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Stereotypes on the London Underground

On a recent trip to London, standing in a crowded underground train somewhere between Victoria and Bond Street stations, the pitfalls of stereotyping people were emphasised. Stereotyping comes naturally to us, in fact it is a process we depend on to help us make sense of the world and the people around us. On the ‘Tube’ in London, whilst noticing the unbelievable diversity of people around me, I decided to try an exercise to try to consciously stereotype people around me. How difficult could it be? After all, it is something that comes easy to us.

The first man I chose to stereotype was black, dressed in casual fashionable clothing, with big headphones and I was certain he was a Londoner. Until, he started talking in the broadest Irish accent. No points there for me.

The next target was a couple who stood next to me, the man was white with reddish hair, and the lady was white with mousy brown hair, both dressed casually and comfortably. To be honest, I was very unsure of their nationality or roots, but if I had to guess…nope, I really didn’t know. What I wouldn’t have guessed was at the next stop the man would say to the lady, “Skal vi af her, eller fortsætte?” They were Danes!

This is the downfall of stereotyping, and we have to be aware of it because we really don’t know anything about the person opposite you on the ‘Tube’ or for that matter, on the other side of the table in a meeting. Once we have put people in a categorical box, we think we know them and we will start acting according to that stereotype. And that is a game you are likely to lose.

-Nivedita Eskesen

"When you consider what is entailed with moving a family abroad and then supporting their acclimation once they are there, there really isn't anything 'soft' about these services."

Lauren Herring, President of Global services for IMPACT Group, St. Louis, Missouri.