The Comparative Characteristics of the National Stereotypes of the British and Russians
God made us all different and not similar to each other. We may have different colours of skin, speak different languages, eat different food, and have different views on life, nevertheless we have to remember that at the same time we are all unique, and therefore have to learn to live together in peace.
As Thomas Kempis (1380-1471) noticed “First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others1.”
Our negative attitude towards people of other nationalities becomes bigger and bigger. A problem can’t appear out of nothing; it certainly has a foundation. And what is it? How do we come from common situations to slogans like “Russia for Russians” and Moscow for Muscovites”? There are a number of elements which are leading to what we now have in our society.
First of all, I think the most important is the growth of distrust in people of other nationalities. We begin to forget that not all people who are foreigners are bad and not all Russians are good. There are just bad and good people in the world and it doesn’t depend on ethnicity.
The second reason is personal experience. We are made so that we remember bad and unpleasant things longer. As a result negative feelings from just one episode may be transferred to racial hatred.
The third reason, to my mind, is because big cities are overcrowded. The city can’t take as many as would like to live there. The immigration to big cities and prosperous countries from day to day is higher and higher. So long queues, crowds of people in the streets, and overfull buses make us feel like fish in sardine tins. Certainly in this situation native residents are not pleased by lots of newcomers. At the same time such “guests”, I mean the newcomers; claim a place to work here. They are often in extreme conditions; they have nobody to rely on, to help them. So they are more ambitious and succeed quickly. As a result, they are often much more successful. And the country natives don’t like it.
When a citizen who has a common wage watches a man prosper who some years before came from a remote area with nothing in his pocket, he feels spite, and later he may wreak his anger on another visitor. Because people feel that they are weak, they try to defend themselves and the best protection is attack. It is in the human blood to protect oneself from strangers. So there is a great difference between us. Why is it so? If things continue like this, what shall we see in the future? What will our planet be like?
The answer is we should break the barriers, we should expand the world. We all should realize that this problem can’t wait and we have to find both immediate and long-term solutions now!
To know the nation better you should know a lot of things about it.
The modern world is becoming smaller. More and more people can afford traveling abroad. More and more people learn English so as to communicate while traveling to other countries. As we know English has become the global language. But is it enough to know and to speak perfect English? Of course not! Speaking correct foreign language doesn’t mean to communicate successfully. You should know more than only language. You should know the culture of the country you visit. Language is not only a mode of communication, but it is also a means of transmitting culture. It means you should know more about the national stereotypes, about their customs, manners, traditions, their feelings and emotions2.
National stereotypes are a part of human life. It is a question that has been discussed for years. The problem of national stereotypes is many-sided: it concerns culture, behavior, manners. It also concerns traditions, religious, customs and a lot of traits of the nation. Culture can be described as our everyday life, our education, languages we speak, official festivals, religion feasts and others. When we describe any nation we notice how people of this country interact how they say good morning and good bye, what makes them happy or sad. In other words what they do each day. But we should understand that there are two views of seeing nationality stereotypes. The first point of view – how the nation sees itself; the second – how the other nations see it.
The majority of people have definite opinions of different nations and countries. A nation is a group of people who share common history and usually a language and usually, not always live at the same area3. People that belong to various nations may differ and they always differ from one another. For example, the Germans are regarded as scientifically-minded and industrious, they're always considered solid, intelligent, mathematical, extremely nationalistic, arrogant and even aggressive. And, for instance, Jews are believed to be mercenary, industrious, shrewd, loyal to family, religious. There is a big amount of examples we can list about national character of different people.
The national stereotype is a common presentation or idea of one nation about the other or about itself. A nation is a group of people who share common history and usually a language and usually, not always live at the same area. Culture can be described as our everyday life: how we communicate, what makes us happy and sad. It also includes our language, religion, traditions, behavior, and the way of life. People that belong to various nations may differ and they always differ from one another. There is a big amount of examples we can list about national character of different people.
Here we should stop on the interaction of the “national stereotype” and “international character”. Both are the original portrait of the other nation. To my mind the most precise definition to this concept was given by S.G. Ter-Minasova. According to her, the national character is an original set of universal human features.4. S.G. Ter-Minasova examines the following sources of the national display: international anecdotes, classics, folklore, national languages, and mass media.
National character doesn't describe the character of every person; it describes the character of people of nation in general. Every person has its own character, but according to the person's belonging to some nation many traits of character are similar and these features may be explained as the national character.
Looking at these features of the Russians and the Englishmen it is not hard to mark out the differences. The Englishmen are reserved, but the Russians are open-hearted and communicative. The Englishmen are tradition - loving and the Russians, to my mind, don't keep their traditions in such a degree. There is a great majority of factors that influence the nation’s stereotype and its people's character.
What are the most popular topics for discussions in our nations? We want to concern such stereotype of behaviour small talk. Oxford Advanced Dictionary of Current English by A.S. Hornby explains small talk as “conversation about everyday and unimportant social matters”5. The ability to choose the correct topic for conversation is very important in interaction with representatives of other culture. We suggest comparing “safe” topics for small talk in British and Russian cultures:
Popular topics for small talk
Unpopular topics for small talk
People of Britain
Weather, traveling, hobby, origin, literature, art, pets
Politics, money, salary health, current events
People of Russia
Politics, health, job, current events, money, salary
Religion, age, origin, some family matters
As we can see there are different topics for discussion in our cultures. The stereotype can be presented as a word, a symbol, a name. Using the statistical method of research I made some interviews and surveys with my friends, asking them such a question: “What do you imagine when you think of the country (Britain, Russia)?” I have chosen the most common answers. The following results have been received:
1. Britain is associated with London, Big Ben, an oak, fish and chips, porridge, tea with milk.
2. Russia is associated with a birch, matryoshka dolls, cold winter, a bear, shapka-ushanka, vodka.
3. Britain is also associated with phrases “How are you?”, “Never mind!”, “See you later!”
4. Russians is associated with the words avos’, kak-nibud’, ladno.
5. The English call their country with great love “old nice England”.
6. The Russians call their country proudly “Rossiya-matushka.
The table presents the main features of the researched stereotypes according to the materials received from current newspapers, magazines and popular TV programmes such as “My Planet”, “Their Manners and Customs”, “The City Traveling” and others.
“My house is my castle”, like to repeat the inhabitants of the foggy Albion
Honesty and a great wish to live truthfully (in reality they live as they can)
Keep smiling, don’t show emotions, and solve problems with an English cup of tea
Hospitality, kindness, tolerance, intelligence, catchphrases for any occasion
Famous English humour, which is not always understandable for the continental residents
Inactive for long periods of time and then show bursts of energy. “They harness for long, but run quickly”, as the Russian proverb says
Great lovers of compromise don’t like extremes. As a result, a very frequent use of tag-questions
Paradox: the wish to achieve a lot and lack of the initiative
Think of themselves as calm, wise and tolerant people
Quite sure in their own peacefulness
Mystical Russian soul
In our work we investigated the concepts of the “national stereotype” and “national character”; we made the comparison of main features of two nations: the British and Russians. To sum up I can say:
1. The national stereotype is a common presentation or idea of one nation about the other or about itself. A nation is born from its land, its history, its art, its traditions and its institutions. These things work together to make people what they are.
2. We should break the barriers, we should expand the world. More and more people travel abroad. It means you should know more about the national stereotypes, about their customs, manners, traditions, their feelings and emotions.
3. All people are different, but we live on one planet and we should be tolerant and considerate to each other.
Колодяжная Л. Познакомьтесь: Великобритания. М., 2001;
Маслова В. А. Лингвокультурология: Учеб. Пособие / В. А. Маслова. - М.: Academia, 2001;
Прохоров Ю. Е. Национальные социокультурные стереотипы речевого общения/ - М., 1996;
Сысоев П.В. Культурное самоопределение личности как часть поликультурного образования в России, ИЯШ 2004 №4;
Тер-Минасова С.Г. Язык и межкультурная коммуникация. М., 2000
Тер-Минасова С. Г. Роль языка в формировании личности. Язык и национальный характер; Екатеринбург, 2004
Источники фактического материала и словари:
Hornby A.S. Oxford Advanced Dictionary of Current English
Мюллер В.К. Англо-русский словарь. М., 14-е издание, стереотипное, 2007;
1 У.Липпман, цит. по Прохорову Ю. Е. Национальные социокультурные стереотипы речевого общения и их роль в обучении русскому языку иностранцев / Ю. Е. Прохоров. - М., 1996. - С. 68
2 Гудков В. П. Стереотип России и русских в сербской литературе / В. П. Гудков // Вестник Московского Университета. Серия 9. Филология. - 2001. - № 2. - С. 20
3 Маслова В. А. Лингвокультурология: Учеб. Пособие / В. А. Маслова. - М.: Academia, 2001. – С.108
4 Тер-Минасова С. Г. Роль языка в формировании личности. Язык и национальный характер; Екатеринбург, 2004. - С. 243
5 Hornby A.S. Oxford Advanced Dictionary of Current English