When I Asked North Koreans For Stereotypes, They Gave These Answers…

North Korea Propaganda Inside Pyongyang Metro

I’ve always found stereotypes interesting, so when I entered North Korea, one of the world’s most reclusive countries and a place without internet access, I thought it would be interesting to find out how North Koreans generalised foreign cultures.

The following conversations are with real North Koreans who are tour guides in the country. So that these people don’t get executed, tortured or otherwise punished, I will not publish their names, gender or describe them physically (there’s only a certain amount of tour guides in the country).

North Korean 1

Will: Do you have any stereotypes of German people?

North Korean 1: Germany, Germany, Germany… [Silence, then a laugh]

Will: Never mind. What about America?

North Korean 1: No history. Shit history. [They laugh]

Will: The UK?

North Korean 1: Bowler hats, umbrellas and foggy London.

Will: Japan?

North Korean 1: Short.

Will: South Korea?

North Korean 1: Same blood.

Will: What are your stereotypes of France?

North Korean 1: Fashion. Fashion ladies. The mother of fashion!

Will: Holland?

North Korean 1: Stingy. Windmills. Shoes… wooden shoes.

North Korean 2:

Will: Are there any things about foreign people that you find strange??

North Korean 2: Err.. everyone is different. You wear different costumes to us. Sometimes you wear very short shorts and skirts and short tops. We think… Very strange. And haircuts. You have some very strange haircuts. If you have haircut like that one [points to a tourist with hair shaved very short on the sides with a round mop of hair on top] we think strange. And even, we think maybe crazy.

North Korean 3

Will: What’s your stereotype of British people?

North Korean 3: UK? People from UK are gentlemen. Ask any Korean. They have umbrellas and hats. This is an old stereotype though.

Will: Germans?

North Korean 3: Very strict. And punctual.

Will: Slovenians?

North Korean 3: Very naughty people! The worst! [Jokingly, a Slovene tourist was next to them]

Will: Japanese?

North Korean 3: Very bad English.

Slovene Tourist: Arabs?

North Korean 3: I haven’t met many Arab people.

What amazed me in these conversations was how uniform stereotypes across the world seem to be. Of course, these were tour guides and they aren’t representative of the North Korean population as a whole. I wonder if these are lasting pre-war stereotypes (I found the stereotype of London being smoggy interesting) or if these stereotypes were simply passed on by other tourists they had met.

Let me know what you found funny, controversial or interesting in the comments section below 🙂

Comments

  1. Eun Jin

    Have you ever try Pyongyang cold noodles?

    1. I didn’t unfortunately, though I did get to try many other North Korean dishes. My friend tried the cold noodles though and said they were good. He hasn’t tried the South Korean version though, so he couldn’t compare.

  2. Kimsuah

    Hi William I am Suah Do you remember me? I was surprised that you went to North Korea Is it different from South Korea? You are so lucky I wish you have fun in “somewhere” bye bye

    1. Of course I remember you Suah. It is different from South Korea, in many ways. It’s poorer, communist and has far less K-pop. But, there are many similarities too and they even have band that changes the lyrics of famous K-pop songs. I’m currently in Kazakhstan, it’s pretty nice here too.

  3. 서현

    Hi teacher! I’m Seohyeon. How about your trip in North Korea? I want to go there too

    1. Hi Seohyeon. My North Korean trip was great. I was creating another blog post about it earlier. It was really interesting seeing the differences between South Korea and North Korea. It was also interesting going to such a secretive country. I took some photos of the North Korean newspapers, perhaps you could translate them?

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