Saturday, 11 August 2007

Bumptious tourists

In principle tourism is a good thing - visit new countries, find out how other people live, broaden our horizons. Unhappily some tourists behave so badly they just give tourism a bad name.

The boom in low-cost flights is a double-edged sword here. It means we can all travel around more easily, but it also means rowdy yobs descending on unsuspecting cities.

Places like Prague are being beseiged by out-of-control hen and stag parties that take over the streets and terrify the residents, leaving a trail of bottles, vomit and vandalism.

Too many tourists are blithely insensitive to the locals, ignoring their customs and culture, expecting everything to be just the way it is in Sheffield or Swansea and demanding instant service and attention.

They commonly regard the indigenous cuisine as repulsive and insist loudly on fish and chips or beefsteak, all the while making snide remarks about foreign tastes.

Then there are the giant coaches manoeuvring painfully down tiny streets to disgorge packs of edgy sightseers, frantically snapping everything in sight before rushing off to the next fashionable destination.

Personally when I'm a tourist somewhere I do my best to blend in with my new surroundings and be as unobtrusive as possible, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb, throwing my weight around and making absurd demands.

I also try to absorb as much of the local culture as I can - buying newspapers, watching TV, talking to residents, trying to understand what the big issues are, what preoccupies people, the typical lifestyles and aspirations.

If you're just going to breeze in and indulge yourself every which way, taking no interest at all in the place itself, why go there to begin with? You might as well have gone to Brighton. Or booked a fortnight at the travel agent's office. A bit more respect and a bit less arrogance wouldn't go amiss.

(Note for those of you who read wisewebwoman's excellent two posts on pornography - she has just posted the third part, which is deeply sad and sobering)

18 comments:

Gaye said...

Last year when visiting Ireland with Niall, it was the first time I heard about the outrageous stag and hen parties of the groups of Brits here in Ireland. I was told they were coming here because it was cheaper and as it was not their hometown, they felt a bit more liberated to go on about the shite that they wanted to go on about. Loud and obnoxious, and more adjectives I can use but you have written it all so well I will just say "I agree". It's funny while I worked as a translator / interpreter in Turkey, we used to accompany our quest project consultants to lunches and dinners. Most of them were Americans. At the restaurant whenever our conversations were rudely interrupted by really loud laughter and chatter coming from another table, the comment we used to hear from the American consultants were "Ah, more Americans." I have to say more than 90% of the time they were right. I am not having a go at American tourists, I have many wonderful friends from the US of A. Another great observation and post. Thanks Nick.

Gaye said...

Oh, how about the football fanatics that travel in groups with the mob mentality attacking anything and everything after the games....

Nick said...

Yes I gather Dublin is also infamous for loud-mouthed, uncouth invasions which make many areas no-go zones for the locals in the evenings. And you're right some Americans can be pretty rawcous and overbearing as well. As for football fans, words fail me. As you probably know, British fans are notorious all over the world for their completely anti-social and disgusting behaviour. Why do Brits in particular think they can treat every other country as their adventure playground?

Gaye said...

"Why do Brits in particular think they can treat every other country as their adventure playground?" You know, maybe it is an extended cultural trait from exploring and then exploiting many many countries in the world, as history shows us. In the old days it was the unexplored territories, "underdeveloped" and rich in natural and "human" resources. Well, when one has such an invasive and offensive history of affairs I think it is natural that one feels free to behave as such even though he/she is merely a guest in that country at present...
Having said that I observe most Brits that visit Australia don't see themselves as a guest there, more like visiting a place they pretty much own... And they act like it. You should see the coastal towns in Turkey in summer, it is disgusting at night the way they carry on, absolutely smashed, ready to hassle people and fight. Sorry I have nothing good to say about the way (some) Brits behave when overseas, I cannot make a comment how it is like in Britain as I have never been there other than in passing and not leaving Heathrow. It is sad that they give such a bad name to the rest of them who just do their own thing within the boundaries of respect and politeness when traveling.

Gaye said...

I need to add, Turkish people mostly behave well when traveling overseas but Turkish men are (can be) complete assholes when at home whilst hanging out in groups of more than two of them at a time... Ugh.

Medbh said...

Did you see that report about research linking cheap flights with the dramatic rise in skin cancer in the UK, Nick? It's up something like 43% because people fly to the sun and then don't use spf. Plus all those cheap flights are harmful to the ozone.

Jenny said...

Gaye, re. your attitude to Brits

'maybe it is an extended cultural trait..' what nonsense. In Britain, history is not respected and not learned in any depth in schools, most of the yobs whose behaviour you are concerned about wouldn't have a clue about their country's colonial past. It's much more likely to be consumerism, which is rampant in GB, perhaps more so than other countries, I don't know.

'I cannot make a comment how it is like in Britain as I have never been there other than in passing and not leaving Heathrow...' Maybe that's why you let the Yanks off lightly but go for the Brits. Meet a few more of them and you might change your mind. Including those of us who visit Australia occasionally - and incidentally, I love Oz but wouldn't live there as it's too right wing for me, but then I'm just an ignorant Brit who has chosen to live in Ireland instead, no doubt part of the problem here for you too.

Nick said...

Hey steady on Jen, Gaye does suggest that most Brits are respectful and polite when travelling, it's an out-of-control minority that unfortunately becomes the visible face of Britain wherever they go. And yes it's true these yobs probably haven't learnt much history at school but a lot of them applaud far right groups like the British National Party banging on about the glories of the British Empire. The fact is the British do seem to have a worse reputation than just about any other country when it comes to tourism.

Nick said...

Medbh - yes I saw that report. But it's not cheap flights that cause skin cancer but what people do on holiday and their general recklessness i.e. lying on the beach for hours getting seriously burnt and not applying sunscreen. If you fly somewhere for a fiver but you take care to cover up and not stay in the sun too long, no problem. But it's a no-brainer that more cheap flights mean more carbon emissions. Problem is how to wean people away from flying when it's so appealing to visit other countries. Air travel is actually increasing steadily in both Britain and Ireland. What's the alternative I wonder - stay at home and watch documentaries instead?

Wisewebwoman said...

Excellent post Nick. In Canada, and in Ireland too, it is/was the Yanks that were the worst. Most Canadians when travelling, wear the Cdn flag somewhere on their person or luggage to differentiate themselves and get better treatment from hotels and B&Bs in Europe and South America, etc. I guess we need to distinguish what we used to call the lager-louts from the rest of the travelling population and it only takes a few to poison our perception of others. I must admit to having an anti-U.S. tourist bias but I've done a complete turnaround with the U.S. people who travel to Newfoundland. Incredibly respectful and raving about the culture, the food, the music and the people. Some even bought homes here.
I've had several weekends in West Cork destroyed by the British and French Stag(ette) elements. I think the purpose of these strange gypsy groups is to get away as far as they can afford, take over and terrorize a small village, drink themselves blind and fall down in their own vomit on the roads at daybreak. It is particularly disturbing for the young local children to see such abominable behaviour. But again, this is the 5% of any country who should never be given a visa or a passport.

Nick said...

Good to hear US visitors to N'land are so civilised compared to some of their compatriots. Didn't realise the H&S parties were rife in West Cork, but I suppose AYS they look for the remotest places to let rip in. Didn't know the French could be a problem too. And indeed what a shocking model for local children. Sure, why not withdraw their visa/passport if they're abusing the privilege.

Gaye said...

Jenny, hi. I don't really prefer one to the other. I think obnoxious people in the end ruin it for everyone else that is respectful and polite and do their own thing without trashing other people's property, get in fights wherever they go and generally disturb the locals in the countries they travel to. I have seen enough in various to make a judgement call on who paint a certain picture, or a profile let's say, ending up bringing out a certain reptutation with it. I was only really talking about those who do cause trouble, when I made my comments, not the entire nation. And colonialism is something I will never ever forgive, but that is neither here nor there because it was carried out by people who are far dead and gone. For instance, I don't associate myself or am not proud of the whole Ottoman Empire thing. Although they didn't improse the language, the religion, etc on the countries they added into their territories, they expanded and exploited nevertheless. Again, from what I observed "some" Americans and "some" Brits, as well as "some" ....... (fill in the blank here as you wish) just treat the rest of the world like it is their playground, that they can do whatever they want there, and they have no respect for other cultures, religions (despise the missionaries for that reason), languages, that their money is the only currency that is worth anything and everyone else smells. I met enough to identify those "some" but I am not stupid enough to brand the entire nations with labels. No, that is never my intention. Cheers Jenny, I love a debate and I appreciate your comments. Would love to meet and actually chat face to face one day. Who knows, it's a small world. :)

Gaye said...

I just wish that you wouldn't just finish a whole brilliant post though, with something along the lines of you being the ignorant Brit (surely it is sarcasm), and assuming it's my problem here. :(

Gaye said...

Oups, I forgot to add. Jenny, my exposure to those most Brits I am talking about were my age group, mostly males but also females included. It is my fault that I did not specify that.
And again, let me assure you, my remarks were about those who help contribute to the certain reputation re. bad behaviour when overseas. Trust me, a lot of pub owners cringe when they see a bunch of already drunken Brits walking into their pubs, ready to grope the girls, pick fights and trash the place. And you are right again, probably those are the ones that don't know about the colonial history of their own country. Maybe if they knew they would be more respectful when overseas, feeling like maybe they should make up for some of the damage that colonialism did.
By the way, your South Belfast Diary is brilliant. I hope you don't mind, I added it as link from my little orange bubble a couple of days ago.

Nick said...

No worries Gaye, we understand you were distinguishing between the yobs and the rest. Yes I bet all those pub owners cringe when the latest squad of piss-artists reels into their pub. And I'm sure lingering colonialism is a big factor in the way some people behave abroad. As is the arrogant consumerism (I'm paying so I'll do what I bloody like) that Jenny referred to.

Conortje said...

I am still getting over my trip to Prague (years ago) - stag parties everywhere - everyone wanting yoru money - disgusting. Have to say though my experience was that the local businesses encouraged it. I left the city with a bad taste in my mouth - it was the worst tourtisty place I've ever been.

Gaye said...

Oh that's is so sad, Prague was one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to, but this was in 1985... Seems maybe lots changed then. Maybe free movement of people within EU is not such a great thing. Do you think they would have their stag party there if they had to go through weeks of visa processing?
By the way, Nick, thank you for two reasons: One, for understanding what I meant despite my English :)
Two, thanks for putting that little note at the end on webwisewoman's post. It directed me in the right way, one click and I was there.

Nick said...

Con - so Prague is as bad as they say. That's the dilemma for businesses, isn't it - do they turn away the yobs and lose money, or profit from the situation? The lure of cash is so powerful....

Gaye - I'm reluctantly coming to the conclusion that most of Europe is now the anything-goes budget holiday zone, like Clacton and Margate (England) used to be before the British discovered Abroad.