Wednesday, June 5, 2013

North vs. South - A Stereotypical Dilemma

Stereotypes often shape the fabric of a social landscape - even if no one means for them to. Think about it. If you've heard all your life how xyz people are not good because (fill in the blank) then you're not going to want to be with that person when you get older. Not as friends or lovers or partners in life. Hence, one bad stereotype can shape an entire nation over time. Stereotypes cause division amongst people who would otherwise likely get along just fine.

The North vs. South stereotypes seem to occur in many countries. Each forms its own opinion of the other geographical location and then spreads it until it becomes a prevalent way of thinking. In the US, the North tends to think the South are mostly racists and the South tends to think the North are just Yankees. This post would get entirely too long if I tried to explain those stereotypes and quite frankly this isn't a blog on the US so I'm going to skip it for now. However, you can google these stereotypes if you're not familiar with them and you'll read more than you want to know.

In India, Northerners tend to regard Southerners as darker skinned, miserly (thrifty, cheap, etc.) and too serious about education/studies. South Indians do tend to focus more on education according to government studies and this is evidenced by the number of prominent universities in the south.

South Indians see North Indians as ostentatious, more brutal and less cultured.There is some truth to this as the North has seen a significant amount of conflict more recently than the south and it doesn't seem to have a permanent end to it. South Indians also tend to think North Indian grammar is less refined than their own.

I hate to break it to the naysayers but I've personally seen some very dark-skinned North Indians and I know some South Indians who are quite fair. I also know a lot of very well educated North and South Indians but I have noticed that where they choose to get their education (at least the ones I know) differ. That's not really important for the stereotype angle but it should be noted that both choose to seek out educations and that probably has a lot more to do with the basic human opportunistic needs than anything else.

I also know many North and South Indians who are miserly. OMG. That is one trait that drives me nuts. Not all Indians are like this, some spend money quite freely. So I don't think it's fair to point a finger at any group and call large groups of Indians names like this. Besides, I also know many a pardesi who could beat any Indian at the game of thrifty living - some in our community and some not.

I'm no grammar fanatic. I wasn't even when I was writing professionally full time. My own grammar has been slipping since I went down to barely writing professionally (I still pick up pieces occasionally). So I do not have the rights to criticize grammar of anyone. I will say though that with so much difference between grammar structures among Indian languages that it would be easy for someone to criticize a non-resident (insert Indian state here) for not perfecting their language. After all, I hear many people all over India talk about how someone immigrated from another state and didn't bother to learn the language. So the grammar issue may be explainable.

What are your thoughts on the North vs. South stereotypes?
What stereotypes have you heard? Have they affected you or your family personally?
How do you think these stereotypes affect the pardesi community?


  1. The stereotypes don't really affect our lives daily. However, my husband is South Indian and doesn't speak Hindi all too well, and he doesn't know numbers in Hindi at all! So people here (Delhi / NCR) in the Hindi speaking belt do find it amusing.

    I do think people in the 'North' spend more money on average than the South. For example, you can see luxury cars in my building here in Gurgaon--cars that go for 1 crore. We think it's exceedingly silly to live in a 2--3 crore flat while driving a car that costs half or one third of one's house! In Mumbai, however, I've seen many people have regular cars while living in exponentially more expensive flats (same for Hyderabad).

  2. Building stereotypes among Filipinos was the backbone of the over 300 years rule of Spaniards in the Philippines. It´s called divide and rule. Stereotyping was even more effective because of the nature of the Philippine country, an archipelago, and every group of people has their own dialect. So Filipinos were stereotyped according to their dialect. The Ilongos are braggart, even if they have nothing, they´d love to show off. The Ilocanos are stingy, a coin is deformed before they´d let it go. The Tagalogs have superiority complex. The Cebaunos and Ilongos hate to use Tagalog even if it´s the national language, they´d prefer speaking English, and etc. Up to these days, these stereotypes remain the same. I was shocked to understand the root cause of it when I learned Philippine history in the university. My mentality then changed.

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