Cultural referents not only designate specific realities of a given culture which do not always exist in another but they are also semantic elements which trigger social representations. By conveying values and points of view about different social groups, cultural referents become linguistic instruments to build stereotypes. These thought patterns are shared by the members of a social or cultural community and act as a filter of reality. The aim of this paper is to study the role of cultural referents in the construction of social stereotypes, focusing on the socio-cognitive universe they evoke. To this end, we have analyzed the translations techniques applied in the Spanish, Catalan and English versions of a novel which has been very successful on the French literary scene: Muriel Barbery’s L’Élégance du hérisson (2006). As show the results of this textual comparison, the explanations, descriptions and additional information observed in target texts do not trigger the same associations as cultural referents do in the source text. Translational approaches are too limited when it comes to achieve linguistic adequacy to different world visions. Therefore, translation must be conceived as an encounter between two cultural systems, in which the translator must build bridges, not so much between two linguistic systems as between the social perceptions and values of two different cultural communities.