There are positive and negative stereotypes for every country and usually they are just convenient ways to label people and have little grounding in fact.

For example, I have spent time in Italy and I found the people to be neither lazier nor more stylish than people from other countries. Nor do they know more about food than other places as a lot of them are very nationalistic about this and don’t try food from other countries. Then again, a lot of them do so it is a dangerous thing to label people altogether in this way.

Similarly, in Korea I did not find the people to be obsessed with politeness and honour etc. All that bowing business only occurs on the rare occasion that you can’t actually avoid it. They do seem to work more than in some other places but they are as p*ssed off about that as anyone else would be. There wasn’t the deference to authority that we are always told about. There is a long history of striking and vehement protest in Korea. Take this photo as an example.

There is one Scottish steretype that has always baffled me though, which is this thing about saying “Och aye, the noo”.

I have NEVER heard someone say this except when taking the p*ss out of the fact we are supposed to say it.

It means basically, “oh yes, just now”. Doesn’t this strike you as rather odd thing for a nation of people to walk around saying?

Try to think of questions that go with this response. There are a few, but there aren’t too many.

I don’t know how the idea that this is a commonly used phrase came about except that it is often repeated that we actually say it. Maybe it is a species of self-reinforcing myth. The steps go like this…

  1. Someone said we say it
  2. Other people heard we say it
  3. We heard that other people said we say it so we started saying it to make fun of the fact that they said we say it
  4. Other people heard us saying it so they believe that we actually say it
  5. etc

However, having said all this, I should point out for the record that having spent some time there I can confirm that Italians really do say “mamma mia” quite often.


  1. When I went to Canada on a student exchange, I was horrified to find that all most people knew about the UK was

    a) the troubles in Northern Ireland
    b) the Royal Family
    c) football hooliganism

    As a football-hating anarchist who’s never been to Northern Ireland, I found it depressing to say the least.

    But even here in Scotland the same stereotypes occur against the English. Because I have a Southern English accent, it has been assumed before now that I must have been a Thatcher worshipper who sold my council house in London for 40 million quid and bought up half of Scotland with it.

    Pah, Pah, and Pah again…

  2. You’ll be saying next that “Hoots mon!” isn’t the most frequently used expletive. I’m all for debunking myths and so forth, but one can take it too far.

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  4. I don’t suppose the OED would actually trace the origins of the phrase? (I’d look it up myself, but I’m quit a long way from the nearest OED..)

  5. We Welsh are often assailed by ‘ indeed to goodness’! by our saxon cousins, usually trying to be friendly. Nobody genuinely Welsh has ever said that unless they were playing Glendower in Henry IV.

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