5 Hopelessly Outdated National Stereotypes That Won't Die
Every country has its advantages and flaws. No one place is perfect, despite what your bumper sticker insists. What isn't subjective is the cold, hard data. That may sound like the type of harsh thinking that led to Germany becoming the benchmark of super-efficiency … except they're not.
It might be time to stop putting so much stock in cliched preconceptions is all we're saying ...
Myth: The UK Is Gun-Free
Think there are no firearms on British soil? Well, the UK government figures place the number of legal, licensed firearms/shotguns at close to two million, with over 6,700 gun-related crimes taking place in England and Wales in 2018-19 alone. Guns are common; they just suck.
Though it's no GTA, gun offenses have climbed steadily over the last decade -- usually because of stolen or unlicensed weapons. Guns used by criminals are typically jury-rigged prop guns you can readily buy with no hassle. With a little MacGyver-ing and the right tools, anyone can retrofit a glorified pop gun that only fires blanks into a gun that fires 9mm or .32 caliber cartridges. "Imitation firearms" comprise 20% of guns used to commit crimes in 2018-2019. Interestingly, "other" and "unidentified" guns are more popular with criminals than factory-standard shotguns and rifles.
If you're surprised by that tidbit, you're not alone. In general, Britons seem clueless about their nation having any legal or illegal guns. Which might explain all the knife assailants. Thankfully, these dolts were the ones who failed shop class.
Myth: Finland, The Land Of Secularism
Due to its location, Finland is lumped together with the other "godless" territories of the UK, former Soviet republics, and Scandinavia. Finland is undeniably a bastion of atheism, but just mind the giant asterisk when you step off the plane.
For a spot with supposedly little interest in gods, it's one of the more pressing social issues. Minorities live in a constant state of paranoia due to perceived hostilities from rival religions. This year's most noteworthy political scandal (it's Finland, so pretty much the only real scandal) concerned a Finnish MP who invoked the Bible to denigrate homosexuality. Yup, Finland has bible thumpers, a "Bible Belt," and their own version of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.
This is the part where your head will hurt. The membership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is somehow nearly 80% of the population in a country where almost no one believes in God. Yet, the nation of mostly non-believers doesn't have any conception of separation of church and state. Rather they enshrined religion into government, albeit with their own unique, illogical spin.
In Finland, religion is almost treated like a gym membership; you keep forgetting to cancel each month out of laziness. Private religious schools are rare; however, religion is compulsory coursework in public schools. Make sense? No? Well, it's not supposed to. Classes are based on your religious affiliation; that is if they can find trained personnel. While the traditional Lutheran sect dwindles, asylum seekers swell the ranks of Muslims, Anglicans, Jehovah's Witnesses, and neo-Pagans. Finnish teachers are scrambling to educate themselves on Yezidism, Sufism, and Babism, in addition to shamanic yodeling and a religion that worships a cosmic bear. Whatever your faith, Finland's got you covered. It's the law.
Myth: Iran Has No Alcohol
Pub crawlers in Iran are literally (no hyperbole intended) dying to quench their thirst. Following the ascent of the Ayatollah in 1979, all public consumption was banned. Which was a bit of a shock considering that Iran was once synonymous with getting shitfaced.
There's a tiny caveat: Selling is illegal, but drinking, only under very strict stipulations, isn't. Armenian, Catholic, Jewish, and other minorities, for example, are generously granted an exemption, not unlike the deal Catholics in the US got during Prohibition days. You can, theoretically, freely indulge with impunity.
Judging by alcoholism rates, indulging they are. The smuggling business is booming too, as out of sight, anyone can brew and consume within their own house. The law isn't stopping Muslims from taking part in the moonshine operations either. Partying truly unites us all. You might even finagle a free sample out of hospitality as an honored guest.
Should you? No. Definitely not. Since, in case you avoid blindness from drinking bathtub gin, there's one more thing we need to mention. Though exceedingly rare, public intoxication is grounds for execution. If you absolutely have to reach for a cold drink that tastes like beer, save your neck and liver, and go for the halal ale, 0.0 proof beer. It can't be any worse than O'Douls.
Myth: Rwanda Is A War-Torn, Backward Hellhole
Famous for a catastrophic genocide in 1994 in which neighbor slaughtered neighbor, and residing in the toughest block around, the sub-Saharan nation of Rwanda has the worst PR on the planet. That's a shame, really.
We're not going to show a before and after comparison because the before images will give you nightmares. Suffice to say, if your only knowledge of the country comes from Hotel Rwanda, in 2021 you won't recognize Rwanda.
As other nations botched their Covid-19 pandemic messaging and infection-reduction efforts, Rwanda clamped down the spread and curbed infections, outperforming more prosperous nations. Pollution? Rwanda ain't sweating that; the World Economic Forum named it one of the leading green economies. They banned plastic packing filler and non-biodegradable bags all the way back in 2008. Their forests are growing at a time when it is being annihilated pretty much everywhere else.
Rwanda stands as an anomaly in central Africa. It is both able to feed itself without foreign aid and is a mecca for business, ranked among the most attractive areas in Africa for trade according to The World Bank. No small feat considering that it is smack dab in the most corrupt corner of the planet. Most shockingly is its progress in women's rights and representation, outranking Western nations like Germany by boasting the highest female parliament percentage in the world.
Oh, and they seem to have astonishing progress in reconciling the pain of bloodshed and terror in one generation.
Myth: Sweden Is A Feminist Utopia
News reports portray the Scandinavian region, especially Sweden, as a beacon of progressive politics, the land of ABBA a self-professed "feminist government." Yeah, they take it really seriously. In their words: "Gender equality implies ... equal distribution between men and women in all domains of society."
All that posturing and bragging is for naught. If we go by their definition of feminism = equal distribution, they've failed abysmally. Based on the numbers of women in STEM fields and private-sector leadership, Sweden is more like a feminist nightmare. In a nation with stringent legal/social protections, high opportunity, the best education possible, and least discrimination, it is crystal clear that the vast majority of Swedish women rarely obtain tech/engineering gigs or top management positions in private companies.
The gender-disparity gap and inexplicable domestic abuse rate (a phenomenon dubbed the "Nordic Paradox") have elicited mass confusion after years of planning, the best-laid public policies, and bureaucratic job quotas. The rates of women in male-dominated fields in all of Sweden are embarrassingly dwarfed by Algeria, Vietnam, Tunisia, Columbia, UAE, and Moldova, to name a few. A list hardly renowned for fourth-wave feminism or Miley-Cyrus-approved inspirational hashtags.
Top Image: Brett Hondow/Pixabay