POLES IN THE EYES OF GERMANS: A CONTEMPORARY LINGUISTIC AND SOCIO-CULTURAL STEREOTYPE
On the basis of experiments conducted in 2004 among the students of the Slavic department at the University of Mainz, the authoress reconstructs ideas of contemporary Germans concerning Poles. A German stereotype of a Pole rests on selected criteria of differentiating 'us' from 'them' (i.e. Germans from Poles), namely on economic, political and ideological contrasts. Emphasized is economic backwardness of Poland, explained as a result of Poland's socialist past, relative to the leading role of Germany. The backwardness is represented by the Polish Fiat 126p, Russian agricultural technology, street vending and illegal trade in alcohol. The value of social aspects, concerning communicative behaviour (Polish politeness) and cultural aspects (Polish piety) prove secondary in the formation of the prototype. The stereotype derives from observable characteristics of Poles (appearance, clothes) and personal contact (heavy drinking and stealing). Aspects of Polish culture (mainly the Polish cuisine) are known to Germans probably as a result of their trips to Poland and are situated at the peripheries of the stereotype. The absence of ethnic, linguistic and cultural characteristics in the German stereotype of a Pole can be viewed not only as a result of a poor knowledge of Polish history, literature and culture, but also of an uncritical attitude towards the media, in which the ex-socialist countries are presented mainly from the economic perspective.
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