What a stereotypical place, especially the Western half!
With Northern Europe, seen as the home of advanced technology, sophisticated culture, and loose (or modern, depending on your perspective) morals. Within the region, there's a definite split between the northern part (Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, and northern France) and the southern part (Italy, Spain, Portugal, and southern France) about which part is emphasized, with the north being seen as more businesslike and the south as more laid-back. Germany straddles the line with Central Europe, with the old East Germany being in many ways similar to its eastern neighbors. The same is true of Austria.
United Europe: The European Union is a specific European phenomenon. Even since its creation in 1957 more countries have joined it and thus provided stable peace in most of Europe ever since the end of World War Two. It also provides economic collaboration and a unity needed to compete with The United States, Japan and China. However, the E.U. is also seen as a bureaucratic monster unable to give its member states one "European" identity, because every country desperately clings on to their own centuries old nationalistic traditions and identity. There are also fears that all the youngest member states (mostly former Eastern Bloc countries) will financially hurt the richer member states.
In the U.S., there are essentially two sets of stereotypes about Europe:
The newer stereotypes suggest that every European government is run by a bunch of leftists and socialists who hate war too much and are probably kinky atheists too. This adds up to the American right-wing viewing Europeans as degenerate, godless commies. The American left sometimes buys into these stereotypes too, but views them more positively and have developed their own stereotype of Europe as a political wonderland free from people resembling Republican Party politicians.
Austrians are often confused with Germans and Swiss people.
Since Adolf Hitler was Austrian, the people are sometimes associated with Nazi Germany. The fame of other far-right politicians like Kurt Waldheim (former Nazi elected as president of Austria in 1986) and Jörg Haider (in 1999-2000 the first far right politician since the end of World War II to be elected into the government of a democratic European country) didn't help, either. As did the fact that in 1938, 99% of Austrians voted for unity with Germany — ex. in that time and place and even allowing for that 99% probably being a Nazi exaggeration, the vast majority of Austrians WANTED to become German.
Since Austria and Switzerland have a similar landscape the countries are both associated with mountaineering, alpine horns, yodeling,... And, of course, often confused with each other.
Musical fans know Austria best for The Sound of Music. Some tourists even believe that the song "Edelweiss" is the country's national anthem.
Another musical association is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was born in Salzburg. Therefore, Austrians will sometimes be depicted wearing a curly 18th century style wig and costume.
Yet another musical style often linked with the country is the Waltz. People in costumes waltzing at a royal ball in Vienna is a strong image inside people's heads.
Just like the Germans, people from the Austrian county Tyrol will be portrayed wearing Tyrolean hats and lederhosen and their women having dirndls. All Tyroleans will be drinking beer, eating sausages and playing tuba.
Tyroleans will also be seen performing the "Schuhplattler" (knee slapping) dance.
In the 1970s, a whole bunch of cheap sex comedies were made in Tyrol. The genre was even nicknamed "Tyrolian comedy", despite the fact that they were actually filmed in Bavaria, thus also coining the term "Bavarian porn" in other countries.
Another famous Austrian is Empress Sissi, made famous by the 1950s film series with Romy Schneider and various adaptations since then. Often linked with waltzing in the Imperial Palace of Vienna while listening to music by Johann Strauss Sr. and Jr.
Since Sigmund Freud was born in Austria as well, expect references to psychoanalysis to be made as well.
Thanks to the fame of the muscular movie stars Johnny Weissmullernote who was actually a Transylvanian Saxon by birth and Arnold Schwarzenegger muscular foreigners will sometimes be born in Austria.
One tourist card sarcastically stereotypes Austrians as being an impatient or easily agitated people.
Historically, the Austrians had the reputation of being the second-worst army in Europe, somewhat alleviated by having Hungarian reserves available.
In Romania and the Balkans, Austrians had been seen until not long ago as haughty and aristocratic. Romania and the Balkan countries don't exactly have good memories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, after all.
The bilingual communities and eternal troubles between Flemings and Walloons often mystify foreigners. The complexity of Belgium's government often leads to confused ideas about their political situation. In fiction, Belgium is sometimes portrayed as a French-speaking country, even though a majority in the country speaks Dutch and there is even a small German speaking community. This also explains why foreigners often confuse Belgians with Frenchmen, Dutchmen, or Germans. No wonder this surreal country is the birth place of painter René Magritte!
Belgians have a reputation for being easily oppressed and taken advantage of. The country has been conquered several times in history, even receiving the nickname "Europe's battlefield." Even today, many Belgians distrust politicians, the police, and the judiciary, yet don't openly voice their opinions except when they are absolutely sure that the object of their criticism isn't around in the same room. They don't have a strong nationalistic identity (apart from Flemish nationalists) and thus suffer from an inferiority complex about their status in the world. Even when the country does something positive on an international scale, most Belgians still act cynical, dismissive or, at best, jokingly about it. Patriotic pride is almost nonexistent. All these aspects and the small size of the country has caused other countries to not take them very seriously. Something Belgians don't appreciate, either. Especially in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and France, the dumb, insignificant Belgian is a common stereotype in jokes. In French, these jokes even have a special name (les histoires Belges, "Belgian stories").
And a third world-famous Belgian often invoked when this game is mentioned is one who most Belgian people wish was fictional — infamous child-molester Marc Dutroux. During the late 1990s, the huge scandal surrounding Dutroux led to the stereotypical idea that all Belgians are paedophiles. (Dutroux himself ignited the scandal, by claiming repeatedly he was part of a network which included most major politicians, judges, and police chiefs of the country.)
What's Belgium famous for? Chocolates and child abuse, and they only invented the chocolates to get to the kids.
Belgians are often shown eating French fries ("French" doesn't refer to France, but the verb "to french"). This is more or less Truth in Television, fast-food joints selling French fries (and also cooked mussels and other sea food) abound in the entire country.
In reference to the paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, some cultivated foreigners still have the impression that all Belgians are jolly and petulant peasants who do nothing more than party, drink, and eat. Belgian bars and cafés tend to close much, much later at night compared to other countries and Belgium also has a lot more national, local, official, and non-official holidays, carnivals, and parties in comparison to other countries (though it must be said that not all of them are automatically a day off for the entire working population).
Other national dishes like chocolate, beer, mussels, waterzooi and Belgian waffles contribute to the Belgians' reputation as "pleasure lovers" and jolly people who enjoy eating and drinking extremely tasty stuff. (Brussels sprouts are usually not associated with tastiness).
Jacques Brel's universally translated songs also kept this image intact.
British people often assume Belgium is boring. This mostly stems from the country's notoriously bad bureaucratism, the dreary weather, and the ugly, monotonous urban landscape.
Cycling is the most romanticized sport in Belgium. Men cycling through mud, bad weather, and over steep hills and stony roads only to return home for a cool beer and some French fries is part of the national culture. One of the greatest cyclists ever was Belgian: Eddy Merckx.
Two essential monuments that always need to be in frame whenever Belgium is shown in popular culture are the Atomium and the statue of Manneken Pis, both located in Brussels.
Especially in the U.S.A and England. French people are often ridiculed for being cowards who surrender immediately when confronted with danger. This idea is based on their rather quick capitulation during the Nazi invasion of France during World War II and has led to the term Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys. This image only became commonly expressed in the United States after French and American clashes over foreign policy during the Cold War. Actually, the French surrendered in order to prevent the destruction of Paris. This stereotype of cowardice also completely ignores the work of the French resistance, who assassinated Nazi officers, attacked their supply lines, and helped smuggle out POWs.
Thanks to the French Revolution and all the uprisings that followed ever since (from the Communards in the 19th century to the May 1968 student demonstrations), the French also have a reputation for being revolutionaries, active in La Résistance, spilling their blood on the barricades. Of course, they will still put everyone on the guillotine, even though this was abolished by law in 1981.
And prostitutes dancing the can-can in the Moulin Rouge!
Also, All Women Are Lustful in France, a stereotype fed by actresses like Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve. Even the French national symbol, Marianne, is a bare breasted woman on the barricades.
The archetypal Frenchmen is usually caricatured as a dirty, lazy, unshaven, curly moustached man wearing a beret, striped sweaters, smoking a cigarette, and carrying a baguette under the arm. “Being as dirty as a Frenchman” is actually an English proverb. French squat toilets also promote this image.
Ironically, Frenchmen also have a reputation for being "très chic" and sophisticated. Whoever speaks French must be cultivated, so Gratuitous French is often spoken by aristocratic, posh, snobbish, or very dignified people. This stems from the Middle Ages when most European nobles and royals (even in England) spoke French. Later, during the Versailles era of Louis XIV and later Napoleon Bonaparte, a lot of French sophistication clichés began to blossom, including haute couture, parfum, eau de cologne, a monocle, corsettes, small handkerchiefs, a pince-nez, and a lorgnette.
Warner Bros.' Pepe Le Pew is an almost perfect parody of a Frenchman, and amalgamates ALL of the above stereotypes — he's romantic, lecherous, and sophisticated, but is also repellently stinky and an Abhorrent Admirer in his capacity as a skunk.
French are often called "rude or arrogant" by foreigners. They are not afraid of swearing and using bad language (See also: French Jerk). Especially when they are driving. Parisians in particular are considered to be very rude to tourists and foreigners (although not as much the latter as the former). It is not uncommon for travel guides to tell tourists not to look at people in the Metro in the eye, since they will think you have a problem with them.
The English expression "Pardon my French" also stems from the stereotype that the French language is full of insults and/or swearing.
The "arrogant Frenchman" stereotype was also fed by Charles De Gaulle, who both during World War II and later as President (1958-1969) expressed a very non-cooperative and independent view on world politics. During World War II, de Gaulle refused to cooperate in the Allies' plans to free France. He, unlike all the other leaders, in his public speech right after D-Day stated that this invasion was the real invasion, this had the potential to ruin the Allied deceptions that Normandy was just a feint, with Calais the real invasion point. That was just one of his many, many, many actions whereby it seemed he was more of a problem for his friends than enemies.
Frenchmen will also be portrayed as being too lazy or too arrogant to actually help anybody.
French heads of state also have a reputation for being full of "grandeur". From Louis XIV, over Napoleon to the presidents.
French accents are also enormously popular in comedies, Western Animation, and even dramatic films and TV series, often to the point of overkill. French people will always speak with a Maurice Chevalier Accent, usually complete with a “hon hon hon” laugh. All these French characters talk in the same way: "the" and "this" are pronounced "zee" and "zis", the words "mais oui", "sacre bleu", "zut alors", "mon ami", or "mon chéri" are used non-stop and the "w" is pronounced "ooweee". Famous examples are Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther, Lumière in Beauty and the Beast, all the French characters in 'Allo 'Allo!, and Pepe Le Pew. Sometimes, like in the movie Shrek (where the British character Robin Hood inexplicably speaks English with a French accent), people are depicted as being French for no apparent reason other than evoking laughs while using the accent. In reality, as with any language, how heavy a native accent is while speaking a foreign language usually has more to do with 1) when in their lives they learned the foreign language, 2) how long they've been speaking it and to whom, and 3) how good they are at imitating accents. It's common for a French student of English living in France to talk this way, for example, but it would be very rare for a Frenchman who's lived for many years in, say, Midwestern America, to not say 'the' more or less like a Midwestern American.
Non-French speakers also assume that you can just put "le" in front of every subject and it's grammatically correct French! The articles "la", "un", "une", or "l'" don't seem to exist.
In (beat 'em up) videogames, French characters are often depicted as elegant, fatalistic, and angsty, with a penchant for fencing. Examples include Charlotte from Samurai Shodown, Ky Kiske from Guilty Gear, Elisabeth Blanctorche (who uses a riding crop) from The King of Fighters, and French Jerk Raphael and his ward Amy from the Soul Series. Other examples also filled with Gallic ennui include Remy from Street Fighter, who fits the cynical, Nietzsche Wannabe type perfectly and Abel, also from Street Fighter, with his brooding, emo-ish personality (although he is atypical in that he exhibits none of the usual associated elegance, and is a hulking, rugby player type). All of the examples mentioned probably derive from the deep, sullen French philosopher archetype, inspired perhaps by the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida.
French painters are also a popular stereotype. Truth in Television thanks to the great 19th century impressionistic artists like Renoir, Monet, Manet, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Courbet, Millet, Degas, Gauguin,... Whenever a scene takes place in a large French city, there will be a painter in the background working on an easle.
A mime is also essential. He will always be based on Marcel Marceau and pretending to be stuck in a box.
As are fashion designers like Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and Yves Saint-Laurent.
Whenever arthouse movies or independent movies are spoofed they are often French (spoofing Jean-Luc Godard, FrançoisTruffaut or any other "Nouvelle Vague" film). (See also: Le Film Artistique).
And if a French intellectual is depicted, he will always be a caricature of Jean Paul Sartre and ponder over existential questions.
Frenchmen are often cast as cooks, onion sellers, proprietors of restaurants and/or cafés. They will enjoy eating baguettes, croissants, tarts, cheese, and drink wine. Sometimes they are also depicted as having an eccentric taste: eating snails (escargots) and frog legs. This is also why the French are often nicknamed "frogs" in the English language. See also French Cuisine Is Haughty. Examples of French cooks in fiction: Louis in The Little Mermaid and the cooks in Ratatouille.
And of course: if a scene takes place in France, the Eiffel Tower must be present in the background! (Eiffel Tower Effect)
Stories set in France will either take place in Paris or the Provence. Nowhere else!
And when in Paris, characters will always visit the Louvre, just for a scene with the Mona Lisa. However, the big climax of the story will take place on the Eiffel Tower.
If the French play sport, it will be pétanque/jeux de boules or cycling in the Tour de France, which is the most famous European cycling contest world wide.
Since the sport got popular in the 2000s, French characters in (American) action movies are often depicted as Parkour professionals.
If a Frenchman sings, it's always "Alouette", "Frère Jacques", or "La Marseillaise". If he plays an instrument, it will be an accordion. When he listens to a French singer, it's usually Edith Piaf.
If Corsica is ever mentioned, expect it to be treated like Italy with more cheese. However, Astérix in Corsica is full of stereotypical depictions of Corsicans, especially their supposed laziness, pride, and hot temper.
All Corsicans are Knife Nuts, and will pull a blade anywhere, anytime, and for any, or no, reason. In reality, many Corsicans carry folding-blade knives, but are more likely to use them for eating or whittling than fighting.
Just like other Italian isles, Corsica has a bloody history with uncountable vendettas and feuds.
And watch out for the Corsican bushes ("maquis"), because robbers or terrorists might be hiding there. (Or you might get lost.)
Within France, Corsica used to be stereotyped with the word BOUM, on account of the separatist movement there that...liked blowing stuff up. Also the island's history of explosivevendettas, but mostly the separatists. This has died down, but the stereotype remained up until a few years ago.
Most people outside the French-speaking world know Corsica solely for being the birth place of Napoleon Bonaparte.
All Germans Are Nazis: Thanks to both the Prussian Army of Otto Von Bismarck, the Franco German War, and the First World War and Second World War, Germans are often cast as villains or strict militaristic people, wearing pickelhaube, goosestepping from one place to another, and obeying orders at all cost. The German reputation for belligerence has fluctuated a great deal through the ages. The ancient Germani were considered very war-like by the Romans, but by the Victorian period, the typical German was considered to be sentimental and romantic and musical —Gemütlichkeit and Träumerei were the clichés. Then along came Bismarck and the Franco-German War, and all Germans became Prussians... During the First World War, British propaganda even compared the Germans even to the Huns. Especially World War II did a lot of damage to Germany's public image. The strange thing is that other Axis Powers, like Italy and Japan, managed to escape the assocation with Nazism and Fascism, while Germany is still solely typecast as a country that was morally wrong during those years. For many people, Germans are seen as people who are evil by nature, ignoring the fact that there were quite some notable Germans who opposed their military leaders. There was even a large German resistance movement. Also, ever since 1945, many German politicians and activists have held a pacifist stance.
Thanks to numerous war movies, certain German military officers have become a popular stereotype themselves. They will preferably wear an Erich von Stroheim type monocle, a pickelhaube helmet, and goosestep around the place. All while remaining deadly serious and expressionless.
Germans have a reputation for being highly organized, ruthlessly efficient, bureaucratic, and deadly serious to the point that foreigners assume they lack a sense of humor. (See Germanic Efficiency and Germanic Depressives). The image of the strict, efficient, and hard-working German is based on the Wirtschaftswunder after World War II, when Germany quickly revived economically. The joyless German stereotype may be derived from their depiction as brutal enemy or seriously devoted bureaucratic worker.
18th and 19th century style German romanticism also did a lot to associate Germans with seriousness. Poets, painters, and composers wandering in forests or not far from lakes, especially during the fall, committing suicide over tragic relationships or utter despair about life. May be reflected in "Trauermusik", "Träumerei", "schlager music", or "Sturm und Drang".
The archetypical German philosopher will always be based on Friedrich Nietzsche. Probably because he literally went mad later in life. Or because the Nazis used his ideas for their own propaganda purposes. Still, Germany has a rich philosophical tradition thanks to names like Kant, Heidegger, Schopenhauer, Hegel, Schlegel, Marx, Engels, Adorno, Marcuse, ...
German Expressionism, paintings, and films with a lot of shadows and distorted backgrounds, has also become infamous.
Even their gothic architecture has something static and deadly serious about it.
If Germans are depicted having fun, they are usually wearing Tyrolean hats, lederhosen, drinking beer, playing the tuba, and celebrating Oktoberfest. The women are robust, large-breasted characters with blonde hair in pigtails or braids, wearing dirndls and carrying dozens of steins of beer at once. These partying Germans are often seen eating schnitzel, sausages, sauerkraut, and sauerbraten while dancing to oom-pah music or performing the "Schuhplattler" (knee slapping) dance. This folklore image isn’t entirely German, since it’s especially associated with Bavarian culture in southern Germany as well as Austria.
The operas of Richard Wagner have also created several stereotypes associated with Germany, like the large blonde Teutonic woman wearing a Viking helmet, spear, and shield like Brynhildr in Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Gratuitous German will be used to describe abstract concepts like Weltschmerz, Schadenfreude, Wanderlust, Zeitgeist, or Gemütlichkeit. In print it will be typed in gothic lettertype. Non-German speakers often add "Das", "Die", and "Der" randomly in front of every single German word. Or add unnecessary umlauts or capital letters.
Another stereotype about the German language is that it only sounds impressive when it's shouted, not spoken or sang.
All Germans are named Fritz, Franz, Otto, Gunther, Hermann, Adolf, Wilhelm, Ernst, or Hans. Women are named Helga, Olga, Gretel, Brunhilda, or Nina. (Needless to say, many of these names are not that popular in Germany nowadays.) Their surnames will often have a "von" or a suffix starting with the letters "Sch-".
Germany is also the birthplace of cars. Since their invention the country has become closely associated with highly polished but efficient cars driving over the "Autobahn". Several famous international car brands are German: Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Opel, Porsche, Volkswagen,...
In (beat 'em up) videogames, Germans are often depicted as stoic and serious, verging on melancholic — good examples from the Soul Series include Seigfried Schtauffen, whose back-story is angsty in the extreme and Hildegard von Krone, who typifies the efficient, serious German.
Some beat 'em up characters are also ambiguously German — that is, they have German-sounding names, but it is never specified they are German natives. Examples are to be found in The King of Fighters, with Heidern and Rugal Bernstein (and his children, Adelheid and Rose). In Heidern's case, this is perhaps because his design inescapably evokes a Nazi officer and so his nationality was hand-waved as "unknown". M.Bison of Street Fighter fame also evokes this look, and has a similarly "unknown" background. Brocken, (specified as German) from World Heroes shows no such compunction, and is blatantly presented as a "Nazi super-cyborg". Von Kaiser of Punch-Out!! fame is similarly blatant, and even quips "Surrender! Or I will conquer you!", taking the All Germans Are Nazis trope to the limit.
Germans also have an unfortunate reputation for producing the most eye-wateringly depraved pornography, catering to the most deviant (or just plain weird) fetishes.
Spoof travelogue show Eurotrash — made in Britain and presented by Frenchmen — played heavily for laughs on German sexuality, partly its porn, and mainly the observed fact that large, beefy, unattractive Germans of both genders tend to insist on their absolute right to go naked at every conceivable opportunity. If the Germans were not overweight and bovine, they were skinny and scrawny — a regular feature involved a German cleaning company, whose selling point was that two unpreposessingly thin guys would clean your house while naked. Eurotrash ran on national stereotypes Europeans had about each other. (The French were God's anointed, Germans were fat, hearty, and earthy, Swedes sexy, Belgians boring, the British emotionally repressed, Italians sexy and temperamental, and so on.)
ScotIreland: Irishmen are often mistaken by foreigners for being English, Scottish, or Welsh. The confusion is understandable, seeing that the accents can be difficult to differentiate for people unfamiliar with them. Also, the Fighting Irish and Violent Glaswegian are basically the same stereotype with the same unintelligible accent. What further adds to the confusion is the fact that several celebrities and other historical characters who are usually called "British" were in fact born in Ireland: The Duke of Wellington, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Spike Milligan, soccer player George Best,...
The Irish are usually portrayed as heavy drinkers, usually whiskey. Their alcoholism either leads to violence (see Fighting Irish) or being a self-pitying drunk.
Irishmen beating their wives is a popular American stereotype.
Since St. Patrick's Day is a good occasion to drink and celebrate, the drunk Irishman stereotype will often be brought in association with this holiday. This also brings up the Irish association with the color "green".
Oireland: (Whether or not because they are drunk) the sentimental Irishman is also a popular stereotype. They are generally presented as a canny and friendly folk (the word 'quaint' tends to pop up a lot) with a cheerful song in their hearts and a mischievous twinkle in their eyes, expressing their simple-yet-wise philosophy that's as old as the hills and informed with the magic and mystery of the ages and the Fair Folk, just waiting for some poor outsider who's lost sight of the really important things in life that they can educate, and other such horribly trite cliches.
In popular culture, Irishmen will often wear green clothes and have a clover stitched on their chest. Men will have a red beard, sideburns, and are a Fiery Redhead. They'll smoke a pipe and consume a lot of alcohol. Their name will always be of the "O'" variety: O' Brien, O' Ginney, O' Hara, O' Flaherty, O' Donnell,... and have surnames like Patrick, Sean, or Kelly. Expect stock expressions to be used like "Ayyy, 't is true...", "Ah to be shoor, to be shoor and begoraah", and "Top o' the moornin' to ye." and semi-medieval words like "ye". Instead of saying "my", they will use "me", for instance: "This is me house."
Irish women will evoke the classic "Colleen" — that is, they'll have tumbling locks of red or auburn hair pinned up quite high on the crown of their heads so the ringlets cascade down their shoulders. They will be very fair-skinned, possibly freckled, and in flattering depictions, pretty hot in an ethereal sort of way. Bonus points if they also wear an ornately embroidered céilí dress.
The most ancient stereotypes about Ireland show a country stuck in Celtic tradition. There are no major cities, only small farms and villages in green landscapes with lots of hills. All walls are made from stones simply stacked upon each other. Celtic crosses will be seen everywhere. A horse-drawn caravan or covered wagon will be the only means of travel.
The 19th century also brought several enduring stereotypes about Irishmen. They are all poor farmers with lots of sheep. Bad potato harvests made many of them migrate to the U.S.A. during The Irish Diaspora (this is why potatoes are often associated with Ireland as well). In the U.S.A., Irish immigrants were stereotyped as uneducated peasants who marry their cousins. The fact that the Irish are more tied with their families than Americans or British may have created this stereotype.
Irish cuisine will consist of nothing but bacon, corned beef with cabbage, and potatoes. Corned beef and cabbage in particular is a cultural trait of Irish-Americans, learned from their Ashkenazi Jewish neighbors.
Irish Priest: Irish people are often depicted as being devoutly Raised Catholic (even though a large part of the population is also Protestant). Priests in popular culture may speak with an Irish accent as a result.
The Troubles between Catholics, Protestants, and their respective terrorist organisations I.R.A./I.N.L.A. and the U.D.A./U.F.F. are perhaps the most negative image Ireland has cast upon the world. This was especially true in the late half of the 20th century. Images of bomb attacks, protesters, and British soldiers patrolling through the streets were not uncommon.
The Irish Question: Some foreigners have trouble understanding that Northern Ireland is actually not part of Ireland but of the United Kingdom. The eternal battle for independence has led to a lot of violence and bloodshed in the country over the years and the image that all Irish and Northern Irish hate the English.
The Fair Folk: Ireland has a strong association with mythological folklore characters: leprechauns, dwarves, elves, pixies, fairies, goblins, and gnomes will often have an Irish accent. When characters visit Ireland, these little fairy tale characters will usually make a cameo appearance, despite disbelief from the people who see them. Leprechauns in particular will hide a pot of gold near the end of a rainbow.
This also tends to be represented when it comes to Irish (and Irish American) superheroes and supervillains; either their power will be explicitly magical in nature or if a mutation will still have a supernatural theme.
Irish folk music is world famous as well. Expect people playing the fiddle, dancing Riverdance or Lord Of The Dance moves, and singing "Danny Boy", "The Old Irish Washer Woman's Song", "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling", or "It's A Long Way To Tipperary".
A reference to U2 isn't uncommon, too. If not them, it's to either The Dubliners, The Chieftains, The Cranberries, or Enya.
Italy is synonymous with style and for having beautiful countryside filled with picturesque villages, ancient Roman ruins, and olive groves. The same goes for their equally stylish paintings, sculptures, architecture, poetry, novels, music, fashion, hair dressing, violins (Stradivari), motors (Vespa), and cars (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia,...). Two of the most refined and admired Golden Ages of Culture took place in Italy: The Roman Empire and The Renaissance.
Hairdressers will often be Italians. Bonus points if they are effeminate and sing the "Figaro" chorus from The Barber of Seville while working.
Italy is one of the leading countries in fashion: "Armani", "Versace", "Benetton", "Gucci", "Dolce & Gabbana", "Prada",... It's awful to say but even mafiosi dress well in Italy.
Italian cuisine is also renowned. Whenever a cook is depicted in popular culture, he's usually French or Italian. Italian cooks will usually be making food with lots of olives, tomatoes and pasta (spaghetti, vermicelli, gnocchi, fettucine, linguine, macaroni, ravioli, tortellini, lasagna), salami, scampi, cannelloni, pesto, carbonara, pizza, tiramisu, chipolata, marzipan, pepperoni, panini, muscat, pistachio, tagliatelle, cannoli, risotto, minestrone, carpaccio, gelatine,... One of their famous cheeses (gorgonzola, mozzarella, mascarpone, ricotta, parmigiano,...) will be thrown in the mix as well. Of course, every meal will be served with wine (chianti), grappa, martini, amaretto or some coffee (capuccino, espresso,...).
The homely mother or grandmother (the "nonna") who enjoys cooking for her family is often used in advertising.
Italian ice cream vendors are also a popular image. They will be selling fruity ice cream ("gelato", "tartufo", "tutti frutti") in the street.
Latin Lover: Just like France, the country is often associated with love and sex.
The Casanova: An Italian man will often be presented as an arrogant, virile, cool, thuggish, macho Italian stallion who walks around with his shirt open to show his pectoral muscles and chest hair. He is a smooth talker, open to flirtation, and an excellent lover, but generally unfaithful or uninterested in the needs of his female partner. These types of Italian men often drive around in large and beautiful cars. This is an especially popular stock character in romantic stories targeted at women. Not surprisingly: Giacomo Casanova was Italian.
The female counterpart of this character is the Italian bombshell, exemplified by actresses as Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Claudia Cardinale, Anna Magnani, Monica Bellucci, Isabelle Adjani, Isabelle Rossellini,... Italian women in modern works are always hot.
Note that this stereotype comes from The Sixties, when the aforementioned actresses started taking roles in movies that made it to America and everything Italian was fashionable (it was in the 60s that Italian film and Italian haute couture caught up with France). In older American works, Italian women are often stereotyped as hairy and nauseatingly unclean.
The Italian language lends itself perfectly for singing. Countless musical terms are of Italian origin.
Opera: Since Italy is the birthplace of opera: expect Italian characters either going to an opera, star in one or just sing some famous opera arias. It gets to the point that every scene taking place in Italy or with Italians will have opera arias as background music, usually by Giuseppe Verdi (Il Trovatore, La Traviata,...), Gioachino Rossini (The Barber of Seville, "William Tell"), Giacomo Puccini (Turandot, Madame Butterfly, Tosca) or Ruggero Leoncavallo (Pagliacci). If not opera, it will be traditional Napolitan songs like "Funiculì, Funiculà", "O Sole Mio" and "Santa Lucia". At worst, the background music will consist of mandolin sonatas... during scenes set in Northern or Central Italy (to give you an idea, this is as incongruous as lions living in Antarctica).
Street musicians with an organ and a little monkey performing tricks are always Italians with curly black moustaches.
Italian theatre is best known for the Commedia dell'Arte and all the clown archetypes thereof. Italy's reputation for clowns and the circus is not so strange since both words are Italian in origin. Other Italian festivity images are the carnival (for instance, the famous one in Venice), confetti and masquerades.
In huge contrast with it's reputation for beauty and sophistication Italy also has its fair share of negative stereotypes.
Italians Talk With Hands: The world of Opera has led to Italy's association with melodramatic behaviour. They will usually talk loud, very fast, gesticulate a lot and start intense discussions about the most trivial topics. They will either cry and crave for their "mamma" or lose their temper and start a fight. Their fanaticism is so proverbial that Italian hooligans even have a special name: "tifosi".
A common trait in media is that Italians just don't shut the hell up. For example, in the "Family Guy episode "Spies Reminiscent Of Us", the Trigger Phrase for a KGB sleeper agent is one nobody would say in a regular conversation: "Gosh, that Italian family across the table sure is quiet."
Italians are often stereotyped as foolish and scary drivers. Advice given during WWII to Allied soldiers occupying Italy said at certain point: "Never race an Italian by any means and with any kind of motor vehicle". Probably false, but the stereotype endures, and, as Italian Tropers will confirm, true.
Italians have the stereotype that any nation not having a bidet in every bathroom is horribly unclean. But for instance, no Italian restaurants (except some luxury ones) have the bidet in their facilities, and many Italian males simply never use theirs but pretend that's impossible to live without.
Italy still has a reputation for being chaotic and disorganized. It took until the 19th century before Giuseppe Garibaldi and Camillo Benso di Cavour finally united all the different regions and city-states into one nation. Ironically enough The Mafia seems to be the only well-organized thing in Italy.
Italy also has a centuries old reputation for bloodshed, corruption, political intrigues and decadence.
Political intrigues have been a staple of Italian politics since The Roman Empire. Ax-Crazy, power hungry and decadent emperors massacred and tortured their opponents by the score, before being murdered themselves. During The City State Era powerful families like the Medicis and The Borgias also liquidated everyone who stood in their way. No wonder that the most famous book about political scheming, "Il Principe", was written by an Italian: Niccolò Machiavelli. Since 1945 Italian politics have been a disorganized cess pool of corruptness, conspiracies, unsolved murders, Mafia intrigues, sex scandals, secret organizations, schemes and governments falling as a result of that. But the CIA also helped things stay that way in their international fight against socialist/communist governments. (See Operation Gladio)
Fascist Italy: Contrary to Germany, Italy managed to avoid being forever associated with World War II, but it's association with fascism endures. Benito Mussolini is also yet another example of an almost cartoony Italian despot.
The Mafia: The most infamous negative association Italy has to offer. Criminal gangs existed for centuries, but really started to blossom and evolve in the organized crime networks we know today during the 19th and 20th century. The Mafia is so engrained in Italian society, especially in Sicily, that it's difficult to entangle and destroy them without making some powerful enemies. In popular culture Italians will often be stereotyped as maffiosi.
Ironically, despite their bloody history, Italians have a reputation to suck at warfare.note Ironically, Italians would be good at war... As long as they care of the war: Italian politicians had the bad habit of getting the country in wars the people didn't care, resulting in embarrassing defeats (the worst ones being Lissa, Adwa and Caporetto), and only when the soldiers started to care or it was special forces (usually with high morale) the Italians would achieve apparently impossible results like at Vittorio Veneto or Alexandria. In fact, anyone dealing in person with Italian soldiers would have two things to say: their high-ranking officers were as bad as their reputation (something the Italians themselves would agree), but the soldiers, when motivated, were brave to the point of folly. If Austria is said to have the second-most useless armed forces in European history Italy may as well be the number one. Their only great military victories have been The Roman Empire, being part of the Allied Forces during World War One and the Italian Resistance giving invaluable help to the Allied Forces during World War II. Italian tanks are popularly supposed to have three forward gears and seventeen reverse gears; the slimmest book in the world is apparently 'The Italian book of War Heroes; and British people in particular will point to newsreel film of Italian soldiers surrendering by the tens of thousand as proof that whatever they're good at, it's not fighting. This stereotype is most mercilessly realized in the manga Axis Powers Hetalia with the Anthropomorphic Personification of Italy, who is portrayed as utterly useless to his fellow Axis members, Germany and Japan — the very word "Hetalia" being a contraction for "Useless Italy".
Italians are often depicted speaking with a heavy accent in which the schwa is inserted after consonant-final words into their speech, leading to sentences like "I ain't-a gonna make-a pasta no more!" while illustrating his speech with exaggerated gesticulations. Examples are the Mario Bros., Luigi in The Simpsons, Tony & Joe in Lady and the Tramp and the character portrayed by Chico Marx. Also add some stock phrases like "Mamma mia", "Vaffanculo!", "Arrivederci", "Ciao!", "Fantastico", "Bellissima", "Niente",...
When Italian men aren't depicted as young sex symbols they will be middle aged men with curly black hair and equally curly moustaches. In American media, all Italians are Sicilians, and all Sicilians have black hair, brown eyes, and olive skin. Very much notTruth in Television, at least when it comes to the real Sicily (or Italy, for that matter). This trope is so pervasive that when Turner Media colorized a bunch of old black-and-white movies featuring Frank Sinatra, they gave him brown eyes. (For those wondering, Sinatra's best-known nickname was "Ol' Blue Eyes".)
Raised Catholic: Another enduring stereotype is that all Italians are Roman Catholics. Any street scene in Italy will show nuns, priests or The Pope at one point.
If a scene takes place in Italy, it will be either Rome (to visit the Colosseum or the Trevi fountain), Venice (so that characters can take a boat ride or join the Carnival), Pompeii (for the Roman ruins) or Pisa (just to see the Leaning Tower) or a small pictoresque Italian village (usually in Tuscany) complete with an Olive Garden and vineyards. When a scene takes place in Sicily some maffia members will turn up.
A balcony with a veranda in a villa, near a piazza with some frescoes will also provide an Italian atmosphere.
Italians do strongly believe that everybody envies their easy life, good weather, low cost of living, sea and snowy mountains by the step. So when Italians fail at something on a international scale (sports, war,...), all foreigners are blamed for "conspiring together against poor Italy, which never is given the time to rise on its feet before some other big country bashes it down again".
Chekhov's Volcano: Much like Iceland, Italy is also known for its volcanoes, with Vesuvius, notable for the Pompeï disaster, and Etna as the most famous examples.
Somewhat of a subtrope of Italy — there can be some substantial overlap, especially in historical works (even though the last three popes — and, of course, the first — were not Italian).
Internationally, the Vatican is known for only two things: The Pope and the Sixtine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo Buonarotti.
Corrupt Church: In popular culture, The Vatican will be depicted as a Wretched Hive of political and criminal intrigues. For being the smallest state in the world, it holds more power than one would expect. It is adept at operating behind the scenes by providing spies, assassins, and Mafia accomplices and diplomats that will manipulate governments across the entire globe. Its members will be more interested in temporal power and luxury than true spiritual well-being. Also huge supporters of Nazi and Fascist dictatorships. They also hide ancient manuscripts full of secrets that could harm their reputation.
Hiding Behind Religion: Since the Vatican is notoriously secretive about their bureaucracy, treasury, and especially their archives, this has led to many fantastical speculations about what actually isn't permitted to see daylight? In popular culture, the palace will be shown as a hotbed of sexual deviancy. Despite the proclaimed chastity of its members, there will be papal mistresses, closet homosexuals, orgies of priests and nuns, bastard children rising to high office. Especially in works set before the 20th century, this is a popular trope. In more modern works, the deviancy tends to be restricted to pedophilia.
There are generally a few truly noble priests who take their spiritual responsibilities seriously and work to fight the overall atmosphere of corruption. They can be lowly functionaries, or they can be as high up as the pope, but they are always in the minority. In the end they will usually be persecuted or poisoned. A hundred years after their death, they are named saints.
The most common stereotype associated with this country is that it's almost never stereotyped, due to the fact that is so small and easily overlooked or forgotten. If it is shown, it will presented as nothing more than a boring village full of bored-looking people surrounded by empty fields.
The unique fact that it's a Grand Duchy is the only thing it's internationally famous for.
Yet, just like the Swiss, Luxembourgers are known to be the bankers of Europe.
During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s European radio listeners knew it for Radio Luxembourg, one of the few radio stations that played rock music in a time none of the other European stations did. Its signal was so strong that it reached many other European countries, including the United Kingdom.
Since Monaco has a Prince and is featured in many tabloid stories about the royals, people seem to assume that it's a glamorous place, which it can be, but generally only for the supremely rich. It's actually incredibly built-up and crowded.
Micro Monarchy: The ruling Grimaldi family in general are probably the 2nd best known royal family in the world after the British Royal Family, due to cinema icon Grace Kelly marrying Prince Rainier in 1956.
If Monaco is depicted in popular culture, characters are always in a casino, on a yacht, or on the racetrack.
The native Monégasque make up just over 20% of the 30,000 inhabitants of the tiny principality and are stereotyped as keeping themselves to themselves and being fabulously wealthy by the far more numerous French and Italian residents.
The Netherlands is often referred to as "Holland", while this is actually only two of the country's twelve provinces. Note that even some Dutch people will refer to it this way in English, mostly because it's easier to say and more recognizable.
Dutchmen and women are often depicted wearing clogs, carrying cheese and walking around in tulip fields with many wind mills, "grachten", and cows in the background. All women are blond milk maids with pigtails. Huge dikes protect the Dutch from floods, as depicted in the popular story about Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates which is in fact an American story and not a real-life Dutch incident.
All Dutch people eat nothing but ham, cheese or chocolate spread sandwiches, and drink nothing but milk or fruit juice.
Water is perhaps the Netherlands' most prominent trademark. For centuries this completely flat country is in many places lower than the sea level, thus causing major flood disasters up until 1953. It also explains its name ("Nederland": "neder" is an archaic word for something that's low or down to the ground). Since the Delta Works project the Netherlands has managed to put a stop to most of these continuous floods.
Water is so much a part of the landscape in the Netherlands that even tourists notice it. Rivers, brooks, "grachten" and the sea itself made it necessary for Dutchmen to make boats. Just like the English there is a tradition of being sailors and marineers. There have been many historically famous Dutch admirals, sea captains, discoverers, pirates and colonists.
A more modern view of the Netherlands depicts the people as drug addicts who smoke marijuana while the streets are full of brothels and prostitutes. This stereotype is based on the more liberal attitudes towards soft drugs, sexuality, LGBTQ rights and prostitution, compared to other countries. (See also Freestate Amsterdam.)
Dutch TV shows, films, advertisements and culture in general also have a reputation for being sometimes borderline obscene, vulgar, scatological and risqué. Even kids' shows!
For centuries, the Netherlands was called a "tolerant nation". Indeed, since the 17th century, many foreign refugees have fled to the Netherlands, because in Dutch society people didn't mind about other people's beliefs. However, during World War II, more people were persecuted in the Netherlands than in any other Nazi occupied country. After the war, the country successfully managed to restore its reputation and for decades it tolerated many things that are considered illegal or controversial in other countries. Still feeling ashamed about the Netherlands' huge contribution to the Holocaust, it made talking about problems with immigrants a taboo subject. This changed in 2002, when far-right politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated because of his controversial ideas for a stricter immigration policy. The first political murder in the Netherlands since the 17th century came as a huge shock to the Dutch people and caused them to re-evaluate the policy towards tolerance, especially in the field of immigration. Since Fortuyn's murder and the murder of controversial film director Theo van Gogh in 2004 by a muslim extremist, more radical (and sometimes racist) opinions about immigration, prohibition, and the freedom of speech have become more outspoken in the Netherlands. In recent years, the Dutch even started to question their stance for decriminalization of soft drugs.
In Europe, Dutch people are often depicted as being arrogant and bluntly direct know-it-alls. They talk loud and are very opinionated about every topic. A Dutchman/woman always knows what others do wrong and how they should correct their behaviour. Instead of remaining discreet about it, to spare other people's feelings, or at least discuss it in a polite, tactful manner, they simply shout out what's on their mind, insulting everybody. Their preachiness is usually attributed to their mostly Protestant/Calvinist heritage. So it comes to no surprise that the International Court of Justice is located in The Hague.
Just like the Scottish, they are known to be thrifty about money ("Hollandse zuinigheid", meaning "Dutch frugality"). All Belgian jokes about Dutchmen target their thriftiness.
In the English language "dutch treat" means splitting the bill—as does "going dutch" on a date.
However, the term "dutch treat", as well as many other terms, were invented by the English during the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century. The term "dutch treat" owes less to "Dutch people are thrifty" and more to "Dutch people are scum." This is clearer in certain other expressions, like "dutch courage" (liquor).
Ironically enough, for being so infamously thrifty, Dutchmen do know how to conduct business. For centuries, Dutch merchants were among the shrewdest and richest businessmen in the world. During the 17th century (nicknamed "De Gouden Eeuw" ("The Golden Age") in the Netherlands), they were the only country in the world where most of the population led a wealthy, prosperous, and peaceful life, without being occupied by other countries. Historians even see it as the first modern capitalist state. Even in later centuries, Dutch people remained well-known for being merciless and tough marketing geniuses, able to exploit anything for a huge price. Colonel Parker, manager of Elvis Presley, was Dutch and literally embodies this stereotype!
Dutchmen are also known for being ubiquitous tourists, and have a penchant for caravans.
They also enjoy to go somewhere by bike. Bicycle tourism is very common, compared to other European countries where there's hardly enough place to go cycling.
Another sport closely associated with the Netherlands is ice skating. Dutchmen have won countless gold medals in this discipline.
The Belgian singer Jacques Brel once said that: "Dutch isn't a language, it's a throat disease". Dutch does indeed involve a lot of noises from the back of the throat, therefore a popular stereotype is that Dutch consists of nothing but these sounds. The word "ja, ja, ja" ("yes, yes, yes") will be uttered non-stop as well.
Portuguese are generally known as explorers, thanks to Vasco da Gama, Henry the Navigator, Bartolomeo Diaz, Pedro Alvares Cabral, and Ferdinand Magellan, among others.
References to their wine ("porto"), Fado music, or sardines are also typical, as are their beaches.
Portugal suffered under a dictatorship from 1932 to 1974. The conservative regime of Presidents Salazar and Caetano held back many technical and modern innovations that other European countries did adapt. By the time the country became a democracy again, it had so many technical stuff to catch up with that for a long time it caused the Portuguese to be viewed as primitive and hopelessly stuck in dated traditions.
Brazilian people seem to think that the Portuguese are either dumb or close-minded.
More rarely, Portuguese people are considered more taciturn and fatalistic than other southern European populations, in part because of Fado music (fado means "fate"), mentioned above, and because of their Vestigial Empire status.
In terms of regions:
People from Lisbon usually think of themselves as being cosmopolitan. They'll also constantly praise their city, even if the transportation companies are on strike or some buildings are in decay.
People from Alentejo (one of the most rural and underdeveloped regions in the country) live life at a snail's pace, are lazy, and mostly old. They're probably communists, too.
A Venezuelan stereotypical depiction of Portuguese people is that they are all industrious people who run small businesses, usually Mom & Pop stores and bakeries, and every food store in the country is managed by them (in real life, most of the food distribution chain is indeed managed by people of Portuguese descent).
"El portu del abasto" is an stereotype by itself, a middle-aged mustached man in white butcher clothes. The Portuguese always have a unibrow, even the women.
Apart from Fado music, the Portuguese are not the best singers around. They're quite good at poetry, though (shown in an Astérix book, where a Lusitanian slave is asked to sing, to which he replies that he can't sing, but he can recite poetry).
Foreigners often confuse Spaniards with Latin-Americans (Spexico and even the Portuguese or Brazilians...)
Spaniards are often caricatured as being Hot-Blooded and proud to the point of being idle.
The most enduring image about Spain is the bull. According to many stereotypes, Spaniards are all bullfighters and/or love to watch these fights in a huge arena. They may also participate in the "encierro" ("Running of the Bulls") in Pamplona and get horribly wounded in the process. This stereotype has become a bit outdated since the second half of the 20th century. Nowadays not all Spaniards are that fond anymore of massacring an innocent animal in front of hundreds of spectators. On the Canary Islands and in Catalonia the sport is even forbidden.
Dashing Hispanic, Toros y Flamenco and Badass Spaniard: Bullfighting is one of the things that lead to the idea that all Spaniards are prideful, flashy, and dashing matadors, fencers, conquistadores, knights, swashbucklers, masked outlaws, pirates,... who elegantly swish their swords, rapiers, knives, or banderillas at their opponents. The men all have black moustaches and wear a bandana or another type of headscarf.
In (beat 'em up) videogames, Spanish males are almost universally depicted as prideful, flashy matadors of some sort, with examples including Vega from Street Fighter, Laurence Blood from Fatal Fury, and Miguel Caballero Rojo from the Tekken series.
If Spaniards are not dancing and prancing around with weapons, they are doing the same activities while singing and playing flamenco music. The man will play acoustic guitar and sing serenades under balconies, while tapping one foot on the ground to the beat of the music. He is usually accompanied by a beautiful black-haired young woman who carries a rose between her teeth, hides her face with a fan, or uses castagnettes or a tambourine to keep rhythm. The songs are usually catchy songs about sad topics while the singers wails "ay ay ay".
Spain is also often stereotyped as being a Catholic nation. Even though for most of the Middle Ages it was a Muslim country (See Moorish Spain).
Many stereotypes about Spain date back to the 16th and 17th century when the Spanish Empire was the most powerful country in the world. Except references to the Spanish Armada, The Spanish Inquisition, and their famous explorers and conquistadores to be made.
Modern stereotypes about Spain depict the country as a sunny beach holiday destination, where people have fiëstas and siëstas all day and night long.
Spanish people are also frequently stereotyped as being lazy, an impression derived from their daily siëstas.
Spain also brings up images of hot desert lands with bad roads.
Whenever Spanish people are cooking or eating, it will be one of the following dishes: olives, oranges, tortillas, sangría, ham, tapas, or paella.
The old Latin-American stereotype for Spaniards, at least in comedy, tends to be "El Gallego" (the Galician guy), a middle-aged man of thick accent and little intelligence, always dressed with a white shirt, a vest, and a black beret, who peppers his conversation with "¡Jolines!".
Another Latin American stereotype about Spaniards is that they are all very foul-mouthed, who can't speak two phrases without inserting f-bombs and assorted swearwords front, back, and sideways. Even grannies and small children.
The Swiss are seen as very punctual and orderly, thanks to their stable government, ability to maintain neutral during foreign conflicts, and reputation for quality watchmaking, both with cuckoo clocks and wrist watches. The famous Swiss pocket knives are also an example of Swiss precision and punctuality.
Thanks to their famously secretive banking system, the Swiss are also caricatured as filthy rich bankers who guard money from dubious origins. Many millionaires or rich people live in Switzerland.
In Europe, the Swiss are thought to be dim-witted, slow people who really like to take their time. This is in great contrast with the precision of their famous watches and cuckoo clocks.
Neat Freak: Another image is the cleanliness of the average Swiss person, famously spoofed in “Asterix in Switzerland”. A bit Truth in Television since many Swiss cities have relatively clean streets and crystal clear lakes you can swim in.
The Swiss eat nothing but Swiss cheese, fondue, and chocolate, and all their dogs are Saint Bernards.
Another stereotype: they only export said cheese and chocolate. In reality, their main export is machines that make molds.
Since Switzerland's borders are close to another snowy, mountain-filled country, Austria, both countries share the same Alpine clichés: mountaineering, skiing, chalets, yodeling, alpenhorns, Saint Bernards,... Its inhabitants will be depicted wearing lederhosen and caps with feathers. And, of course, foreigners will frequently confuse both countries with each other.
Switzerland is a multilingual community with four official languages (French, German, Italian, and Romansh — a descendant of Latin). As a result, the Swiss are often mistaken by foreigners for being either Frenchmen, Germans, or Italians. Some very ignorant people sometimes confuse The Swiss with Swedish people and vice versa, although their countries are not even geographically close together.
The situation differs today. Basically, Swiss citizens cannot be mercenaries anymore but when the treaty was written, the country was still largely Catholic and the Papal Guard was — and still is — allowed.
A particular confusing country for foreigners, because they are never quite sure which countries/regions belong to it and under which of the many names it should be addressed? Usually, England and the English are the point of reference and Scotland and Wales are seen as separate countries, which will be adressed as individual nations when necessary, despite the fact that none of them are officially independent from England. To set things straight: the United Kingdom as a whole is England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. When referring to Great Britain, it's just England, Wales, and Scotland.
"I'm British; I know how to queue." — Douglas Adams makes several references to no one being better at queuing than the British.
Keep Calm and Carry On...The British are known for their equanimity, and many works reference the British Stiff Upper Lip, a national character trait that ranges from a general "mustn't grumble" attitude in mild examples, to an extreme level of ambivalent disregard for the inherent danger in volatile situations. The stiff upper lip is underpinned by understatement, a very British way of speaking, which resolutely refuses to succumb to drama, excitement, or high emotion. Examples generally either play this straight or employ the trope for comedic effect. Straight examples are to be found in films like Master and Commander, which cranks this Up to Eleven throughout, The Bridge on the River Kwai and perhaps most famously in Zulu, which depicts the victorious Last Stand battle of 139 British soldiers against 5000 Zulu warriors. Comedic examples are equally prevalent, most famously seen in Carry On Up The Khyber, where the British rulers in India discover that bloodthirsty Afghan hordes are approaching fast, intending to slaughter them all, but proceed to have a dinner-party under heavy fire (the dining room eventually loses a wall, all the windows, and most of the ceiling) — no one bats an eye-lid throughout.
Thanks to The British Empire and their naval traditions, the British have a reputation for being excellent marineers and sailors. During the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the British Empire had more colonies overseas than any other nation, covering a quarter of the global landmass. "Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves", one of the most well known patriotic British songs, sums it up best.
Speaking of "Rule Britannia": whenever a scene cuts to an English location, the soundtrack must quote the refrain from this song for a few notes. Especially in comedy and animation, this is almost a golden rule.
The Stiff Upper Lip stereotype is turned on its head in Australia, where "Whinging Poms" describes a stereotype that British people, particularly the English, are hopelessly stuck-up complainers.
Outside of the UK, the perceived "posh" accents of the Anglophonic nations (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA) tend to sound more "English" the more upper-class a character is — that is, their accent is close to English RP (e.g less rhotic, pronunciations are more precise, long "a" sounds - "plahnt", not "plant" etc). Think Frasier and Niles from Frasier, who are often mistakenly thought to have "British" accents, Stewie Griffin (who is actually supposedly meant to have a Boston Brahmin accent) and Helen Daniels and Harold Bishop (especially) from Neighbours for an Oceania example. Essentially, the posher the character, the more "English" they sound.
A Touch of Class, Ethnicity and Religion: Compared to other European countries, the class system has remained far more prominent and dominant in the United Kingdom than elsewhere. Despite not mattering as much as it did before the 1960s, it can still inspire a lot of venom, depending from which class system you're (pretending to be) from. Generally, the Upper-Class Twit has become a common Butt Monkey in many British comedies, with usually their servants being a lot smarter and sympathetic than they are (see The Jeeves). People from middle class trying to intermingle with upper class and making a fool of themselves in the process have also been a staple in British comedy for decades. However, there is still a good deal of fascination with the intricacies of the class system, as evidenced by the huge popularity of British period dramas, both at home and abroad — Downton Abbey, Parade's End, and Upstairs Downstairs offer a guilty pleasure; a compelling glimpse into the regimented lives of both master and servant. In some instances though, a privileged background can be a hindrance; for instance, a British rock band is only "authentic" when they are working-class.
Noble Male, Roguish Male: The above characters provide a great example of the polarized way in which British males are often presented in culture generally —that is, they are designed and depicted as being from either the very top (upper class gentleman, the epitome of Western sophistication) OR very bottom (rough and ready, punkish Cockney rogues) of the British social-class scale — all else in between is far less often depicted.
Stock British Characters: The Quintessential British Gentleman has blonde, mousey or shiny black hair, a bushy moustache, is dressed in a bowler hat and black suit, carries an umbrella and interrupts everything for the sake of having his tea (see Spot of Tea). In American movies he usually speaks Cockney slang like "'Ello, gov'na!" or other random Stock British Phrases like "Cheerio", "Right-ee-o", "Hello chaps", "Innit, eh?", "Cor blimey", "I say!", "I say "what"?", "Hear Hear", "Bloody...", "Tally-ho!", "Bob's your uncle", "It's a fair cop", "Shocking", "Yes. Quite!", "...and all that", "What's all this then?" or "Jolly good show!". Foreign comedians also have a tendency to portray an Englishman by using the words "bastard", "wanker", "tosser" or "bollocks", which are all considered to be rude words in Great Britain and are always avoided in public, especially on radio or television.
The English Rose is a uniquely English type of female beauty, and most often appears in period settings, though examples from modern works are also possible. Her beauty will be natural and classic; tumbling locks of auburn or light brown hair, porcelain-white skin and bee-stung lips are usual visual cues. Impeccable manners and good breeding are essential characteristics. She will be demure, and whilst generally being above offering any kind of gratuitous Fanservice, she will always be alluringly beautiful in an ethereal sort of way. English actresses like Julie Andrews, Vivien Leigh, Kate Winslet, Rachel Weisz and Jessica Brown Findlay have the appropriate looks, and are often accorded this accolade.
The British are also well known for founding clubs, specifically gentlemen's clubs. They will frequently come together and have dignified, sometimes elitarian meetings, followed by group activities in which they share their common interests (sports, hunting, playing cards, reading,...). Expect members to smoke a pipe and wear tweed jackets.
"Get three Englishmen together and they'll start a club. Get three Welshmen together and they'll start a choir. Get three Scotsmen together and they'll start a fight."
Boarding School: Independent, prestigious educational institutions and the associated uniforms worn therein are most commonly associated with Great Britain, and a huge amount of home-grown and international works are dedicated to this setting. The tone of these works generally comes in one of two flavours, although there is a good deal of overlap:
The alternative flavour presents British boarding school life as a far more enjoyable, even magical experience, with hi-jinks aplenty, midnight feasts, pillow fights, and life-long friendships formed. Examples of works from this setting include Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Jennings and of course, possibly the most famous example, Harry Potter.
If characters go to university, Oxford and Cambridge will be at one point referred to as "the best universities in the world". College students will be wearing a student beret (a tradition that doesn't exist in non-English speaking universities). Typical pastime activities are rugby, cricket, and the famous annual boat race between these two august institutions.
Stock British Characters, especially in American media (if they are at the higher end of the social-class spectrum), will of course have one of the quintessentially British stock names — "Nigel", "Rupert", or "Charles" are all popular choices, usually complemented with surnames such as "Belvedere", "Kensington", or "Buckingham", which reference affluent UK locations. Upper-class British characters will also have (often for comedic effect) highly elaborate double, or even triple-barrelled surnames — "Sir Nigel Featherstonehaugh-Smythe" (incidently, to muddle les autrés, the first part of this surname is pronounced Fan-shaw). There's definitely some Truth in Television to this stereotype, as certain names (like Nigel) are far more common in the UK than in the US, and there are Brits (mainly aristocrats) with extraordinarily rambling names — Jacobi Richard Penn Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe provides a rather lovely real life example.
When Britons are playing sport they will be playing cricket, rugby, or darts to make absolutely clear that they are British. Soccer and tennis are popular as well, but generally not British enough in foreign fiction, unless the tennis is at Wimbledon, of course.
Despite being generally portrayed as polite and sophisticated, Britons can sometimes be depicted as more degrading or less classy characters:
Oddly, despite their stuffy stereotype, in Europe the English are sometimes thought of as sexually sadomasochistic, as demonstrated by the French idiom meaning "to spank": "Le Vice Anglais" — The English Vice. Benny Hill, Carry On and the saucy greeting cards of Donald McGill also contribute to this image.
Rude, violent, and drunken soccer hooligans can be found in other countries as well, but England is tarnished more with this reputation than others. Of course, they all shout in Cockney accents.
British News Papers: Despite the fact that many countries have tabloid magazines and sensational journalists, these trashy, sleazy, and unconscionable newspapers are generally associated with the "Red Tops" of Great Britain.
Mean Brit: The Britons also have a reputation for producing arrogantly opinionated know-it-alls who will cause commotion in countries where expressing your thoughts that bluntly is considered not done. Examples are Christopher Hitchens, John Lydon, Margaret Thatcher, Jeremy Clarkson, Nigel Farage, Anne Robinson, Simon Cowell, Gordon Ramsay, ... Some of them can be considered being a charming Magnificent Bastard too though, especially in countries (like the USA) where their blunt, honest attitude helps to cut through a saccharine quagmire of "good-for-you!" schmaltz.
In many countries, especially on the European continent, the British cuisine is seen as particularly awful, tasteless, and sometimes downright disgusting, something that has been spoofed in Astérix in Britain. The 1990s, mad cow disease harmed this reputation even more. Expect the following British dishes to make a cameo whenever foreign characters in fiction visit the United Kingdom: buttered scones, Worcester sauce, plum pudding, fish 'n' chips, spotted dick (for Double Entendre purposes), Yorkshire pudding, peas, shepherd's pie, English breakfast,...
In fact, the only food that the English seem to excel in are sweets and candy.
Roald Dahl praises his country's sweets in his autobiographical novel Boy.
Bart and Lisa become addicted to English sweets in the Simpsons travel episode "The Regina Monologues".
Spot of Tea is also a quintessential element of British cuisine. In Britain, tea is seen as a universal panacea for all ills, and the British love nothing better than 'putting their feet up' and enjoying a 'cuppa'. The quiet gentility of the English tea ceremony is seen as a reflection of the reserved national character. In popular culture, they will usually drop everything they were doing at four o' clock in the afternoon because it's "tea time".
The English are often called "eccentric". This is partly caused by their driving on the left side of the road and the use of imperial measurements, which no other country in Europe (still) has. They are also the only European country to have a unique version of Christianity as the official state religion: Anglicanism. The usual explanation for the "British eccentric behaviour" is that they have lived for centuries on an isolated island, separated from the rest of the European continent, which caused them to act different from other Europeans. They haven't been invaded since 1066, which might also explain why so many historic traditions have remained intact and unchanged. For instance, judges and lawyers are still required to wear wigs in court, which stems from the 17th century. (See also British Courts).
With Europe But Not Of It: Their stubbornness to join or support initiatives of the European Union has also been associated with their eccentricity or desire to be "different from the others for the sake of being different."
English aristocrats in particular have a centuries old reputation for eccentricity. You can seriously fill a book with all the mad royals, lords, dukes, earls, and barons that seem(ed) to flourish in the English countryside and their colonies.
Which brings us to the world-famous British comedy: the British are not afraid of laughing at themselves, and a good deal of British comedy pokes fun at the class system and the typical eccentric Englishman. Many British sitcoms and sketch shows have strange, daft characters whose behaviour is very unusual. Other, more "normal" characters will react with calm, dry humor and/or witty remarks about their behaviour. René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo claimed that when they satirized other nationalities in Astérix, each country would always complain about the way they were portrayed in the comic strip, usually because they didn't understand their depictions. According to them, the only people that never made any trouble about the way they were spoofed were the Britons.
Another stereotype among foreigners about the United Kingdom is that many assume that all British comedy is more high-brow than comedy from other countries. Usually, such people are referring to intellectual, satirical stuff like The Goon Show, Monty Python, Blackadder, and The Office (UK). They don't realise that the country also makes more low-brow and/or conventional comedy series.
Culturally, Britain is world famous for producing literary classics in the fields of novels, poetry, and plays. London's West End is viewed as a revered theatrical Mecca, and Hollywood actors will often appear on the London stage (with much fanfare) to increase their credibility. William Shakespeare is still a national institution and usually the foremost British author referenced in popular culture. Other notables are Charles Dickens and his huge volume of Victorian Britain works, Jane Austen and her pioneering depictions of female heroines during the Regency, the vast fantasy works of J. R. R. Tolkien, and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series to name the most iconic.
All British castles and manors are either haunted or a location for murder mysteries.
If there's one thing the British excel at above all other nations, it's pomp and ceremony. This is most evident every year during the Last Night of the Proms concert in the Royal Albert Hall, where the most famous patriotic classical chant is even called "Pomp & Circumstance"! It's also visible in many other traditional ceremonies, such as the Changing of the Guards and the Royal Weddings, which include all the pageantry and fanfare of a classic fairytale wedding. Even though other European royal houses also conduct similar ceremonies, these tend to be far more low-key and lack the international press interest.
In some fiction like The Simpsons' episode "The Regina Monologues", Great Britain is depicted as if it still has the death penalty, which is of course carried out in medieval style by beheading someone in the Tower of London. The irony of it all is that Great Britain has abolished the death penalty while the United States still has it!
Britain Is Only London: Only one British location exists in foreign fiction: London. Whenever the city is depicted in popular culture expect Big Ben and Tower Bridge to appear in view. The Westminster Chimes will resonate throughout the city. The Tower, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Madame Tussauds, the London Underground, Royal Albert Hall, Trafalgar Square, ... may have a cameo, too.
When Buckingham Palace is depicted in popular culture, it's usually to have a scene with British Royal Guards being tricked into laughing and/or dropping their granite-like facade. The British Royal Family is easily the world's most famous monarchy, so expect the various members to turn up, usually for comedic or dramatic effect, in a variety of works — from TV to films, books, and even videogames. Since Queen Elizabeth is the best-known monarch in the world, she's turned up quite a lot in fiction, usually as an Anonymous Ringer or Invisible President, in part due to her function as a constitutional monarch.
The only non-London British location interesting enough in popular culture is Stonehenge.
The Union Flag (Union Jack) itself is something of a fashion icon, and due to it's highly recognisable star-burst pattern, the flag is frequently used to brand the clothing, accessories, and home decor of British characters in popular culture.
By the way: it's always raining in the United Kingdom (British Weather). Or when in London, expect some smog or fog to show up.
It's VERY much Truth in Television that Brits are obsessed with talking about the weather, probably stemming from — a) Having a highly erratic climate that goes from blazing sunshine to torrential downpours in the space of an afternoon, and b) A cultural need to fill in conversational silences and awkwardness with universally acceptable chit-chat.
If an animal is depicted as being British, it will be an English bulldog.
The Home Counties (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, etc) — wealthy, expensive, and very upper-middle class. Filled with men called Nigel who work in The City and attractive yummy mummies taking children called Crispin and Henrietta to private schools in enormous, unnecessary 4x4s.
Essex — the UK equivalent of Joisey or The Valley. A county of perma-tanned, slutty dolly-birds and aggressive, vain, flashy geezer-blokes driving around in ghastly, souped-up Escort XR 3is.
The Midlands — the UK equivalent of Flyover Country. Often depicted as a grim industrial hell-hole in parts. The Birmingham accent is particularly vilified for sounding whiny and slightly stupid.
Yorkshiremen are doughty, thrifty, plain-speaking, and no-nonsense. The men work down mines, wear flat-caps, and race whippets, whilst the women are all Apron Matrons. Often seen as a nostalgic, "trust-worthy" folk. Yorkshiremen (and all other Northerners) view Southerners as "ponces".
The huge success of long-running British soap Coronation Street compounds the effect, being set in a fictional Yorkshire town populated by a huge variety of Oop North clichés.
Liverpudlians are vilified as loud, abrasive, work-shy, and chavvy (not helped by the accent), with a passion for permed-hair and shell-suits. They are often presented as criminally inclined, but very family-orientated. The Beatles, the most successful rock band in history, put the city on the map internationally, and such, all Liverpudlians are expected to be huge, nostalgic fans.
Manchester — the epicentre of Brit Pop in the mid 90s. Full of young males in their early 20's getting "mad for it". Seen as quite a "cool" city (2nd to London nationally), and viewed as the style, fashion, and cultural capital of The North.
ScotIreland: Foreigners outside the UK frequently mix and confuse Irish and Scottish stereotypes with each other. Many Scottish celebrities are frequently thought to be either Irish or British. The only one nobody mistakes for being anything other than Scottish is Sean Connery.
Man in a Kilt: All Scottish men walk around in traditional Scottish clothing, which includes the tam o' shanter (a hat), the sporran (a pouch worn on a loose belt), a Sgian Dubh (ceremonial knife), but especially the kilt. Expect jokes to be based on the idea that it is actually a skirt and/or that he doesn't wear undergarments beneath it. Never mind the fact that nobody in Scotland wears this outfit, except perhaps during national or local festivities or sports competitions.
The English language has a phrase, "going Scottish", which means walking around with nothing below your skirt or dress.
The Clan: All Scots are part of a clan and take pride in being a part of that family.
Brave Scot and Violent Glaswegian: A positive stereotype about Scots is that they are supposedly all brave and fierce "real" men, toughened by the harsh climate. They don't mind cold, rain, wind, or fog and will fight their clan or country's honor at all cost. The negative end of this stereotype depicts them as dour, grouchy, and mean sourpusses with a trigger temper. They will criticize any Scot who doesn't share their tough ways of living for being No True Scotsman. Sometimes they are even depicted as being ugly, usually in combination with what can be seen beneath their kilts.
"Get three Englishmen together and they'll start a club. Get three Welshmen together and they'll start a choir. Get three Scotsmen together and they'll start a fight."
All Scots hate the English for more or less colonizing them and long for independence.
In combination with the Brave Scot archetype, the strong men will be participating in the Highland Games, where they throw long poles, stones, weights, and hammers as far away as possible. Another contest is tug o' war (two teams pulling a rope).
The only other famous Scottish sport all foreigners know is golf, which isn't part of the Highland Games at all.
As stated on a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch: "Scots folk don't know how to play tennis to save their lives." (Since the men's singles victories of Glasgow native Andy Murray in the Olympics and US Open in 2012 and Wimbledon in 2013, this stereotype has become less prominent.)
Thrifty Scot: One of the most enduring stereotypes is that all Scots are thrifty and stingy misers who can't bear the thought of spending a simple penny. Foreigners have created a lot of jokes around this idea.
BRIAN BLESSED, Have I Got News For You: You know, there really is a petrol crisis when motorists in Scotland start panic-buying, with some putting in as much as five pounds' worth at a time.
The German word "Schottenpreise" ("Scotsmen price") actually means a "cheap, low price".
Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: If you're Scottish, you're able to play the bagpipes, specifically the tunes "Amazing Grace", "Auld Lang Syne", or "Scotland the Brave". In popular culture, non-Scottish people, particularly patriotic stuck-up Englishmen, will dismiss these musical sounds as being horrible noise.
All Scots have red or yellow brown hair. Men wear sideburns and/or a beard.
Every Scot has a last name starting with the word "Mac" or "Mc". Typical first names are Gordon, Donald, Duncan, Hamish, or Angus.
Much like the English, Scottish cuisine is not held in high regard in other countries. In fact: even the English seem disgusted about some of the Scottish national dishes, most notably haggis.
From Doctor Who: "You're Scottish, fry something!".
Mock the Week, "Weird Things to See on a Road Sign": "You are entering Scotland. No salad for 200 miles."
Scottish liquor on the other hand is universally popular. Whisky (spelled as "whiskey" in Ireland, making the distinction) and especially "scotch" are their most universal export product.
Whenever you're in Scotland, expect to see some thistles (their national flower), green grassy hills, huge lakes, a variety of sheep, castles, and walls made out of stone cobbles. Only two cities will be mentioned in popular culture: Glasgow and Edinburgh. The only other location worth mentioning is Loch Ness, so that the Monster Of Loch Ness can have a cameo.
The Scottish legal system has also gained some notoriety, with a third verdict apart from "Guilty or "Innocent", named "Not Proven".
The Scottish accent is also distinctive and has been imitated — poorly- by many foreigners. Typical Stock Phrases are "aye", "laddie", "bonnie", "wee", "shiite", and "mate", always spoken with a strong emphasis on the letter "r". Certain syllables will be swallowed, such as "call" which becomes "ca'" and "never" which becomes "ne'er".
Scots are frequently typecast as poets. This may stem from historical examples such as Robert Burns (a national icon), Walter Scott and William Topaz Mcgonagall (considered to be the worst-ever poet in the English language).
Scots are also dismissed as being nothing else but a bunch of drunk and violent savages living close to nature. In reality, Scotland has produced quite some notable scientists and inventors who had a positive effect on human history, including Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone), Kirkpatrick Macmillan (inventor of the bicycle), James Clerk Maxwell (discoverer of electromagnetic radiation), Joseph Lister (introduced antiseptic surgery), Alexander Fleming (discoverer of penicilline), James Watt (inventor of the steam engine), and John Logie Baird (inventor of tv). Some of the world's most famous British authors were Scottish: Walter Scott, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie,... Also, historically England has been ruled by monarchs or Prime Ministers born in Scotland a couple of times, including James I, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown.
Welsh people are often regarded as stoic, somewhat dull people. In fiction, they will even be stereotyped as being stupid and backward, mainly because they all live on farms and supposedly know nothing about modern technology. Foreign writers are prone to forget that in Real Life Wales is more than just a small village. (A small village just outside Rotherham, to be exact...)
In fact, Wales' image as a primitive nation also stems from the fact that it is frequently used as a Standard Fantasy Setting in medieval sword and sorcery stories. Its craggy mountains and rugged terrain make it excellent for tales where King Arthur, knights, druids, castles,... are needed. The fact that Wales' national symbol is a dragon doesn't help matters much.
The Welsh language is also one of the most ancient in Europe and still spoken today, which may again explain why so many Englishmen have the feeling history stood still in Wales. Welsh is unlike other languages and has odd conventions (many double letters, strange diacritics,...) that are a frequent source of amusement for those unfamiliar with them. Yet again, not all Welshmen are that familiar with this ancient Celtic language.
Welshmen are often typecast as being unusually talented at singing.
"Get three Englishmen together and they'll start a club. Get three Welshmen together and they'll start a choir. Get three Scotsmen together and they'll start a fight."
The accent is particularly rhotic and quite harsh-sounding, at least compared to the lilting Southern Irish accents — a classic shibboleth is "an hour in the power-shower", which comes out as "an arr in the par shar", when said by a native Northern Irishman.
Before the sectarian conflicts broke the economy, Northern Ireland was known for being very industrialized compared to the rest of the island.
Since the second half of the 20th century, it's mostly known for The Troubles between Catholics, Protestants, and their respective terrorist organisations I.R.A./I.N.L.A. and the U.D.A./U.F.F.
On a more positive note, a trip to Northern Ireland in fiction is not complete without a visit to the amazing Giant's Causeway, or the Bushmills whiskey distillery.
Northern Europe is considered to have more modern morals than the rest of the continent, but has less industrial production.
Their languages sound very funny in foreigners' ears. They also have some letters different from the usual Western alphabet. Whenever mock Scandinavian is written the letter "o" will always be an "Ø" and the "a" an "Å", despite not being that easily replaceable without changing the pronunciation or sound of a word.
A typical phenomenon is the weather. Most of the year the days will be short and the nights long. The "aurora borealis" (northern lights) will appear in the sky at night. The midnight sun will rise, too. Foreigners assume it's always snowing in Northern Europe, though sunny weather is not uncommon, too.
Up in the northern regions of Norway and Sweden live the Lapp people (now considered a derogatory term and preferably named the Sami people). They will always be seen in the company of reindeers.
And, you guessed it: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland will always be confused with each other. Usually, all countries in Northern Europe are called "Scandinavia", while technically only Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are part of it.
Danes also have a reputation for being very open-minded about sex. In 1968, Denmark was the first country to legalize porn. During the late 1960s, many pornographic and/or sex education movies seen in international cinemas were made in Denmark.
Naturally, all Danish films are porn or Dogme95films. Or both.
According to other Scandinavians, Danes don't speak; they merely mumble.
In the English speaking world, Denmark's association with Hamlet is very strong, since the play takes place there.
Following the highly successful importation of serials Borgen and Forbrydelsen to the UK/US, the Danish are becoming known for their incredibly bleak, gritty (but dangerously gripping) drama serials, populated by icy female leads and dour (but hot) male side-kicks.
Denmark also has a reputation for making small snacks, like the "Danish" butter cookies and smørrebrød.
In Great Britain, they are known for exporting bacon and cheese.
And, of course, every Dane has a Danish dog for a pet.
The drunk Finn on a bicycle is a common stereotype in Sweden.
Were capable of giving the Russians an extremely nasty surprise in WW2 — in the Winter War of 1939-40 and what is known as the Continuation War of 1941-44. Practically the only nation defeated by Stalin in WW2 not to be turned into a communist puppet state — the Russians knew trying to hold this crazy country down would be more trouble than it was worth. Finland was allowed genuine independence provided it remained strictly neutral. In fact, it even became a word: "finlandisation".
Finns are often depicted as culturally identical to the other Nordic countries, although the Finnish language is unrelated to theirs and Finland technically isn't even part of Scandinavia.
Like the British, Finland has a reputation for terrible food. Reindeer meat is seen as something of a joke in other countries that don't eat it.
Then there is salmiakki, sometimes called "salty liquorice". A popular candy in Finland, a terror to anyone not from Northern Europe. It's an acquired taste.
On a lighter note, Finland is also home to The Moomins.
Some Finns can also be die-hard metalheads since Finland is home to many famous heavy-metal bands. Metal also tends to rank high on pop charts even today.
Finns are also notable racecar drivers.
And known for producing mobile phones. (Nokia is Finnish). Many IT innovations — social media, MySQL, mobile technology — originate in Finland.
Icelanders are often stereotyped by the other Nordic nations as being Closer to Earth, well-meaning but naïve, and generally more exotic. Also seen as a nation of Cloud Cuckoo Lander s, which probably has something to do with Björk.
Reykjavik is seen as a party city by some, although it's extremely small by the standards of other European capitals.
Icelanders all like fishing, eat shark routinely, and like to visit hot springs and volcanoes. They are friendly and all know each other because the island has such a small population. They may actually still be Vikings, although the Viking age ended at least eight centuries ago.
Some mention will invariably be made about Iceland being "beyond the tree-line", in reference to its polar location.
Just like the other Scandinavian countries Norwegians will be stereotyped as modern-day Horny Vikings.
Another stereotype is that all Norwegians are leather and spikes-wearing black metal fans. They will be seen as pagans with a disturbing interest in Viking mythology and a penchant for church-burning.
Foreigners assume the country to be extremely liberal, multicultural, soft on crime and drugs, and obsessed with tolerance and fairness. These same stereotypes may apply to other Scandinavian countries as well. Ironically, the atheist and church-going population are both equally large in Norway.
No image of Norway is complete without a scene taking place nearby some fjords. Edvard Grieg's music for Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt is very popular as a soundtrack to these scenes.
Norway is known for its fishing industry and particularly its violent maelstroms. It is very likely that a ship will pass through one off the Norwegian coast and the crew will end up in a hut in a small fishing village, tended to by friendly locals. Today, this stereotype is extremely outdated since most of Norway's income comes from oil and natural gas, but at one time it was popular.
Because of their huge fishing and petroleum industry, Norway is supposed to be a very rich country, but everything is super-expensive. Especially alcohol.
Traditionally, Norway has been the Scandinavian country with the strictest morality codes, because of a strong layman-movement. Expect this to be shown in some productions, or at least spoofed.
Norwegians all enjoy skiing and langlaufing, of course.
A general stereotype associated with Norwegians is that they are very moody, inward-looking, and quiet. This may have something to do with the weather. It may come as no surprise that painter Edvard Munch, famous for "The Scream", was born there.
Norwegians also prefer to stay neutral and prefer to mind their own business. Since the 19th century, they were only invaded once, during the Second World War, despite not wanting anything to do with the war. Together with Switzerland, they are the only Western European country who are not part of the European Union and together with Japan are one of the very few in the world that still practice whaling.
In the rest of Scandinavia, the typical Norwegian is seen as a barbaric Noble Savage who prefers to live alone in the forests and who will defend his house, family, and farm from all authority.
The country is also known for petroleum and organizing the annual Nobel Peace Prizes, which are handed out by the Swedish monarch. (Because Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel wanted to give his neighbouring country the honor of organizing the event.)
And the woods are full of trolls, according to folklore.
All women are alsp Straw Feminist. This is Truth in Television to some degree, as Sweden is one of the world's most progressive and experimental country in terms of gender politics and approaches to how people coexist.
Sweden also seems to be known for having little to no sexual or nudity taboos, as seen on The Simpsons◊. Swedes in general tend to be more comfortable and open about sex and nudity than Americans, but some of the stereotype stems from the fact that the Swedish words for "sex" and "six" are homonyms. In short, if Europeans Are Kinky, then the Swedes are the Norse gods of kink.
In Russia, there is a stereotype of a Swedish family — that is, a threesome (at least) of adult lovers of both sexes who live together and engage in steamy sex all day long.
This used to be Truth in Television to some degree: the sexual revolution of the sixties was adopted early in Sweden, leading to quite liberal censorship and morality laws for the time. However, other parts of the world soon caught up.
Today, due to the emphasis on women's rights and an opposition against gender discrimination, many instances of using nudity in advertising that are considered OK in other countries are frowned upon, or even outlawed, in Sweden.
Swedish cultural fixtures figure into stereotypes such as IKEA, the cradle-to-grave socialist welfare state (and its attendant taxation), Volvo, etc. They are also commonly portrayed in propaganda works as a utopian society as a result of whatever the propaganda authors are advocating, as an example of the virtues of socialism (deconstructed here), atheism (played straight here), etc. Leo Tolstoy did this with alcohol suppression way back in 1894 in The Young Tzar, making this one Older Than Radio.
Whenever arthouse cinema is parodied the movies will always be in black or white, surrealistic, too intellectual, and made in either France or Sweden. If a Swedish arthouse movie is targeted, it will always be referencing Ingmar Bergman.
There's only two genres of music: The grimiest of metal and annoyingly upbeat bubblegum pop. The metal stereotype is applied to pretty much all Nordic countries (except Iceland), while the reputation of Sweden having overly cutesy pop music probably came from ABBA, Roxette, and Ace Of Base.
Due to the huge popularity of books by Astrid Lindgren in the USSR, many Russians associate Sweden with quirky characters such as Karlsson on the Roof and Pippi Longstocking. The country has an excellent reputation for great children's novels and equally excellent youth films.
In recent years, Swedish literature and TV have gained a reputation for dark thrillers like Wallander, Van Veeteren, and the The Millennium Trilogy, where uncomfortably raw and brutal rape and torture scenes are frequent.
Apart from humans, Sweden is home to thousands of moose.
Sweden also shares the dubious distinction of inspiring expressions in other languages:
The Spanish word "Hacerse el sueco" (Literally "Playing Swede", meaning "intentionally playing dumb").
The German word "Schwedentrunk" (literally "Swedish drink") is a torture method where the victim is forced to drink foul manure water.
Then again, the German term "Schwedenstahl" ("Swedish steel") is occasionally used to designate high-quality Swedish metals.
Stockholm Syndrome is a syndrome where kidnapping victims start to feel sympathy towards their kidnappers.
Since the film Be Kind Rewind, acting out scenes from actual big budget films on a low budget level is nicknamed "sweding", because the characters act to the customers as if their amateur versions are in fact Swedish versions.