How to reach other ethnic groups by stereotyping for the better

To achieve growth you need to learn to reach out to other ethnic groups!

David Rigby

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In the Middle East especially, there are many groups who only work with and socialize within group or origin. This is similar way to the class system operates in the UK, the caste system in India and the Collegiate system in the USA.

This could prove be a limiting factor in business growth as everything here comes from who you know.

So to achieve growth you need to learn to reach out to other ethnic groups – especially the locals who are ultimately the decision makers and have the most to spend.

What is an ethnic group?

• A community or population made up of people who share a common cultural background or descent.

• A category of people who identify with each other based on common ancestral, social, cultural or national experience.

For the purposes of this article this can be a grouping of people based upon their race – which could be where they were born, or where they lived most of their lives. There are at least seven major ethic groups in the UAE, and countless other nationalities too.

Fear of working with ethic groups

What is your fear of knowing other groups?

Could be you feel stupid in meeting anybody or just people whose ways you are unfamiliar with? Let’s start with you. What are the ethic characteristics of your group?

Or indeed let’s start with me…

A British view of American stereotypes

I am Caucasian from Northern England – so here are a few of my perceptions of the Caucasian English;

• Smells Bad (according to the Chinese)
• Dresses badly (according to most Europeans)
• Very Unfriendly (especially if live in the south)
• Not religious (or certainly if Christian – not church going)
• Dreadful food
• Our way is best.
• Erudite with a refined sense of humour
• We invented English Language
• Believed to be superior to every other group (well this is self-evident).

Now what are do I as Caucasian British perceive the Caucasian Americans to be:

• Obese
• Dresses badly (according to all Europeans)
• Superficially friendly but not actually
• Can’t separate religion from politics
• Over religious
• Make dreadful superficial movies and TV (all aimed at 18 year old immature males)
• Huge inefficient cars and drive far too slowly
• Appalling food – fattening, sugary, humungous (nice American word!) portions
• American wine is disgusting – grown in a Winery not a Vineyard!
• Beer and Coffee are so weak….
• You can drive 500 miles and it still looks the same
• They think that the American Way is best. – Though most have never even left their own state
• Stupidly Patriotic (Hilary Clinton “But this is not Denmark”)
• Don’t know how to use Ironware (knife and fork) – and it’s likely to be plastic
• Can’t spell English properly and have dreadful accents. We invented Language!
• Believe themselves to be superior to every other group
• Will eat in some strange version of Ethnic Restaurants – their only contact!
• Land of the free? You must be joking!
• They think they won the Second World War!
• As you are not Native American then are not local.

Let me imagine what the Americans think of the Caucasian Brits:
• Dresses badly or over formally
• Unfriendly
• What kind of religion is ‘Church of England’?
• Really weird sense of humor – what is Irony?
• Appalling food – tiny portions and expensive
• England is as big as America isn’t it? (I was actually asked this!)
• Where do I get English Food?
• They all drive so fast on the wrong side of the road – and how do you pronounce those town names?
• They think they won the Second World War.

How to use stereotyping (the good way) to meet people.

So you can see that with these two groups everyone has stereotypes. And while you always have to remember that you are dealing with INDIVIDUALS they will always have some characteristics of their ethnicity. So a good way to meet anyone from another group is to make three charts similar to the ones as above. Then identify similarities and differences.

You have

• Things to be wary of
• Things to build rapport and to joke about.
And when you meet
• It may not be so easy to remember their name (and them to remember yours)
• Learn some of the conventions about meeting people in that group
o The may or may not kiss or shake hands
o They may use first names or more formal last names
• If they offer you food or drink – just eat or drink it – then ask what it is after you have eaten it!

Sometimes my stereotyping just gets me into trouble. In Abu Dhabi, in my local karaoke bar I met an Afro-American. Hence I thought: brought up with gospel music in church must be a great singer. He asked me to sing a duet – New York New York!. What an honor!

He was awful – out of tune and out of time. Should have just stuck with the Filipinos! (and there my stereotyping ends).

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