Have Fun Playing the Nationality Detection Game

I don’t know about you, but I love people watching, and I have done it all over the world. Wherever I go, I will always find some time to just sit, sip a coffee and watch the passers-by. It can be fun to try and work out who these people are, and to guess where they are from; to play the Nationality Detection Game.

Now if you are sitting on a park bench in the American mid-west or provincial northern England, you can be fairly certain that the people who pass-by are mainly locals, born and bred, and so guessing their nationality does not present much of a challenge.

However, an airport departure lounge is a different matter, especially if it is a large hub, and there are a lot of transit passengers, such as New York JFK or London Heathrow. This is neutral ground, and we cannot assume that the people are from the USA or Great Britain at all. They could truly be from anywhere in the world. So, it is here that I propose that you play the game.

To help you, I have collected together an assortment of useful tips and indicators. Please do not be offended if I make fun of your own nationality. I do assure you that I have tried to make fun of everyone in equal measure, especially my own nationality.

So here goes:

First of all, the British

You will notice that they are raucous and uncouth when young, but they mellow and become timid and self-effacing with the advancing years. The older version prefers sitting quietly doing crossword puzzles; whereas the young are partial to shouting, singing loudly, then falling over, from the effects of too much alcohol (women included).

If he is a working-class man, is wearing jeans and happens to bend over, then you may be unfortunate enough to witness the unsightly exposure of his buttock cleavage, known in Britain as “builder's bum”.

As for the women, if they talk about the weather incessantly and each sentence is liberally peppered with the word “dear” (southern women); or “love” and “pet” (northern women) they are most definitely from England.

If you see a group of men drinking pints of beer, occasionally standing up with clenched fists, and offering to “step outside and talk about it”, or inadvertently head-butting the person opposite, whilst using words such as “satdy” (Saturday) “mondy” (Monday), or “laa” (lad) or “de match” (football match), then you can rest assured they belong to that gentle breed known as “scousers”, and are in fact from the home of the Beatles, Liverpool

If you spot a red-haired person with wild eyes whose language is completely unintelligible, but frequently utters “och aye” and “laddie” then he (or she) is from Scotland.

If your nose detects a strong aroma of sheep, and your eyes fall upon someone lovingly stroking his pure wool sweater, then give yourself five points for correctly identifying a Welsh person.

A man with glazed eyes, who is unsteady on his feet, and is holding a beer can in his hand at eight o’clock in the morning, will almost certainly be from Ireland. If sitting down, he may be unsteady in his seat, he may sway from side to side, and he will be surrounded by a variety of empty glasses which once contained a multitude of different alcoholic drinks. If he has a newspaper, it will be open at the horse racing pages.


If you see two people gesturing wildly with their hands whilst talking, then they are almost certainly French or Italian and it can be tricky to differentiate. It has been said that the Italians and the French talk less in winter to avoid getting their hands cold.

So, other clues? If the man is stylishly and expensively dressed, well groomed with perhaps brown tortoiseshell glasses, and beautiful leather shoes, then he is Italian. If the woman has large eyes, large breasts, broad lips and hips, and is beautiful, she is Italian. In fact Sophia Loren is not an atypical Italian woman.

If they are French however, you will almost certainly hear the words “amour” and “kwa?” uttered at frequent intervals, and if you get close enough to notice, their breath may smell of garlic. If they are drinking alcohol, it will be wine, probably red.

If you overhear the words “ya,ya” and see plates piled high with sausages and sauerkraut washed down with copious amounts of beer by extremely obese, and solemn individuals, you have just spied some Germans.


It has been said of the Americans that “They know the price of everything and the value of nothing”. You will hear the word “dollar” mentioned within the first 20 seconds, and frequently thereafter. You won‘t need to eavesdrop on the conversation as you will hear every word quite clearly from 30 feet away.

If they are young, then frequent use of the words “liyk” and “arsum” and the phrase “it’s liyk whatever”, plus sentences with monotonous intonation and rising inflexion at the end will provide more clues.

You will also observe that nobody actually listens to what anybody else is saying; instead they prepare their next utterance, which will almost always begin with the word “I”. I have this, I like that, I do the other. They will not ask each other any questions, in fact you may remark that there is no actual conversation at all, but rather, an unbroken stream of emphatic assertions from both sides.

Other Nationalities

I have often been asked how to tell the difference between Japanese and other Asian nationalities.

Well, as for the women, if you hear “Isho” after even minor physical effort, she is certainly Japanese. If she puts her hand in front of her mouth when laughing, she is Japanese. Both male and female Japanese will nod their heads every second or two to reinforce their absolute agreement with whatever the speaker is saying, whether they agree or not. And for the dead giveaway – absolutely any and every Japanese conversation will contain the word “neh” accompanied with a nod of the head at the end of almost every phrase and sentence.

Any dark-skinned person, who wags his head from side to side, often in response to a question, sometimes without saying anything at all, is from India.

If you overhear the words “gdiy might” and “sheelah” and happen to spot some people who are floating on a sea of empty Foster’s lager cans, then you have stumbled upon a group of Australians.

If you see a man and a woman sitting together and not talking at all but staring blankly in front of them, then I can give you no clue as to their nationality, but they have probably been married for 20 years.

So there you have it. Next time you are in an airport departure lounge, amuse yourself by playing the Great Nationality Detection Game, and let me know how you get on.

Oh, and if your own nationality was not mentioned, then please inform me so that I can update this article, and I promise that I will make every effort to make fun of your nationality too, with all of the literary arsenal at my disposal.

After all, if we could all learn to laugh at ourselves and take ourselves less seriously, the world would be a better place, don’t you agree?


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Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 4 years ago from India

*Wagging head from side to side*

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