It comes as no surprise that the Brits have a bit of a reputation for behaving badly abroad. Although we don’t all behave antisocially when we’re on holiday, quite often this is well-deserved. Maybe the way we behave abroad is just a part of British culture, but it’s in danger of offending many other cultures too.
Most of the stories involve alcohol, and it’s often said that sun, sea and sangria bring out the worst in the British. Perhaps because we work some of the longest hours in Europe, and the chances of drinking outdoors are so limited, we take full advantage of our two week breaks. But this shouldn’t be used as an excuse for bad behaviour.
Stag and hen dos are often a large part of the problem. The cheap alcohol (and much greater chance of decent weather) mean that many prospective bridesmaids and grooms take their parties abroad – the Foreign Office estimates that 70% of British stag and hen parties are now held overseas. This plays a large part in the negative image painted, and stories such as the man who was arrested in Riga, Latvia in 2008 for urinating on a statue, help form part of this negative image. More seriously, drunken behaviour on stag dos has also resulted in the deaths of at least 30 British men within the last decade; according to The Guardian the most common causes of such deaths are alcohol poisoning and balcony falls. In fact, in 2015, one Ibizan hotel saw two British men die by falling from a balcony. Obviously alcohol can be a serious problem for Britons abroad.
Besides the alcohol-related incidents, there are other reasons why the Brits get in trouble abroad. A lack of respect for culture is a leading one. In 2015 a British tourist, Eleanor Hawkins, was accused of causing one of Malaysia’s deadliest earthquakes after stripping off on the top of Mount Kinabalu for a dare. She, and her two Canadian and Dutch friends, received backdated 3 day jail sentences and were each fined 5,000 Malaysian ringgit (£860) for their actions. There’s an air of arrogance with this sort of behaviour, and consequently it’s no surprise that 9 out of 10 Brits say they are embarrassed by fellow British citizens when abroad. Our arrogance is portrayed in our infamously bad language skills, and our lack of trying to speak some of the local lingo makes it even worse. Instead of brushing up on the basics, or using a phrase book, we tend to just repeat what we’re saying in English, but more slowly, or with exaggerated miming. There’s no doubt that English is now widely spoken around the world, but assuming that everyone speaks perfect English is a bit egotistical. In fact, I remember sat at a restaurant, overhearing a British family order an “una hamburger please”. A lack of appreciation for different cultures is also shown by fussy eaters. Research by travel search engine Kayak stated that 80% of questioned Brits refuse to try the local cuisine when abroad.
Although these are not actual crimes, more cultural ignorance, they help form the bad reputation of British people abroad. Saying this, at times this ignorance has led to actual crime. The language barriers and this cultural disrespect may also mean more people end up being arrested. And as other countries potentially become increasingly annoyed with the British (*cough* Brexit, *cough*), this could get worse.
However, maybe the idea of the embarrassing Brit has been a bit exaggerated, and we certainly don’t all behave this way. Interestingly, crime statistics don’t suggest that we are behaving as badly as our reputation indicates. According to the Foreign Office, we are getting better. The latest data, from 2013/14, shows that there has been a slight decrease in the number of Britons arrested abroad. Spain had the most cases, at 1,389, following by the USA (1,153) and UAE (261). When comparing this to the crime statistics in the UK, where in 2014/15 there were 592,000 cases of violent crimes caused by people under the influence of alcohol, crime abroad doesn’t seem so much of a problem. You could argue that fewer people go abroad, resulting in less crime, yet people from the UK make approximately 70 million trips abroad each year. This suggests that it’s only a small percentage of Brits who are involved in crime abroad.
Although the reputation for bad British behaviour abroad is well-deserved in terms of drunken behaviour and often a lack of understanding for different cultures, the British being a huge problem abroad is perhaps over-exaggerated. This reputation may also be partly built from the sheer amount of stag and hen dos that take place abroad. These events often have a lot of alcohol, and this encourages disrespectful behaviour. In general, we don’t go abroad looking to start fights or cause grief amongst local people, but some might just get carried away. As a nation we should aim to be more respectful when on holiday and seek to remove this reputation of Brits behaving badly abroad.