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“You know, Italians are very foul-mouthed people. They swear a lot!”
“How long have you been in Italy? In which city?”
“Nah, I haven’t been there. I am working with Italians on a project and they swear all the time.”
That’s a recent conversation I had with a friend. Italy has a population of about 65 to 70 million, at most 600 to 700 Italians are working on that project with my friend and he may not know more than 60 to 70 of them directly. Of those, 10 or 15 may have been swearing in front of him and it was enough to label the whole population of Italy as bad-mouthed. I won’t blame my friend to be judgmental because generalization or stereotyping is how humans behave or have been behaving, lately.
On a narrower landscape, I have also witnessed this attitude even for people of other cities. If someone goes to Lahore from Karachi and gets mugged, he will publicize all the Lahories as muggers. Similarly, if someone goes to Peshawar and he gets overcharged for a rental house, he will label all Peshawaris as looters. However, my recent experience in Saudi Arabia has pushed me to avoid stereotyping and putting up blank statements about any ethnicity, religion or country.
When I came to Saudi Arabia some years back, I had a picture in mind about how things are run here. It says that to open a door; they hire three people. One will decide whether to open the door or not, the second one will do the paperwork and ask the third one will do the honors. The third person will not open the door himself, rather, he will hire an expat (like me) to do this. This story seemed true as I passed through procedures of setting up a living here that includes, but not limited to, opening up a bank account, get a landline phone, become a tenant, etc.
Wherever I went, I radiated my experience as an authority about people in Saudi Arabia, right from their rudeness to dismal workmanship. Last year, I was assigned to a project in Jizan City, which is at the Saudi-Yemen border and working there with Saudi people changed my opinion completely. I found Saudis very hardworking, humble and cooperative but the feature that overshadows all of that is their hospitality.
It has happened multiple times that as we entered any restaurant, we got an invitation from somebody who is already taking his meal to join him. More important, that guy doesn’t necessarily have to be a wealthy person. Once I even got an invitation from young school kids who were having lunch at the roadside restaurant. From the looks, they didn’t look affluent at all but who needs money if you have a big heart?
The point is, we generally meet people from a different culture or society and based on our own experience with them, we paint a picture of the whole region with one color. I am lucky to have seen a totally opposite face of Saudi locals as compared to popular belief about them and that’s why if someone starts stereotyping in front of me, I stop them right away.
People are people. They are good, they are bad, they love and they cheat. All this has nothing to do with their nationality or region. Its limitation of our own experience that pushes us to stereotype otherwise the reality is different. So don’t stereotype. Please.