It always amazes me how Armenian stereotypes are more prevalent
within the Armenian culture than they are within the general
As with any culture, people feel offended and insulted if someone
uses stereotypes to label the actions, lifestyles, traditions or
customs of their culture.
The Armenian subcultures or subgroups are quite different from
each other, so naturally they are conflicted with varying
I have always taken an interest in these stereotypes, sort of
studied them, because I usually hear a variety of statements people
make about each other's groups.
Let me also clarify a few things before I proceed. For those who
are unfamiliar with the Armenian subgroups, there are three prominent
ones in the Glendale Armenian community. There are "Hyastancis," or
Armenians from Armenia; "Barskahyes," Iranian-Armenians; and
"Beirutsis," or Lebanese-Armenians. The word "Hye" simply means
"Armenian." These three subcultures live in their own pockets of the
community and speak in distinct Armenian dialects.
Just last week, I came across a listing of typical Armenian
stereotypes on the Internet. The stereotypes were divided into three
categories all corresponding to their respective subgroups. As I
began reading, I couldn't help but laugh because all of them were in
good taste and I could relate to some of them.
The list was created all in the name of fun and in no way was
insulting to the Armenian culture, or so I thought.
I forwarded a copy of this list to a friend of mine, who happens
to be Armenian, and moments later, I received a phone call from her.
As I answered the phone, I heard nothing but ecstatic laughter coming
from the other end of the line.
"Oh, my God," she said with her uncontrollable laugh. "This is so
The listing of stereotypes was "true" in the sense that she knew
Armenian people who fit the stereotype. I could relate to her
reaction because I know and have known people who fit into the
stereotypical profile as well.
After reading the list from the Internet, I made some observations
of my own.
What was most interesting about this list -- after careful
consideration and comparison -- was that the generalizations made
about each sub-group varied distinctively.
For example, one said, "You're Hyastanci if your rims cost more
than your house," and another said, "You're Beirutsi if you're very,
very, very tight with money.
These two statements really made me think about the way the
actions of these two subgroups are translated by the Armenian and
even non-Armenian populations.
My first thought after reading the above sentences was that maybe
Armenians designate themselves according to their socio-economic
Could stereotypes likes the ones above suggest, for example, that
Hyastancis favor material possessions and are willing to spend all
kinds of money in order to acquire material and at the same time gain
the social status they seek? On the other hand, do Beirutsis budget
their spending and care little about going up on the social ladder?
Whatever the case may be, stereotypes often reflect personal
experiences with the culture.
In another example -- one that is reflective of certain
characteristics of the culture -- it says, "You're Barskahye if your
name or your cousin's is Artin or Arbi or Narbeh." Yes, it is very
common for Barskahye Armenians to name their kids Artin, Arbi or
Narbeh, as it is uncommon or even rare for the other two subgroups to
choose these names. But there is also an increase in nontraditional
and non-Armenian names such as "Brandon" or "Jordan."
There is no doubt the Armenian subgroups make these
generalizations after interacting with each other, even only for a
short period of time.
But what bothers me is when some stereotypes, unlike the ones
listed on the Internet, hurt and insult people and injure the
reputation of the Armenian people as a whole. When it comes to casual
talk or gossip involving stereotypes, Armenians quickly designate
themselves into their own subgroups in order not to associate with
How unfortunate, in my opinion. Shouldn't just one stereotype be
enough to affect all Armenians?
I wait for the day that Armenians put aside their differences and
integrate as one group known as just "Hyes." An unlikely integration,
but one could only hope.
* ANI AMIRKHANIAN is a resident of Glendale, a graduate of USC and
a freelance writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.