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.
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.
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 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.