Thursday, September 23, 2010

Those Awful Stereotypes

One Timothy Egan in the NYT :

Beware, they told us in the train stations of northern Italy, of the Gypsy baby trick — an old ruse by Europe’s most reviled underclass. A woman will suddenly ask you to hold her child, and then just as you fumble to respond another Gypsy will grab your wallet.

Watch out, they cautioned us in the lovely Turkish port city of Kusadasi, for the Gypsies who prey on tourists along the waterfront. And old lady will bump you, while a teenage hooligan grabs your bag. The Gypsy old-lady trick.

Those Gypsies, known by the less pejorative term of Roma, are getting kicked around the continent again, hardy perennials of European scapegoats. Unspoken characterizations based on ancient stereotypes — they are shiftless, clannish, prone to petty thievery and to begging, prostitution and dark motives — are now out in the open.
Funnily enough, I was given a similar warning in Malaga some twenty years back - 'watch out for the gypsy flower-sellers' said the girl at the hotel desk. Now Laban pictured someone sitting in front of large flower-baskets in the style of the late Buster Edwards at Waterloo, and wasn't too worried.

About to cross a road - a lady of maybe sixty blocks the way, thrusting a carnation at me and smiling. A younger woman with her.

"Cuanto es ?"

"Una peseta - para fiesta" (it was nearly Christmas and large fireworks were being sold from open street stalls - not at all like the UK)

(Rapid calculation - about 0.5p. Much too cheap to be kosher)

"No. No peseta. No fiesta"

Would you believe, she wouldn't take no for an answer, stepped up to me and started pinning it. I leapt backwards about a yard. Which pulled her left hand (empty) out of my right-hand rear trouser pocket. Impressive - my eye had been on the hand with the carnation, had not had a clue.

I spoke to them both in English then. They seemed to understand and went away.


Anonymous said...

How the begging scam works in France, from my own observations (Tours, Amiens, Paris Gare de l'est)

It's divided into 3 groups. 1 - Women and children begging around the Railway station. 2 - Young men nearby who muscle French beggars out of the prime positions, distract the police, hassle passers-by who object. 3 - Bunch of men sitting in pub nearby, drinking beer, playing cards, betting on horses and generally spending all the money that the women earn.

Yaffle said...

Most people who have travelled around continental Europe much will have similar stories.

Sometimes, "stereotyping" is no more than inductive reasoning.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Strange case of the Berlin gypoes.

None of my mates had noticed, them not having the ear.

All the supossed gypoes here have the strongest Manchester or Birmingham accents you could ever wish to hear in Piccadily station or Birmingham New Street.

Dressed just like the scum from the East, the "real" ones, but these accents.....

Something else to look out for.

The U-Bahn is a favourite for this one. A male "watching" a bastard, whilst the bastard stands in front of you with a PERFECTLY written sign (Done for them by their probation officers, obviously), demanding money. O.K every city has them. Nothing new.

The women. Doing the same, but ALWAYS have a bastard in their arms or wrapped up in an old rag and carried over their shoulders.

Take note, and notice. Why do these bastards NEVER cry, make a whimper, or even appear to ever MOVE?

Time and time again I have requested a blood/drug test order on the bastards when we have arrested the "Mother"* But the boss is a fucking COWARD and has always refused.

("Mother", I have often seen the same bastard with three or four DIFFERENT "Mothers" on the same U-Bahn line, in the same day!)

south of the borde said...

When I went on a university trip, as a Russian undergraduate of a long-established British university, to St Petersburg, in the early 1990s, our department provided us with a list of "dos and don'ts", among which was the instruction "DO hit the gypsy children on Nevsky Prospekt and in the subways".

Pretty to the point, really.

I must say thought that the real hassle there were the conscript cadet-cops, seeking bribes from foreigners at every opportunity, not the said gypsy child beggars.

Mark said...

'Most people who have travelled around continental Europe much will have similar stories.'

Gypsy beggars have also got well entrenched on the London Underground in the last 15 years. Strange how we seem to have imported this aspect of continental life with greater ease than the 'cafe culture' our leaders believed would mushroom following a simple tweak of the licensing laws. Perhaps 'cultural stereotypes' are a bit deeper than our pop sociologists would have us believe.

Foxy Brown said...

They're no doubt doing the jobs the locals won't do, such as selling The Big Issue.

Foxy Brown said...

Comment above was addressed to Mark.

moriarty said...

They're no doubt doing the jobs the locals won't do, such as selling The Big Issue.

It certainly works that way here, where the current Big Issue seller (probably Bangladeshi) has held the job for several years. She commutes by train from a nearby city two or three times a week - apart from the maternity leave she took recently.

I'm sure it's an infalible sign of a professional begger is that they don't have a scruffy dog.

Anonymous said...

There don't seem to be as many Romanian gypsy beggars in London as there were a few years ago. Packs of women that would go around with their babies.

No doubt the pickpockets will be out in force as usual along Oxford Street during the Christmas rush. Also, one would guess that gypsy men run most or all of the 'find the lady' card scam pitches.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Anonymous said...

There don't seem to be as many Romanian gypsy beggars in London as there were a few years ago. Packs of women that would go around with their babies.

They are all here. (Berlin).

Anonymous said...

"They're no doubt doing the jobs the locals won't do, such as selling The Big Issue."

I think it's more a case of the jobs the local are not allowed to do.

Here in Glasgow, the Big Issue sellers all used to be young (apparently) genuine homeless local men. Many were quite nice guys and you could stop and chat with them quite the thing.

Suddenly (over no more than a month), they all disappeared, and now it's largely Romanians and similar; definitely not local and definitely not chatty - apart from anything else they don't speak the language.

I conclude from this that the whole thing is controlled by some Mr. Big somewhere, and I no longer buy their rubbishy magazine.

Furor Teutonicus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

A blog is only as good as the comments it tends to attract.

Cheerio Laban.

Laban said...

Teutonicus - no need for the n-word, or the sand prefix in these parts. I have a certain respect for Johnny Turk (grandad was at Gallipoli).

Hence the disappearing comment.

Best of order, gentlemen.

Anonymous said...

But you have no problem with "gypoes", "scum from the east", or with "bastards" as a description of very young children (clearly meant literally & as an insult)?

I guess this is what you expect in a blog post about how terrible beggers & foreigners are, based on unverifiable anecdotes.

Personally, I've seen plenty of beggers ASKING for change, & I've either given them some or told them (honestly) that I don't have any on me. None of them have ever attempted to rob me, or for that matter any one I know.

Laban said...

I have problems with all of those, except bastards when it's used correctly. But some things are more problematic than others.

If I deleted every comment I disagreed with I may as well not bother with them at all.