Living in a foreign land, one soon realizes that all of the assholes one encounters in daily life are ‘foreigners.’ Here in the Netherlands, nearly every one of the assholes that crosses my path is Dutch. The Dutch are now to blame for almost every bit of annoying behavior that spoils my day. As in:
“Who is the parent of this little brat throwing sand in everyones’ eyes? Oh, of course, a bloody Dutch person!”
“That scooter driver on the bike path is going to kill someone! And look: they’re wearing an AFC Ajax football jersey. Dutch bastard.”
“Someone threw rubbish into my cargo bike overnight. Again. Dutch jerks!”
Because all of the assholes I now encounter on a daily basis are Dutch, if I were feeling ungenerous, I might allow myself to jump to the conclusion that all Dutch are assholes. This misuse of logic would be a classic example of what I am calling The Foreign Asshole Fallacy.
Despite making little sense, there are expats and travelers who still fall victim to The Foreign Asshole Fallacy. For example, in China I heard many expats (including Hong Kong/Taiwanese/Singaporean Chinese) gripe about Mainland Chinese people. Typical gripes were that Mainland Chinese people are all assholes who spit everywhere, let their kids shit in public, cut lines, drive poorly, etc.
It is true that some Mainland Chinese are assholes. In fact, I can positively confirm that in every population there are assholes.
I hold, however, that the percentage of assholes in a given population is relatively constant at around 10 percent. There might be minor variations — the asshole population might be 12 percent of Americans, 10 percent of Turks and 9 percent of Spaniards — but these are small variations and possibly only rounding errors.
We expats and travelers must be careful not to let the 10 percent asshole factor, color our view of the other 90 percent of a given population. This can be hard to do as assholes tend to have an over-sized negative impact on daily life. So when I find that my removable bike light has been nicked in the night (once again), I must remind myself that only the 10 percent asshole quotient is to blame and not the whole of the Netherlands.
Please note, however, that because the percentage of assholes is constant, variations in population size will result in a greater overall number of assholes. So, there are more assholes number-wise in China — a whopping 130 million assholes — than in the Netherlands — a mere 1.68 million. Therefore, in China it might feel like everyone is spitting because 130 million people are spitting, but that doesn’t mean that all Chinese are assholes.
The question now is: do each of the 1.68 million assholes in the Netherlands own scooters and drive them recklessly on cycle paths? Some days I think they must.
Related post: Ugly Americans, Ugly Chinese: The Tourist Trap
Original map from Wikimedia Commons here.