Prepare for a blitzkrieg of tabloid headlines in advance of the England-Germany World Cup game on Sunday. It's a dangerous game, because it risks masking some truths such as the surprising youth of the German squad when compared with England's ageing team.
Stereotypes may originate in accurate observations, but they tend to slip further from the truth over time. Take this from an otherwise excellent US textbook on Global Public Relations: 'The British respect authority and rank' (p269). That was right fifty years ago – but it's surely wrong today.
I know, there was a big fuss at Wimbledon when the Queen visited for the first time since 1977 and the players had to practise their bows and their curtseys. But this may be the exception – or it could describe our love of the picturesque (Walter Bagehot described royalty as the dignified part of our system of government, as distinct from the efficient part).
I've recently spent two weeks being addressed with unaccustomed formality by a group of postgraduate students from the US. They seemed determined to give me a title, while I'm used to my students calling me by my first name.
This group made excellent ambassadors. Punctual, courteous, well-read, literate, intelligent, curious and culturally-sensitive. Could I have started out with my own false stereotype?