The Foreign Asshole Fallacy

Surrounded by assholes map of world _

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.

24 responses to “The Foreign Asshole Fallacy

    • Statistically speaking, German assholes are out there. It might be that the part of your mind that detects assholes has been mis-calleberated after your many years in Latvia. Would you say Latvia is an over 10 percent asshole outlier? Or perhaps it’s still around 10 percent, but that the 10 percent that are assholes are tremendous assholes.

  1. I’m thinking the percentage may be a little higher in Austria. But of course they will just tell you it’s all the Hungarians’ fault.

    • Could cold winters in Austria be to blame for a seasonal spike in assholery? Interesting hypothesis that might also shed light on the Hungarians.

  2. Oh my gosh I was laughing through this whole post! I love it! Perfect! I totally agree… although doesn’t it often feel that the longer you are in one place, the more assholes you run into on a daily basis? OR maybe it’s just that it wears on one more… who knows. hahah

    • I think at first the assholes are just locals that we think of as being charmingly odd. After time — as they begin to wear on one as you’ve said — we realize that they are assholes. They are a minority, but they are an annoying minority the globe over!

  3. I can’t imagine the Dutch riding scooters any more perilously than the Chinese on scooters and/or bicycles and throwing trash around. Are you sure you’re still not in China?!

    • Ah, but motor scooters weren’t allowed in Zhuhai so only taxi driver’s imperiled my life there. (What a funny thought that I’m still actually in China. Like an odd episode of The Twilight Zone. It can’t be true though. The food would be much better if I were still in China.)

  4. Pingback: Friday Links 27th March - Charlotte Steggz·

  5. Your stats seem sound to me, however, I have some questions. Does the APF “asshole perception factor” (derivative of the above) escalate near borders of genetically linked peoples, e.g. Hong Kong / Mainland China or Fresno / Clovis, California? Are do we call these “hatred fault lines”? New area of research for you.

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