Information for teachers:
(previous lesson)

a road map:
a set of guidelines, instructions
a map, especially one for motorists, showing and designating the roads of a region
a detailed plan to guide progress toward a goal
a detailed explanation
a reference book

Reginald Dale is a columnist for the International Herald Tribune. His column "Thinking Ahead" covers a wide range of international economic and political issues, especially concerning the problems of globalization. In addition, he runs the journalism program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, and serves as the editor-in-chief of the quarterly magazine European Affairs. Also, he is a member of the board of advisors of the European Institute in Washington, a frequent TV and radio commentator and a contributor to numerous magazines. Stages of his career with the IHT include Economic and Financial Editor in Paris from 1989 to 1993 and International Economics Correspondent from 1987 to 1989. Before joining the IHT, he was a senior editor and foreign correspondent for the Financial Times, where his positions included US Editor in Washington, European Editor in London, and European Community Correspondent in Brussels.

Pre-reading activity
Look at the peripheral information (headline, author, dates) and answer the following questions

Identifying the source

What kind of document is this?
What's its source? Where was it taken from?
What kind of publication do you think this is ?
Who is the writer?
Where is he based?
When was this written? How do you know?


Look at the headline
What is a stereotype?
What is a road map for?
Whose road map is it?
By skimming the text what countries are mentioned?
What do you expect to read?


click here to download the grid for the students to fill in (Rich Text format)



A European's Road Map

By Reginald Dale International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON - In the United States, it is widely considered unacceptable to attribute people's behavior, good or bad, to their racial or ethnic origins. Ethnic stereotyping is taboo.

In Europe, however, almost the reverse is true. Europeans tend to rely on ancient but often accurate national stereotypes to help them understand their neighbors.

Both the French and the Germans, for instance, have pretty good, and similar, ideas of what constitutes a typical Englishman. While those ideas may often be caricatures, they also reflect centuries in which Europeans have observed each other, as trading partners and on the battlefield, at very close quarters.

European stereotypes apply not just to individuals but to whole countries, too. Thanks to their differing histories, cultures and geographies, the European nations have developed distinct and recognizable personalities.

Those personalities are often, in fact, more important than the official policies of national governments or their political complexions in explaining how European nations interact with one another.

As the European Union approaches decisions on economic and monetary union that will be crucial to the destinies of its member nations, it is only natural that many of those nations should be indulging in stereotypical behavior.

Traditionally aloof Britain is staying out of the planned single European currency, the euro; France is justifying its reputation for arrogance by demanding the top job in running the currency, and Germany is showing its self-righteousness in seeking to impose its own economic and monetary standards on everybody else.

In Britain, Tony Blair's Labour government sounds more enthusiastic about the euro than its Conservative predecessor did. It is promising to join the currency in perhaps five years, provided Britain meets certain economic criteria.

But the British people's dislike of the euro has not disappeared with the change of government. Everyone knows that the British will have to shed a great deal of historical and cultural baggage before they can agree to scrap the pound and accept the euro in the referendum that Mr. Blair has promised them.

The big question is not whether Britain will fulfill the economic criteria but whether the British national character will change.

In France, the advent of Lionel Jospin's Socialist-led government has done little to diminish the country's traditional Gallic conceit, the latest example of which is a proposal that the new European central bank be headed by Jean-Claude Trichet, the governor of the Bank of France.

The proposal should not be dismissed just because it has irritated most of France's partners. France is traditionally good at getting its way in such things.

Nor does it matter that the independent-minded Mr. Trichet would not necessarily run the bank the way Paris wants. Experience suggests that France would settle for the appearance of power if it cannot have the reality.

Germany's national need is for reassurance, before it embraces the euro, that the currency's other members, especially Italy, will behave like sensible Germans.

Here is an example of a damaging stereotype at work. Italy is stuck, at least in German eyes, with an image as an economically irresponsible and politically unstable country, even though it has probably been more successful than any other EU member in changing its economic and political behavior for the better to qualify for the single currency. That shows how difficult changing a stereotype can be.

But the point is that even if Italy does succeed in radically upgrading its economic and political image, that need does not make it any less Italian. For most Europeans, the challenge is to achieve economic and political integration without losing the best of their national characteristics. Europe would be much less interesting without its ethnic stereotypes.

Tuesday, November 18, 1997, page 13