Five cliches that could describe many places, but are used mostly for one country

16 Feb

1) Japan: A fascinating blend of modernity and tradition.

Why this is not just accurate for Japan: Any developed country, and many developing countries, can be called this. In every country, long-running traditions, both good and bad, and continue while massive populations still own smartphones. The US has smartphones and gave birth to the internet, but it still has its major problems with racism. France has smartphones, but they still have an embedded cafe culture. South Korea gave us “Gangnam Style”, but it is still a country where you can see older people in rural areas working in rice fields.

2) USA: The Melting Pot

Why this is not just accurate for the USA: The USA is very, very multicultural, but the same could be said about many of the world’s countries. Australia, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, South Africa, India, Tanzania, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, and France are very multicultural too. Also, there’s a huge chunk of the white population in America that does not accept the idea of the “melting pot” one bit. While many countries have a right-wing xenophobic fringe, America’s is particularly in denial about the multicultural nature of their nation. I’ve also heard left-leaning people say that America is unique in having international restaurants in its cities. Um, what? Do these people think Germans live off sausages all day and that Brits eat nothing but pub grub? What century do these people live in again?

3) Turkey: A Blend of East and West

Why this is not just accurate for Turkey: This could be said about any nation in the area. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bulgaria, Poland, the Baltic States, Bosnia, Romania, Hungary, Cyprus, and Russia could all arguably be called this. Many countries have absorbed influences from very different neighboring regions. The tendency to call Turkey “a blend of East and West” is a classic tourist brochure cliche that I don’t want to see any longer.

4) Kenya: The archetype African nation

Why this is total BS:  Every continent has many, many different cultures. No continent, especially one as diverse as Africa, can have an “archetype nation”. To say that Kenya is the “archetype African nation” is a complete falsehood. The only reason travel guides say this is to entertain Americans’ perception of what a nice place to go Africa should have to look like: endless Savannahs, populated by many animals as well as almost-naked Maasai warriors who leave in mud huts. In Kenya, it is easier for a tourist to access this type of landscape than in many other African countries. But it is not how most Kenyans live, and in no way does its accessibility to tourists make Kenya the “archetype African nation”.

5) Iceland: Feels like a whole different planet

Why this is is not just accurate for Iceland: Please. This saying is so ridiculous. It’s true that Iceland’s landscape is otherworldly, but the same could be said of many places. The American Southwest, New Zealand, Nepal, and Alaska all fit this description just as much as Iceland.

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