Beyond the stereotypes we have for the world, how do other countries see each other? Representing every continent but North America, here are 10 of the most interesting — ranked by mutual animosity.
10. Swedes — Norwegians
The Swedish see Norwegians as cheerful, open-minded, naive country bumpkins. They also think they’re beautiful and cute-sounding. It’s understandable, then, that Norwegians see the Swedish as condescending, as well as arrogant and uptight. Both see the other as stupid. For example, the Swedish-made “Norge muggen” is a mug with the handle on the inside because, so the joke goes, it was designed by someone from Norway. Ask a Norwegian about Swedish-made mugs, on the other hand, and they’ll tell you they “have a hole in the bottom for easier drinking.”
There’s been a long-standing rivalry between the two nations; Sweden actually ruled over Norway from 1814 until 1905 and almost went to war not to lose it. Then, when Norway struck oil in the 1960s, Sweden started falling behind. Now Swedes go to Norway looking for work as the wages are much higher than at home. Despite the negative stereotypes, relations between the countries are good.
9. New Zealander — Australians
If Australia’s gutter press is anything to go by, “carping Kiwis” think Aussies are hostile. In a story headlined “If you don’t like it, leave”, Queensland’s Sunday Mail reported a mere 1% of immigrants from New Zealand thought Australians “caring, friendly, hospitable” people. If this comes as a surprise to the average Australian, it’s because Kiwis — and especially Kiwi immigrants — are privy to something they’re not: Australia’s hellish immigrant detention centers. Despite being the worst of their kind pretty much anywhere in the world — holding people for years at a time — they don’t get much coverage in Australia.
The average Australian likes having Kiwis around. And while they’re given to mocking the New Zealand “ecksent”, many Aussies find it quite sexy. Some Australians even pretend to be New Zealanders while traveling — similar to how Americans ashamed of their country wear a Canadian flag on their backpack. Aussies know how they’re seen, as loud and obnoxious, whereas Kiwis are peaceful and kind.
8. English — Welsh/Scottish/Irish
The Welsh have the most enduring, or most resurgent, dislike of the English — who they still see as arrogant and imperialist. For good reason too: the English are arrogant and imperialist, especially when it comes to the Welsh. For instance, while the English know better than to speak of “England and Scotland” as some kind of homogenous bloc, it’s common to speak of “England and Wales.” In fact, the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s entry for Wales used to just say “See England”. The English also stereotype the Welsh as simple, rustic, and stupid.
Irish Anglophobia is mostly historical — and justified given the massacres. Today, however, what the Irish hate most about the English are Brexit, arrogance, and football hooliganism. They also hate English binge drinking and subsequent singing in the streets. Oh and they also think the English are rude, pompous, overweight, obsessed with soap operas, and constantly complaining. On the other hand, they do like English music and humor. Meanwhile, the English stereotype for an Irish person is a rustic, untrustworthy alcoholic.
Like the Irish and Welsh, the Scottish see the English as arrogant and imperialist. Anti-English sentiment is lower than it has been, but there’s a “lingering mistrust” of the English said to arise from a Scottish inferiority complex. As for the English view of the Scottish, it comes from the same kind of place: a sense of inferiority. In this case, though, it’s not economic; it’s a kind of deep-seated uneasiness about the rough, wild power of a Scotsman, even if he is let down in the English imagination by a penchant for deep-fried chocolate bars, coagulated pigs’ blood, and heroin.
7. Nigerians — South Africans
The citizens of Africa’s two main economic powers are even fiercer rivals than their rulers. While the leaders tend to cooperate and work toward better relations, the people are constantly sniping.
Whether in sport, culture, or business, Nigerians see South Africans as their only real competitors on the continent. They also see them as entitled and lazy. In 2019, for example, they strongly condemned xenophobic “theytookourjerbs” style attacks on the streets of Johannesburg in which South Africans attacked economic migrants. On social media, radio shows, and TV, Nigerians argued that South Africans had to work harder if they didn’t want to lose out to others.
South Africans, meanwhile, often see Nigerians as criminals — “drug lords, human traffickers and online scammers.” This is in addition to resenting wealthy US- or UK-educated Nigerians for “stealing” the best paid jobs in South Africa. The more xenophobic South Africans think educated Nigerians are better off contributing to their own country’s economy. Interestingly, Kenyans see Nigerians in a similar way, as coming to their country to “take their women and their businesses”, but they’re much less violent in response.
6. South Koreans — North Koreans
South Koreans hardly think about their neighbors to the north. This might seem unusual given all the threats, but this in itself is the reason. South Koreans have become desensitized to nuclear belligerence. Unfortunately, they’re also desentized to the oppression of North Koreans themselves, which is why defectors to the south find it hard to integrate. This isn’t to say South Koreans don’t like North Koreans, though, only that they don’t understand them. This is especially true of the young, who, despite their liberal social views, are conservative on border security. In 2013, only 5.4% of South Koreans in their twenties felt North Koreans even shared their ethnicity.
Meanwhile, North Koreans’ image of their South Korean neighbors is intentionally distorted by the media. Anything with the slightest southern whiff is officially denounced, such as the South Korean slang term for ‘boyfriend’, oppa, which in Kim Jong-un’s North is forbidden. K-pop is also banned, of course, as are public displays of affection and anything else of “foreign influence,” such as certain hairstyles and ways of speaking. Young people are urged to be “faithful to the calling of their country,” which, while it’s notoriously difficult to survey North Koreans, suggests they look up to the southerners. It also suggests they have access to forbidden materials in spite of the penalties.
5. Arabs — Persians (Iranians)
It’s such an insult to mistake a Persian for an Arab that there’s a website explaining the difference: PersiansAreNotArabs.com. According to Iranian academic Sadek Zibakalam, “the majority of Iranians of all types [uneducated and educated alike] hate Arabs.” Apparently, Persians “will never forget their defeat [by] the Arabs in the Battle of Qadisiya 1,400 years ago.” It is for this reason, he says, that Iranian officials talk so much trash about their neighbors — saying, for example, that “if Iranians just blow some air across the Persian Gulf, they would wipe the UAE [United Arab Emirates] off the map.” And when the UAE disputed Iran’s claim to some islands in the Persian Gulf (also known as the Arabian Gulf), Iranians rallied outside their embassy holding cakes with 35 candles to mock their measly 35-year history, compared to Iran’s 2,500.
However, Arabs weren’t always divided into nations and as a people they’re proud of their heritage — which, by the way, dates back at least as far as the Persians’. So while Iranians see Arabs as the descendants of nomads, uncultured barbarians who sacked the Persian cities, Arabs see Iranians as descendants of fire-worshiping infidels, lost souls until Muhammad came along. According to the US State Department, Arabs still see them as “heretics” today, as well as “liars” and “snakes”.
Needless to say, this is a sweeping generalization of views on both sides. There are some interesting nuances. For example, Iranians get on considerably better with Qataris and Omanis than Saudia Arabians. Within the Arab world too, there’s a lot of variation, with Egyptians (for example) asserting their own ancient culture alongside that of the Arabs.
4. Ukrainians — Russians
Despite appearances, Ukrainians actually quite like the Russian people. It’s the government they have a problem with, specifically Putin’s erasure of their national identity through his talk of the two as “one people”. Throughout the present conflict, Ukrainian views of the Russians have remained surprisingly positive — just as they have in the past at times of heightened tension with Russia (such as Russia’s invasion of Georgia and various disputes over gas). How positive depends on the region. Western Ukrainians like the Russians the most, but a majority of easterners (however slim) still hold a favorable view.
Russians, meanwhile, are generally more swayed by propaganda. The same gas disputes mentioned above, for example, increased Russian hatred of Ukrainians. They see their neighbors as a non-country with no real culture of their own. Ukrainians are khokhly — rustic, provincial, criminal, and drunk every day. For Russians, the stereotypical image of a Ukrainian is Svirid Holokhvastov, the main character in a play called Chasing Two Hares: a “cunning and hypocritical pseudo-intellectual”.
3. Brazilians — Paraguayans
Everyone in South America loves the Brazilians — everyone except the Paraguayans. Regardless of demographics, Paraguayans think Brazilians are imperialist. Despite Brazil’s supposed policy of non-intervention in other countries’ affairs, Paraguayans suspect them of massively defrauding Paraguay for centuries, all the way back to Portuguese colonists’ aggressive expansion. Worse still was the Triple Alliance War of 1864-1870, in which Brazil ganged up with Argentina and Uruguay to invade. This led to the militarisation of all Paraguayans, including women and children, and the deaths of 60%, including 90+% of the men. They also lost 25% of their land, including the Mato Grosso. Brazil continued to occupy Paraguay for a further six years, then dictated its politics until it gained independence. More recently, economic differences have, since the 1960s, seen an influx of Brazilian immigrants or brasiguayos buying up cheap land in Paraguay and displacing the native Paraguayans.
Brazilians, meanwhile, see Brazil as “benign” — especially compared to the other BRIC states Russia, India, and China, all of whom antagonize their neighbors. Brasiguayos in particular think the Paraguayan peasants are a senseless and irrational mob. “It is a waste of time using diplomatic means to deal with the landless,” said the richest brasiguayo back in 2012, “they should be treated like a bad woman, with a stick.”
2. Indians — Pakistanis
According to Pew Research, most Indians, regardless of demographics, see Pakistan as a threat. Apparently, the 1947 Partition of India, by which Pakistan came about, did nothing to settle their differences. In fact, it compounded them; the contested Kashmir region where the two countries meet could be a flashpoint for nuclear war. Of all the regional threats that India faces (including Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Naxalites, and China), Pakistan is considered the greatest.
Likewise, of all the threats that Pakistan faces (including the Taliban and al Qaeda), India is considered the greatest. Pakistanis, however, are eager to improve their relations — if not between governments then between the people themselves. Hence, Indians visiting Pakistan, “India’s estranged midnight twin,” are surprised by the “outpouring of warmth and generosity” from people who seem “‘just like [Indians] but still the perpetual ‘other’”. Sadly this warmth is not often shown to Pakistanis arriving in India.
1. Chinese — Japanese
According to China’s cross-sectionally representative Social Attitude Questionnaire of Urban and Rural Residents, “the dominant emotion toward Japan … is contempt.” It’s even stronger for the people themselves and it isn’t really hard to see why. Exposure to anti-Japanese sentiment starts early for Chinese children. They learn about Japanese war crimes in school, see Japanese “sadists” in movies, and hear them casually referred to as “devils” by parents and grandparents.
But it swings both ways. Just as only 8% of Chinese have a favorable view of the Japanese, only 7% of Japanese have a favorable view of the Chinese. Most Japanese see the Chinese as loud and unruly — as well as dirty, incapable of flushing the toilet. As in China, impressions largely come from the media; direct contact between the people is actually surprisingly rare. In one survey, only 3.5% of Japanese had talked to a Chinese person, and only 1.5% had ever visited China.
Little wonder then that China and Japan get the number one spot on this list.