National character is only another name for the particular form which the littleness, perversity, and baseness of mankind take in every country. If we become disgusted with one, we praise another, until we get disgusted with this too. Every nation mocks at other nations, and all are right.

[Dem Nationalcharakter wird, da er von der Menge redet, nie viel Gutes ehrlicherweise nachzurühmen sein. Vielmehr erscheint nur die menschliche Beschränktheit, Verkehrtheit und Schlechtigkeit in jedem Lande in einer andern Form und diese nennt man den Nationalcharakter. Von einem derselben degoutirt loben wir den andern, bis es uns mit ihm eben so ergangen ist. — Jede Nation spottet über die andere, und alle haben recht.]

Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 1, “Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life [Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit],” ch. 4 “Position, or a Man’s Place in the Estimation of Others [Von dem, was einer vorstellt]” (1851) [tr. Saunders (1890), 4.2]

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

Since national character speaks of the crowd, not much good will ever be honestly said in its favour. On the contrary, we see in a different form in each country only human meanness, perversity, and depravity, and this is called national character. Having become disgusted with one of them, we praise another until we become just as disgusted with it. Every nation ridicules the rest and all are right.
[tr. Payne (1974), ch. 4 "What a Man Represents"]

Added on 2-Apr-12 | Last updated 7-Sep-22
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