An ethnic stereotype (national stereotype, or national character) is a system of beliefs about typical characteristics of members of a given ethnic group or nationality, their status, society and cultural norms.
National stereotypes may be either about ones' own ethnicity/nationality or about a foreign or differing nationality or ethnicity. Stereotypes about ones' own nation may aid in maintaining a national identity due to a collective relatability to a trait or characteristic.
According to an article by The Guardian entitled European stereotypes: what do we think of each other and are we right? - interactive, the Europe stereotype towards Britain is as "drunken, semi-clad hooligans or else snobbish, stiff free marketers", their view towards France is "cowardly, arrogant, chauvinistic, erotomaniacs", and they see Germany as "uber-efficient, diligent [and] disciplined". To Europe, Italy is "tax-dodging, Berlusconi-style Latil lovers and mama's boys, incapable of bravery", Poland is "heavy-drinking ultracatholics with a whiff of antisemitism", and Spain is "macho men and fiery women prone to regular siestas and fiestas". While some countries such as Germany proudly own their stereotype, others like Spain argue that theirs is a warped view based on experiences while on holiday instead of having actually lived there.
A Pew Global survey of the European countries Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, and the Czech Republic found that European stereotypes found Germany to be both the most hardworking and least corrupt, Greece to be the least hardworking, and Italy to be the most corrupt. It is also worth noting that 5 out of the 8 countries thought their own country was the most corrupt.
Yanko Tsvetkov has designed many maps which serve as pictorial representations of such stereotypes, giving an impression of how certain regions of the world may view others. They have named such as "The Arab Winter" and "Crystal Ball View Of Europe In 2022".
It is sometimes held that such stereotypes often contain a grain of truth. However an extensive study by personality psychologist Robert R. McCrae of the National Institute on Aging and colleagues found that in general they are not trustworthy.
An NBC.com article on the validity of national stereotypes suggests that "the stereotypes we all know and love, like the "French lover" and "the icy Brit," were mostly created by literature". It explained that "partly because of such "dirty books," and partly due to French PR, France got the reputation of being sexually free", and offered evidence to the contrary with a recent survey that showed "76 percent of the French sometimes suffer from lack of sexual response".
Various anti-national phobias and prejudices operate with ethnic stereotypes.
Ethnic stereotypes are commonly portrayed in ethnic jokes, some of which some consider to be offensive to varying degrees. Richard M. Steers and Luciara Nardon in their book about global economy use the "You have two cows" joke to illustrate the concept of cultural differences. They write that jokes of this kind:
- are considered funny because they are realistic caricatures of various cultures, and the pervasiveness of such jokes stems from the significant cultural differences. Steers and Nardon also state that others believe that cultural stereotypes in jokes of this kind must be viewed with caution.