Horror of horrors but that's the conclusion of a study published in Science Magazine this month comparing perceptions of national stereotypes to the results of averaging countrymen personality tests. The study was conducted by the U.S. National Institute on Aging by 87 researchers across 49 countries by gathering NEO-PI-R self-reports from 3,989 people.
I haven't got ahold of the original study but it's being widely reported around the 'net.
Canadians have always had a problem defining a national identy and part of the Canadian myth building is "we're not American". The perception is widely agreed upon across Canada but it doesn't hold up to measurement. There are certainly cultural differences but those differences aren't due to personality traits. It would be interesting to test whether there's a measurable difference in the average West Coast and East Coast personality.
It's also turns out the British stereotype is completely unfounded. Rather than reserved, stalwart and conventional, they're measured to be extrovert and generally open to new experiences. Meanwhile Germans think that they're conscientious and industrious and they measured out as conscientious and industrious. However, it's the Poles that turn out to be the people that know themselves the best.
This article has more details on the methodology and takes a look at it from the perspective of ethnic jokes...
“Heaven is where the police are English, the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and everything is organized by the Swiss. Hell is where the police are German, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and everything is organized by the Italians.”