At my eye appointment, today, the optometrist was intrigued by my surname and asked where I was from, originally. When I replied ‘Portuguese’, he said ‘Ah, yes, Portuguese people…‘ and he proceeded to list a number of characteristics he thought Portuguese people had.
Strangely, I was quite put off by that conversation and have been thinking about it since then.
Was it because he was unpleasant? Not at all. The characteristics that he listed were either neutral or positive. And, in any case, were quickly followed by the type of self-deprecating remark that is so common in British people.
Was he wrong? Not really. The traits that he mentioned are, indeed, common. In fact, I might have mentioned them myself, if I had been asked to summarise the complex matter of ‘being Portuguese’ in a few facts and adjectives… just like I stated, in the paragraph above, that British people often use self-deprecating humour (a characteristic that I find very endearing, I should add).
I am convinced that what I did not like was being so clearly linked to a stereotype. I think of myself as a complex aggregate of interests and experiences and, because of that, someone unique. As far as I am concerned, I am one of a kind! That, in itself, is extremely ironic given that I do know that individuals have a strong need of belonging; that identification with products and/or companies can even offset poor service experiences (as mentioned in slide 3 of the presentation in this post); and, most of all, given my research interest in customer profiling.
I suppose that the bottom line is that I am fine with marketers thinking of me as part of an homogeneous group of customers, as long as they make me feel that I am special, that I am one of a kind. And, now, please tell me that I am not the only one who feels that way 🙂
11 thoughts on “One of a kind, please”
First, I think everybody feels like that. I see what you described above inserted in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where you have to be part of a group (sense of belonging) and that you are recognized by that group for your special capabilities or, in other words, by how unique or special you are (reognition/status).
Second, a stereotype is a crude generalization: it is the basis to prejudice which, in its turn, is the basis to sexism and racism and other terrible segregations.
Last but not least, being a Brazilian who lived abroad I can certainly relate to being seen as part of a (very strong, by the way) stereotype: not nice …
Ah, I really like the link to Maslow’s. I had not thought of that but it makes perfect sense. Thanks!!
Oh, sure you’re not the only one. We are all unique, but influenced by the cultures we ‘grow up’ in. That includes culture based on national or ethnical background, but also cultures based on school, businesses and occupation. When I look at Europe I tend to think that for example truck drivers from Portugal and Poland might have more in common than a truck driver and a corporate lawyer from one country. And it’s the combination of all these influences and then some other factors (where we live, what we read, who we talk to) that make us the unique persones we are.
But even knowing and accepting that, you prefer to be treated as an individual, right?
Of course. I am an individual, so I like to be treated as one :). My illustration was just to show that there are different environments from which we have characteristics, each in our own unique combination. And one could generalize from ethnicity, occupation, home town, etcetera, etcetera.
I remember hearing someone say that all chines people look the same. I remember thinking that all caucasians probably look the same to them. For an alien, probably all humans would look the same: after all we have roughly the same shape. Sort of. And that’s where the uniqueness kicks in. And of course, that is just the physical attributes…
Probably being stereotyped irked you because it caught you off guard, Ana. You are simply honest enough to recognise your emotional reaction and reflect on it. I am not sure if that is unique, but pretty sure it is quite rare 🙂
Yes, I suppose it was being off guard – If I had gone into the bank to ask for a loan, I would know before hand that they were going to give me some sort of numeric score and place me into a risk category.
Out of interest, what did he think you were like? I am totally guilty of the same mistake – but only when thinking of other nationalities ahahaha
He mentioned that we are a nation of emigrants – first because of religion (crusades), then politics and now economics. That we love salted codfish. That we don’t like being confused with a province of Spain. All true, right?! Well, except for the codfish: I prefer the fresh type.