Our favourite search engine exposes our prejudices.
To find information about anything and everything, Google is the first place most of us head to. The ubiquitous search engine has an autofill feature designed to uncover what people are searching for most often. Fascinatingly, it can also reveal what people worldwide think about South African businesspeople, and indeed about businesspeople in other countries and continents as a whole. The prejudices exposed make for an eye-opening read.
How did we carry out the experiment?
- In the Google search box, we wrote the sentence “Why are South African businesspeople so …..?” We collected all the descriptions that the autofill feature churned out.
- We then did the same for other countries, continents and regions. So “Why are French businesspeople so…?”, “Why are European businesspeople so …?”, “Why are Eastern businesspeople so…?”, and so on.
- Where there were no autofill results for that country’s business people, we substituted “businesspeople” with “businessmen” or “businesswomen”.
- We also tried replacing the adjectives French, South African, Asian, etc. with the country names, so “Why are France businesspeople so…”, “Why are South Africa businesspeople so…”, “Why are Asia business people so…”, and so on.
Here are the fascinating results that emerged for businessmen around the globe:
- South African (or South Africa) businessmen are … pretty, beautiful, weak, expensive, rude
- American (or America) businessmen are … tall, loud, proud, spoiled, religious, fat, rich, powerful
- Australian (and Australia) businessmen are … bad at cricket, bad at the Olympics, good at sport, good at cricket
- Egyptian (and Egypt) businessmen are …. jealous, important, beautiful, controlling, expensive, hot, poor, important to Great Britain
- Nigerian (and Nigeria) businessmen are …. strict, aggressive, pretty, rude
- Kenyan (and Kenya) businessmen are …. good, fast, thin, skinny, low
- Zimbabwean (and Zimbabwe) businessmen are … poor, high, poor yahoo, important
- Ethiopian (and Ethiopia) businessmen are … beautiful, good, pretty, fast
- Arabian businessmen are … popular, expensive, beautiful, fast (I suspect the people searching for “Fast” may have been looking for Arabian horses, rather than businessmen).
- Saudi Arabian (and Saudi Arabia) businessmen are … rich, strict, backwards, hot
- Canadian (and Canada) businessmen are … mean, good at hockey, expensive, pretty, high
- Moroccan (and Morocco) businessmen are … beautiful, expensive, good, different, poor, cheap, popular
- German (and Germany) businessmen are … smart, cold, loyal, long, strong, skinny, good at football, rich, good, successful
- Irish (and Ireland) businessmen are … pale, tough, angry, thick, good at boxing, expensive, cold
- Scottish (and Scotland) businessmen are … tough, rude, friendly, angry, bad at football, bad at rugby, bad at sport, cold
- British (and Britain) businessmen are … rude, good at music, sarcastic, polite, good at cycling, good at track cycling, bad at tennis, good at rowing
- Italian (and Italy) businessmen are … beautiful, attractive, flirty, thin, good at fencing, expensive, racist
- New Zealand businessmen are … good at rugby, ugly, blue, cold
- Greek (and Greece) businessmen are … important, beautiful, rude, hot, poor, much debt, expensive
- Indian (and India) businessmen are … smart, beautiful, rude, attractive, bad at the Olympics, bad at sport, good at cricket, poor
- Chinese (and China) businessmen are … rude, smart, skinny, rich, good at the Olympics, good at table tennis, good at sport. Chinese businesspeople are … good at business
- Japanese (and Japan) businessmen are … weird, thin, polite, short, technologically advanced, rich
- Russian (and Russia) businessmen are … strong, beautiful, mean, good at chess, racist, rich, bad at the Olympics
- Brazilian (or Brazil) businessmen are … good at football, good at soccer, good, good for you (yes, that last one was copied down correctly!)
- Mexican (and Mexico) businessmen are … expensive, violent, poor
- Colombian (and Colombia) businessmen are … beautiful, hot, fake, jealous, high
- Israeli (and Israel) businessmen are … beautiful, hot, pretty, difficult, powerful, evil, close, important to us
- French (or France) businessmen are … rude, skinny, expensive, proud, high, dirty, cheap
- Dutch (or Netherlands or Holland) businessmen are … tall, big, tolerant, pretty, good at football, expensive, liberal, flat, densely populated (yes, those last two were copied down correctly!) #
- Spanish (or Spain) businessmen are … good at football, good at sport, good, good at basketball, rude, pretty, loud
- European (or Europe) businessmen are … beautiful, attractive, small, feminine, expensive, high, cold
- African (or Africa) businessmen are … good at running, fast, strong, ugly, poor, violent, hot, underdeveloped
- Asian (or Asia) businessmen are … short, rude, good at everything, cheap, populated, expensive, skinny
- Eastern businessmen are … racist, strong, rude, ugly
- Western businessmen are … big, shallow, manly, tall
Clearly, for many countries, people’s prejudices about its businessmen mirror their prejudices about that country’s people, whether they be business people or not. For example, do people honestly think Kenya’s businessmen are fast, or are they thinking about their athletes?
These biases are also very similar to what people think about that country as a place. For example “Dutch (or Netherlands or Holland) businessmen are so … densely populated, flat, expensive” were real autofill results as you can see from the screengrabs below! #
Interestingly, no autofill results emerged for “businesswomen” for any country, continent or region. This means no-one is searching for this term by country. Out of all the ones we tested, China was the only country which had autofill results for “businesspeople”. Every other country we Googled had autofill results for “businessmen” only. This speaks volumes about our prejudices when it comes to men in business as versus women in business.
All in all, this is an eye-opening exercise to uncover just how deeply our prejudices are entrenched when it comes to business in other cultures. Try it and see!
Note: the opinions expressed by Google’s autofills and its users worldwide are definitely NOT the opinions of the author!
* Thanks to Braintainment for this idea behind this experiment.
# strictly speaking, Netherlands and Holland are not the same. Netherlands is a country, while Holland is not. Holland is a region comprising two of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands. However, the misconception that they are the same is very common, so we used the two interchangeably in this experiment.