It doesn’t matter where people come from, most tend to “judge a book by its cover,” whether intentional or not. Even though I oppose this, I know I make the same mistake as so many others. It’s hard not to do this! I try to view life with open-mindedness, but I’ll admit that I frequently find myself being critical of others solely from my own impressions of what they are like when I first meet them. These impressions could be from how they speak, what they dress like, who they associate themselves with, or simply from the manner in which they display themselves throughout the day. While my open-mindedness with first impressions has improved significantly since my younger years, in present day, I still tend to categorize people into certain groups based only on their external characteristics. This is very common in the modern world. In class, we watched videos and discussed articles comparing the differences between American and British perceptions of people, based on their language and clothing choices. These next few paragraphs will include broad and in some cases, stereotypical, generalizations recognized from the videos, from our class discussion, and from my own perspectives on these topics.
To begin, I’ll start with the British viewpoints on clothing. It seems as though everyone can be categorized according solely to their clothing. If people are wearing a certain pair of trousers in a specific way, they suddenly can be so much better or worse than everyone else. If their clothes are different, they can automatically be distinguished from others –placing them in a certain class without even knowing anything about them. Someone who appears to be lower class could actually be very wealthy and simply decides to save their money for other things; their appearance might not be a priority for them. While on the other hand, someone who may appear to be upper class could actually just wear name brand clothing because they like those brands more (Fox 385-417).
American viewpoints on clothing seem very similar to Britain. Many people judge others simply because of what they see on the outside, having no regard or knowledge for what else is going on in the lives of the people they are judging; they often have no insight into their jobs, lifestyles, or specific viewpoints on clothing.
According to some of the videos and articles, British viewpoints on language are very similar to their perceptions of clothing. If people talk in a different way or use a specific phrase, they automatically are placed into a certain socioeconomic class, and can be considered better or worse than others. British opinions express that language is always associated with how much money people have in their lives; the way individuals speak places them into certain groups, being lower, middle, or upper class. If people say “toilet” or “restroom,” one way or another, suddenly everyone knows that they belong to a certain class in society (Fox 101-116).
As for American viewpoints on language, I find that people categorize others into groups based more on regionalism or age, rather than social class. A conversation like, “oh, you say coke, I say pop; you must be from the south, I’m from the north,” is a common example of regionalism. People typically do not harshly judge others for saying “stool” rather than “toilet.” Instead, people often can know where others are from based on their accent; however, generalizations about a specific region tends to lead to other assumptions as well. Also, a generational scenario, my grandparents refer to many things with different vocabulary than people of my age. While more judgmental circumstances do exist in the U.S., I feel that overall this country is a little more open-minded than the British towards the idea of placing individuals in social classes solely on their dialect. However, like the British perspectives, some people in the U.S. who use certain slang or curse words often are categorized into a social class (not everyone though).
At this point, I am trying to improve on having more open-mindedness right away, but like the struggle of many others, it is difficult to break habits that have been formed from a younger age. Overall, I believe that people need to view the world from new perspectives and that they should not harshly judge others without knowing them. It isn’t necessarily the most harmful problem in society, but fixing this would definitely help to eliminate other issues as well.
Fox, Kate. Watching the English: Hidden Rules of English Behavior. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2014.