PERHAPS it’s a bit unfair to lump all British nationals together.
If you’re Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish, you’ll have experienced many a moment when a local, be they from Spain, Italy, Germany or Brazil, eyes you warily, suspecting that you might be English, before erupting in a welcoming smile when they discover your true identity.
Same goes for the Irish, who have the good fortune of being able to whip out an entirely different passport, earning themselves another free drink, while everyone enjoys a good laugh about the English and the occasional misfortune of being mistaken for one.
Yet when it comes to death by balcony, being banged up abroad, and wreaking havoc, there is a unifying factor that brings the wild nights of Glasgow, Manchester and London to the tranquil homelands of Socrates and Banderas.
The key question is why? Only the Germans, Russians and Americans fare similarly when it comes to sparking contempt among the nations they annually invade.
Rude and aggressive, the perception of Germans and Russians still doesn’t quite compete with the universal bile that the British can muster, regularly topping most-hated tourist charts. As for the Americans, well they have Mormons and bum bags and don’t know any better.
Across the next three months or so, local news in the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca and Mallorca will be swamped by déjà vu tales of young British tourists fighting, falling and fornicating while locals shake their heads or take advantage.
A yearly fixture since the first package holidays, the worry for the vast multitudes who don’t cause any trouble is that the actions of the few create a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy whereby young Brits are isolated in and manoeuvred to particular districts or clubs. They are considered a threat or a challenge because their reputation precedes them, and then find themselves caught up in another headline generating moment of madness.
English football fans are a classic example. Cultivating a fearsome reputation as some of Europe’s most violent hooligans during the dawn of the casuals in the 70’s and 80’s, they are now frequently targeted by foreign firms for bragging rights, despite being relatively peaceful.
A huge part of the problem is caused by alcohol and the complex role it plays in a British culture renowned across Europe for lacking the constitution to properly handle the booze.
Combined with a generally more violent, frustrated temperament than many found throughout the continent, cheap drinks, sun, and the hormone charged freedom of a two-week break, it’s hardly a surprise that the country’s gained such a poor reputation.
Of course another piece of the puzzle is presented by a level of arrogance and noise you’d only expect from American college students partying in Tijuana for the first time. There’s an expectation, honed from centuries of isolation and empire, that locals will speak English, which does nothing but engineer further scorn.
There’s also the advent of tabloid media and reality television which feeds, and feeds on, this self-centred consumerist behaviour, revelling in death and tragedy, while normalising it for a whole generation of easily influenced young people.
At least that’s something we do have some level of control over. Follow Mallorca’s lead and ban the likes of Geordie Shore filming on British territory, and follow Russia, Greece and Turkey by bringing back national service.
Maybe then in a few years from now, when the stars of reality TV shows have been quietly culled, even the English will be warmly greeted across the resorts of southern Europe, and not just because of their fat wads of euros.