Misconceptions about YOUR country

This thread is in response to the thread about the misconceptions that people around the world have about the US.

I just returned from working on a summer camp (CampUS Kids Minisink) where I furiously plugged the SDMB to anyone who would listen.

Anyway I was forced to confront many misconceptions that the American Youth, and sadly sometimes adults, had about my home country South Africa. The worst of these was:
American Youth: So where are you from?
Moi: South Africa
American Youth: Yes but what country?
Moi: boot to the head

Other classics included:
“Can you speak ‘African?’”
“Could you drive around Africa in a day?”
“Why aren’t you black?”
“If you came to live here would you be an African American?”
(My response was “No. A South African American.”)
“Do you have buildings?”
“Is it hard to live in the desert?”
“Are there lions and tigers near your house?”
“Do you have MacDonalds back in Africa?”
“Do you have TV?”
“What do you mean you have never heard of insert local celebrity here?!”

So I was wondering if there are any others who have had misconceptions about their country expressed by people of other nationality?

Go wild.

“You’re from England? I have a mate named dave who lives there! do you know him?”

Actually these days nigh on all the people I ‘know’ online are pretty darn intelligent. most of the misconceptions I came across were in my comic-chat days. which were many years ago. none which I can remember.

Canada, Nova Scotia, all the time from everyone who doesn’t live here: “So, are you a fisherman?”

Three big ones, that I get from different people in varying degrees of annoyances:

  1. Everyone in Puerto Rico can speak English. Granted, average José may know slightly more English than average Joe in Alabama may know Spanish, but that is not much.

  2. Everyone in Puerto Rico can dance salsa, or any other dance, easily.

  3. We are near the Lesser Antilles, so visiting the Virgin Islands (and Dominique, Martinique, Aruba, St. Kitts & Nevis, etc.) is just a small hop on a boat away. Nothing pricy, really. :rolleyes:

I’m Iranian. When people find that out I get all sorts of questions and comments:

[ul]Where’s your veil? Why aren’t you covered up? I’m not Islamic nor is the rest of my family.
Where’s your dot? I’m not Hindu.
How do they get those things to stay on anyway? Why would I know?
Isn’t it really hot and sandy there? Actually my family is from the mountains.
So you speak Arabic, right? No, I’m Iranian, not Arabic.
The food is really spicy, isn’t it? You use a lot of curry. We use a lot of herbs and saffron and tumeric, but I don’t recall anything spicy or made with curry.
So that’s why you’re so dark. Actually, you’d be amazed at how fair some of the people in my family are. My great grandmother was fair skinned, light haired and had blue eyes.

And then there’s my favorite response of all… “Where’s that?”

Not my country, Andrew, but my state, yes.

“So whereya from SnoopyFan?”
“West Virginia.”
“Oh cool my cousin lives in Virginia, right outside of DC.”
“No, West Virginia.”
“Oh, you mean like, near Tennessee and Kentucky? Is that anywhere near Knoxville?”
“Um, it’s not part of Virginia. It’s another state.”


“OHHHHHHH! West Virginia! So are you inbred?”


Vaguely related to this is the common punchline on American television that Canadians say “aboot” when they mean “about”. At most, this accent is common only in the far eastern parts of the country and is no more a nationwide accent than the regional accents of Boston, Maine, Brooklyn, Alabama or Texas.

The notion that Canadians are infinitely patient and polite was helped along by the TV series Due South but the archetypical Mountie character felt comically exaggerated to us, too, though we felt kinda proud of Bennie Fraser.

Uhhnnnn . . . as an American who habitually listens to Vancouver BC radio, I can tell you that at least the Canadians on the radio do in fact say – well, it’s not really “aboot,” but it’s something about halfway between “aboot” and “abowt.” Certainly it’s one of the easiest ways to tell from conversation that you’re talking to a Canadian (and vice versa, no doubt). And I’m betting the Cannadians I’m running into here in Washington State, and hearing on the radio, are not all from Eastern Canada.

God, I never understood that. Canadians pronounce “about” as “abowt ,” with the longest OOOWWW possible, and not the slightest “oo.” We speak the unadulterated Queen’s English, as they did in England before they languished into a million incomprehensible dialects.

Other than that, there are no misconstrusions of Canadians. We are pretty much what they say.

No, I don’t eat sushi every day.

No, I don’t eat… well, ok, yeah I eat rice every day.

I’ve never seen a ninja.

The vast majority of people have no martial arts training.

Adults who spend all their time watching anime are considered pretty creepy over here, too.

South Korea

  • We eat dog on a casual basis. In reality I’ve never had dog and I would say a majority of Koreans haven’t tried dog or better yet eat it on a regular basis.

  • We’re a third world country.

  • Opposite end, we’re uber-technological and wage giant robot wars with Japan. The Mobile phone technology is getting a little out of hand though.

"Oh, you’re English…

Poor you!, I mean, ewwwww! - the food! - all that kidney pie*, haggis and bangers and mash!"

The “every living thing in Australia is venomous” thing gets a bit tiresome after a while. The only dangerous snake I ever encountered I ended up marrying. :slight_smile:

Seriously, we do have critters loaded up with poison, but these tend to be timid. The trade-off for this is that in most of the continent (the crocodiles of the far north being the exception), we don’t have any huge carnivorous and aggressive beasties such as grizzly bears. With some very basic common sense, a walk in the Australian bush will be pleasant and safe.

Oh, and Vegemite. Yes, it has a strong flavour. I happen to like it. Some folks don’t, but it isn’t that interesting. It’s a sandwich spread, people.

Now that is something you hit right on the head.

I think alot of people have misconceptions about other countries, specially the US. :wink:

It’s not a misconception about my country, but whenever people find out i’m from Newcastle they feel compelled to go:
“Way-aye man! Byk-a Groooove!! Fog on the Tyne, like!”
Cue icy stare from me and:
“Not every Geordie sounds like Gazza”.
And the best one I ever heard, from another Brit:
“So, Newcastle - is that further North than Wales?”

An annoying one is when people, especially English ones (this isn’t addressed to anyone here :)), underestimate the size of Scotland. One I spoke to was surprised that I was able to do a 450 mile bike tour within Scotland. And that was without even leaving the southern third of the country! Guys, the border is closer to Bath than it is to the Scottish north coast. To go from John O’Groats to the Scottish equivalent of Land’s End would mean a 400 mile drive. And that’s without including the Northern Isles, which increase the straight line length of the country by about 150 miles.

I know these figures don’t sound much to Americans or Aussies, but they would amaze the English people who see Scotland (in more ways than one) as just a county to the north of Carlisle. I would like to find out what happens when they see a weather forecast showing the whole of Britain; they must have some sort of screen which stops them from seeing how big Scotland really is compared with England.

This gets me on to my second point. Many people, not just in England, fail to realise that Scotland is a country that has never been part of England (and also that it is never acceptable to see “England” as synonymous with “Britain” or “the UK”). I’m not going to go into the technicalities here, but whatever constitutional status you give to England, Scotland is the same, as an equal partner in the Treaty of 1707. The new Scottish parliament doesn’t affect this one way or another.

A lot of people say to me “You don’t sound Scottish”. Interestingly it’s never Scots who say that, so obviously people from outwith Scotland have preconceived notions of how Scots speak, and they carry on with these even after moving here.

Finally, one addressed to some Scots; the empire was ours as well. You can’t absolve yourself of responsibility by blaming the English for all its crimes. They couldn’t have conquered a quarter of the world without us. We were just as capable of committing genocide in Australia as anyone else; even victims of the Highland Clearances took great delight in shooting Aborigines.

After the overlong po-faced bollocks of my previous post, here’s one that’s a little lighter. It would appear from the thread wishing that England (sic) still had a monarchy, that many non Britons (or perhaps I should say non Europeans) think that Britain, and especially London, is still full of 1977 style punks. You do often see obvious tourists in London who look like they’re trying to be a bit punky for the sake of it. Could it be that other tourists think that they are natives and that is what is still fashionable for teenagers (as opposed to Burberry caps or American style goth gear)? Hell, you see more 1980s UK style goths than you do punks nowadays.

Jeez, don’t you watch movies??

I’m a Canadian who lived a great amount of time in the Northwest Territories. This does not mean that I lived in an *iglu[/], ate muqtuq, wore nothing but kamiks and a parka, and took my *komatik[/] wherever I went, rather than driving.

I did all of those things from time to time, but Yellowknife is in fact a capital city. The only thing different about Northern living is the people are friendlier and the weather is colder.

I have had friends in various parts of the world ask me if it made me sad to leave behind my dog-team and iglu. What the hell? When I moved to Maryland, it was from Canmore, Alberta. Roughly 40 minutes from Calgary, which is a cosmopolitan western city featuring CFL and NHL teams, a booming oil and gas industry, and fine arts. Not your average outpost at all.

Oh, jeez.