Yesterday I walked down the street and noticed someone walking a few meters before me. I could only see his back. But there was something about him — perhaps his walk, or his haircut — that intuitively made me think he’s Japanese. So I hastened my steps and walked passed him, turning my head to take a quick glimpse of the man… and yes, he was indeed Japanese.
This event made me think about my travels abroad. It’s a common joke among Israelis that we can easily spot each other overseas, even before the other opened his mouth. I assume it’s true for other cultures as well, and it makes me wonder “How this phenomenon works”. And it is just an illusion?
I wrote two weeks ago about Chinese stereotypes of Jews and raised the question whether it can be considered anti-semitism. Now I once again stir up the issue, from a different perspective. I don’t focus on Jews this time, but rather on the Israeli mainstream culture. Personally I do believe that a culture has the social power to greatly modify a person’s behavior and mentality, starting with the way people think and the associations they’re most likely to conjure, and up to the way they move their body and their patterns of personal grooming.
I want to emphasize that I’m alluding to the power of cultural socialization, and not to inborn motifs of race. I do not believe there are any innate differences between a Japanese baby and an Israeli baby. I do believe they grow up to conceive the world differently. In fact, it’s scientifically proven that language plays a pivotal role in this issue. There is also a debatable notion in linguistics, titled the Sapirâ€“Whorf hypothesis, which states pretty much what I had just said at the end of the previous paragraph.
Can we assume from this that cultural stereotypes (as opposed to racial stereotypes) have some basis? Are German people truly pedantic? French folks really impatient? And Israelis genuinely…
…What? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.