We're either "Vulgar Flemings" or "Lazy Walloons"

Fresh research from seats of learning on both sides of the linguistic divide has uncovered to what extent Flemings and Walloons think in stereotypes about each other.

The research carried out by scientists at the Flemish Free University of Brussels (VUB) and the Francophone University of Louvain-la-neuve (UCL) shows that the unflattering portrayal of members of the other language community that some politicians make, often reflects views held by a majority of Flemings and Walloons.

Mark Elchardus (VUB) and Olivier Servais (UCL) headed the research that involved detailed questioning of seventy panellists. Half the respondents came from Flanders, the other half from Wallonia. Gender and age also mirrored the population as a whole.

During several sessions panellists were asked to tell their story as researchers concentrated on one particular issue.

It soon became clear that both Flemings and Walloons thought about each other in clichés.

Mark Elchardus in the daily De Morgen: "The majority of clichés are negative ones. Our intercommunity wrangling is not purely a matter of politicians and the media. It's an issue that is concentrating people's minds too. There are sharp contrasts that are anchored in history."

The following picture of the Flemish emerged: "They are vulgar, know French, but refuse to speak it. Some Francophones also believe that Flemings are victims and are being misled by their politicians."

And the Fleming's picture of Walloons? They are thought to be lazy and arrogant, people who enjoy life to the full, do not speak Dutch and think that's quite normal.

The research also generated some positive news: both parties believe that they could get along, if there was "good will" on both sides.

Mark Elchardus concluded: "Whether all these ideas originate from ordinary people or are imposed on them by politicians, the fact remains that these ideas exist, there, out on the street. Clearly, the other person's point of view is not understood."