8:40 am

I wonder how deeply into history this goes. All of Europe was supposed to be happy to see Greece become independent from the Ottomans, but not many decades afters, the Germans and Turks were allies. Perhaps there’s even been a tradition of bad blood from the time of the crusades, or even the barbarian invasions.

32 Rahul May 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I don’t know if that’s very unique in the European context. Historically, all Europeans have been very facile switching nations (rather kingdoms) between friend and foe status. Expediency dictates European friendships, nothing much deeper.

33 Go Kings, Go! May 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Frederick I Barbarossa did agitate for a crusade against Byzantine and did sell Cyprus to the Templars, so there is ample reason for hostility. Why do Italians and French get a pass for, you know, actually sackingByzantium? Or the Catalans for occupying Athens for 75 years? Who knows? Greeks are notoriously duplicitous and overly fond of their catamites, if Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi is to be believed.

34 Patrik May 14, 2013 at 7:09 pm

The first king of Greece (in modern times) was German/Bavarian: Otto, who moved the capital to Athens. He started out being popular. But then he introduced heavy austerity measures demanded by British banks and lost support.

History does rhyme. (At least this part of the story)

35 Lars P May 14, 2013 at 9:57 am

But do you trust that poll answer?

36 Da May 14, 2013 at 7:13 am

What I really would like to see is a comparison to what these nations thought about each other in the good old days before the Euro (and with world peace and humanity itself) had to be saved every few weeks…

37 Leon Kautsky May 14, 2013 at 7:46 am

Arrow’s Theorem

38 PK May 14, 2013 at 7:48 am

We Czechs are proud to be the most humble nation in the world, Sam.

39 Anon. May 14, 2013 at 7:57 am

You really know how to fuel my misanthropy, Tyler. That “least arrogant” column really did the trick.

40 Andreas May 14, 2013 at 8:02 am

As a Swede this way of thinking about oneself is surprising. We’re not allowed to think we’re compassionate or good in anyway 🙂

41 Kit Sunde May 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm

That’s not true. We are allowed to think Swedes are a little bit better. Jante Law only dictates that I as an individual can’t think I am better, even in cases where I am. Thinking my team is better than the other team is perfectly acceptable.

42 Andreas May 14, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Yeah right.. If people in Sweden were asked who the most compassionate people in Europe are, the vast majority would not answer “Sweden”…
Swedish people are probably the most self critical people in the world, and I have heard that from a lot of non-swedish people as well.
As you are perfectly aware, the expression “typically Swedish” (typiskt svenskt”) is always seen as something negative in Sweden. That’s not trure of equivalent expressions in other countries. To take an example, “All-American” is seen as something very positive and would never be used as an insult.

43 Brian May 14, 2013 at 2:05 pm

This is interesting. Is it peculiar to Sweden or does something similar exist across all Scandinavian countries?

44 Andreas May 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I think that Swedish people are the most self critical for sure but I’m sure something similar exists in the other Scandinavian countries. My personal experience is that when it comes to national pride/patriotism, at least Finnish people and Norwegians are way more patriotic. I’ve never lived in those countries so I’m not sure if they also are highly affected by the so called “Jante law”, which just means that your not supposed to think your better than other people and that your not supposed to stand out in anyway.

45 Urso May 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm

This is hilariously close to “we Swedes are exceptional in our humility, we are far better at it than those Finns and Norsk.”

46 Andreas May 14, 2013 at 4:36 pm

It’s hilarious how you don’t know what you’re talking about.. Your post made absolutely no sense whatsoever. I mean it’s something negative to be overly self critical!! It is not a good thing. I thought that was obvious and didn’t have to be explained. I love that Norwegians are patriotic and wish we were too. I really like Norwegians by the way.

47 Axa May 14, 2013 at 8:13 am

also from the FT graphs:

People like the euro. It’s not common for an elected politician win by this margin. But it get schizophrenic when people is asked about economic integration, less than 1/3 thinks economic integration strenghtened the economy. The exceptions: Germany and Poland.

WTF? The young people seems to be depressed.

48 mw May 14, 2013 at 8:18 am

Well that can’t be right, because then your theory about Europe’s inflation-hawk rule reflecting widespread public sentiment in Germany, rather than rule by elites, is wrong, no?

49 Fallibilist May 14, 2013 at 8:45 am

Maybe there’s more to the study that I’m not seeing because I refuse to register for FT Alphaville but, from what I have seen…

…I can’t tell if this is Pornography or Junk Food.

Look, this stereotyping is not about Hard Truths™, it’s about intellectual laziness and the narcissism of minor differences. Most troublingly, it’s inaccurate.

Here’s an example: When talking about which “nationalities” are most trustworthy or compassionate, are we talking about individuals or charitable organizations or churches or corporations? If individuals, how should I treat people of dual parentage? What about persons, like my mother, who stayed in one place and had borders move around her during her life?

I recognize that these things sound a little nitpicky in Europe which has, ahem, a strong tradition of nationalism and probably an enduring folk belief in “essential national characteristics” which can be boiled down to central tendencies.

I think this is why more problematic (analytically) than they recognize. Sure, culture is a real thing; it just doesn’t neatly follow natural boundaries. The last sentence will only grow increasingly true over time.

50 Alexei Sadeski May 14, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Epic buzzkill.

51 Hazel Meade May 14, 2013 at 9:15 am

The French admit they are both most arrogant, and least arrogant. Interesting.

52 Hazel Meade May 14, 2013 at 9:18 am

Another interesting point … every country thinks that they are the most compassionate.

53 BC May 14, 2013 at 10:29 am

And, most think that they are least arrogant, but not most trustworthy. I guess most people know when they are lying, rarely are deliberately mean in their own mind, and have difficulty understanding what others might perceive as arrogant. The self-evaluation as least arrogant might alternatively reflect over-estimation of one’s own abilities, the I’m-not-arrogant-because-I-can-back-it-up view.

On a different note, doesn’t the fact that *everyone* self-evaluates as “most compassionate” say something about using “compassion”, or the related notion of “fairness”, as a criteria for crafting policy? If one claims preference for certain policies based on compassionate or fairness grounds, is one really saying anything other than, “I prefer this set of policy preferences because I prefer them?” Given that most people do not believe that their own preferred policies are “unfair”, what does that say about those policy preferences that are justified solely or mainly on “fairness” grounds?

54 Hazel Meade May 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm

“Fairness” can mean a lot of different things. I wouldn’t fall in the trap of assuming that “fairness” = “equal distribution”.
Libertarians can make a strong case that the unequal distributions produced by markets are fair, if/when they result from a series of fair transactions.

55 BC May 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I guess that was my point. One can make a fairness argument for both equal distribution and unequal distribution, which is to say that neither can be justified by fairness arguments alone. “Fairness” is just a restatement that one prefers a particular policy.

56 Dan in Euroland May 14, 2013 at 11:45 am

Conditional on homophily each country could be the most compassionate to their fellow countrymen. So the statement could in fact be true.

57 Urso May 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Nice point.

58 Todd May 14, 2013 at 10:11 am

No one has ever gone wrong trusting compassionless Germans.

59 Axa May 14, 2013 at 11:05 am

Just a question. About “compassionate” word/concept, is there a precise and equilvalent translation of “compassionate” to German, French, Greek, Polish, Italian, Czeck and Spansh? Or could it be that they were asking about something different in each country? Same for “trustworthy” and “arrogant”.

60 otto May 14, 2013 at 11:17 am

Germans are “the most likely among the richer European nations to be willing to provide financial assistance to other European Union countries that have major financial problems”

They are under the belief that they are already doing this. Others are not so convinced.

61 Steve Sailer May 14, 2013 at 11:20 am

Luigi Barzini’s book “The Europeans” provides superb stereotypes of various nationalities.

62 TheAJ May 14, 2013 at 11:33 am

Beware, Germans aren’t all smiles and sunshine . . .

63 Doug M May 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm

This reminds me of an old joke.

In heaven the cook is French, the buttler is English, the mechanic is German, the lovers are itallians, and it is all organized by the Swiss.

In hell the cook is British, the mechanic is French, the butler is German, the lovers are Swiss and it is all organized by the Itallians.

64 walter May 14, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Where does America stand in all this? Europeans are so self-centered.

65 mulp May 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Right, which State would declare itself to be the most arrogant, and also the least arrogant?

Texas? California? NY? NYC?

Or which region?

66 marta May 14, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Do you by any chance mean the United States? America is a continent. it includes Latin America as well. people from the United States are so self-centered.

67 Cliff May 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Oh, yeah? Which continent is “America”, then? Oh yeah, you’re wrong, it’s a country. Or do you hold to the “six continent” theory?

68 Jethro May 14, 2013 at 7:43 pm

It also includes the Caribbean. People from Latin America are so self-centered.

69 mulp May 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm

“The French are growing increasingly disillusioned with the European project, and on key questions the French see the world as the Italians or Spanish do, not the Germans.”

They want to be conquered by the French instead of Germany, forced to pay trade tariffs and suffer quotas set by France rather than Germany, and have France dictate currency exchange rates instead of Germany?

Isn’t the European project to stop pitting France and Germany and their allies against each other in war, trade, and currency manipulation?

The EU is roughly following the path of the US, but so far has avoided the Civil War and using war to expand the EU. I wonder at times if Tyler and Krugman among others are rooting for a rerun of the US Civil War with a different outcome – say the equivalent of Lincoln being politically weak and letting the nation split at the threat of violence conflict.

The EU has been doing what the committee chartered in 1784 failed to do, given the American tradition of rash action – the EU has been expanding Federal power inch by inch, and conservatives in places like Britain are objecting to the concentration of power. In the US experience, New York was not fearful of concentrating power in a central government because even then money meant power, so Germany today is confident that its financial dominance will hold and give it dominant power.

Granted the US is not the EU, but so much of the dynamics of the EU are in common with the US. I have seen it claimed that the reason health care costs so much less in France and Germany than in the US is they are homogeneous without many immigrants, and then the next topic is about the too many immigrants in France and Germany from African or Middle East, Muslims who are not assimilated.

If the chart tells you that the EU is just like “us”, that is a good thing, but my guess is the chart is evidence used to justify the arrogant view the US is superior to the EU.

70 gossip May 14, 2013 at 6:07 pm

it makes sens…
that’s the smartest comment I’ve seen here.

71 Nigel May 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm

French and German opinion of British compassion is a little curious.

Of course it’s a little difficult to find statistics on compassion per se, but it might not be unreasonable to look at overseas aid…
or private charitable giving…

None of us score particularly well for resettlement of refugees;

Public spending in general ?
We seem to be somewhat average…

Maybe they are considering our rates of incarceration…

Or perhaps it’s because the Germans think too many Brits are still unwilling to forget about the war, and the French just dislike us as a matter of long established principle ?

72 The Franchise May 14, 2013 at 5:32 pm

The European Union has failed. It has expanded into areas which want the same standard of life and relative prosperity, but haven’t actually made the structural and cultural changes needed. Greece is the worst offender, with corruption and tax evasion as generally accepted principles, but it is not alone. This problem will recur until the Euro and the EU itself is broken. (This conclusion assumes these reforms are not made.)

The European Union has succeeded. There has not been a war in western or northern Europe since 1945, nor in any area the EU has expanded since their admittance. Additionally, there are no current threats of war in the region, so it is reasonable to believe no significant war will occur in the near future. This is a marked deviation from modern history for the continent. (This conclusion assumes war would have occurred if not for the EU and its political, economic, and military predecessors.)

73 Rahul May 15, 2013 at 4:33 am

I hope the fact that there has not been a war for a long time is not simply a bottling up effect. Sometimes if you don’t let small adjustments happen eventually there’s a large, sudden reset.

74 Marian Kechlibar May 15, 2013 at 3:33 pm

There is not enough young manpower for a large scale conflict between Euro nations.

There might be a Kosovo- or Lebanese-style guerilla in the most “multiculturalized” cities, though, as the rapidly expanding Muslim population feels little affinity to the host countries and their legal and cultural norms.

75 Rahul May 16, 2013 at 10:23 am

I guess extended civil wars or terrorism might be more likely. You already note the religious angle. I worry about the class and nationalism angle too.

e.g. Greeks witnessing a kinsman’s suicide during austerity might be ripe candidates to carry anti-German attacks later. Or if a mob of Greeks lynched busloads of German tourists how might Germany react.

There’s a lot of ill will floating around.

76 Andreas Moser May 16, 2013 at 6:45 am

There won’t be any more wars within the EU because land gains would be pointless.
If Germans would want to own land in Poland again, they can buy it. Everyone within the EU can move anywhere they want, without the need to invade anyone. (I have been living in 4 different EU countries in the last 3 years.)

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