Just days before a demonstration of how stereotypes about certain nationalities can feel unkind and unhelpful, frequent contributor TexasHM sent me this guest blog post. Perfect timing!
TexasHM offers a different approach, below, to raise the question:
How do different cultures bring forward certain themes — conversations, views, perspectives — that contribute to our cultural exchange?
Over the years we have been blessed to host and meet au pairs from many different countries and have been reminded that while we are all different, we have a lot more in common than most would expect.
From the same expressions in different languages (give someone an inch and they take a mile = give your hand and they take your arm in French) to similar fears, dreams and struggles we are often all united in commonality. On the other hand, there is no doubt that cultural influence just like environmental influence and parental influence shapes who we are and who we become.
While I definitely don’t condone thoughtless stereotyping, I do love open and constructive conversation of cultural differences and norms. There have been a couple conversations on this blog previously around which countries generate the “best” IQ au pairs, drivers or English which countries generate the “best” IQ au pairs, drivers or English speakers.
While those stereotypes are interesting and may often be the majority, there are other cultural traits which could provide even more insight and prove to be more prevalent in the AP pool from a particular country. These are more constructive to talk about.
The View From Brazil, via Our APs
For example, we had two Brazilian APs who were very different. However, they both heartily agreed on certain “Brazilian” cultural traits that influenced them like the fact that Brazilians are rarely direct. They are much more likely to agree to your face or pretend to be your best friend to keep the peace, not because they like or agree with you. This tended to make them much more sensitive to constructive criticism or honest feedback than other cultures.
Our Brazilian APs also believed that Brazilians tend to have close family ties, often living with their parents well into their 20s or often until they get married themselves. The extended family is a large and continuing presence in the life of a Brazilian person. This helps to explain whyBrazilians are very social in nature and often have a lot of experience with caring for younger family members. And, this translates in part into the stereotypes that Brazilians are warm, social and great with young children.
Meanwhile, on The Continent
Our French AP often tells us how crazy it is that Americans openly talk about what the French would consider to be taboo topics. Things like marriage, having children, religion and even goals are not commonly discussed even among friends in France, let alone acquaintances or even strangers!
The French are also known to love life and love and have an empowering child rearing style that begs many other cultures to wonder if they aren’t targeting the wrong things in life at times. The French APs we have known made friends easily, generally traveled more and opted in to more activities to try to get as full an experience as possible and treated children as small adults, earning their respect and bonding easily.