Of course we are. We can’t be bothered to attempt to speak anybody else’s language. We only want to eat food we’re familiar with. We get outrageously drunk and either want to fight, or have sex, with anyone and everyone. We only want to mix with other Brits and we’re bad mannered and rude.
Really? Who says so?
Lots of people, including those who completed a survey carried out by Triposo, a travel website by and for travellers. The Brits didn’t quite come out worst in the survey, pole position was occupied by our English-speaking friends on the other side of the Atlantic (from the States rather than further north).
There’s an established methodology to conducting a credible survey. Most surveys you read, especially travel related ones, are nothing more than a bit of fun with very little methodology applied. Triposo’s falls into the ‘bit of fun’ category.
Nevertheless Triposo’s claim that ‘British citizens are infamous for their bawdy bad behaviour all around the world’ is a generally accepted view.
We Brits would probably be the first to agree. Therein lies part of the problem with our image abroad. We’re our own biggest critics. Tell us we don’t bother to speak other languages and we’ll say ‘c’est vrai’. Lambaste us for having unadventurous palates and we’ll bow our heads in collective shame over our Thai green curries.
Useless at Speaking Other Languages
Two days ago, a woman approached me and asked me a question in French. As we live on a Spanish speaking island, I answered her in Spanish and then in English – she could speak neither. Andy eventually told her what she wanted to know – in French.
Last month on La Gomera on a local bus, the only other passengers were a young German couple who couldn’t speak Spanish and therefore struggled to tell the driver where they wanted to go. As our German is limited to a few words and they couldn’t speak any English either, we couldn’t help.
We live in Spain, so we speak Spanish. Most of the British residents I know in our part of the island also speak Spanish to varying degrees. We’ve just returned from France where the guests in the places we stayed were mostly Brits, who could communicate in French at some level.
But no, I don’t learn Greek if I’m visiting Greece for a couple of weeks; my French is appalling despite learning it at school for years and my German is limited to a few words. If you asked me, I’d tell you I was absolutely useless at languages – yet I can communicate in two of the most widely spoken languages in the world. We’re our own biggest critics.
Unadventurous with Food
“We Brits are a bit squeamish about food,” A fellow Brit said to me recently, the night after I’d eaten sheep trotters. Yet take a look at the diversity of restaurants in any decent sized town in the UK and you’ll find Italian, Spanish, Greek, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Thai, vegetarian, Lebanese and so on. Now take a look at a similar sized town in Spain or France.
Living in a Spanish province for 10 years has opened my eyes to exactly how adventurous Brits actually are when it comes to food compared to other nationalities. Being part of a multi-cultural society means we’ve accepted as the norm what some other nationalities would eye suspiciously.
As for the myth that British food is terrible? I think of this often as I peruse menus in some destinations where every restaurant offers up the same handful of unimaginative dishes. On my last couple of visits to Blighty, I ravished the most incredible tasting home-smoked, honey glazed ham in Wales and devoured, with far too much enthusiasm, venison pies, smoked wild salmon and… err… tablet in Scotland.
If you’re not eating good food in Britain, then you’re choosing badly; like the Boston musician I once met in a bar in New York who moaned about British food because all he’d eaten during a tour there was cucumber sandwiches.
Brits Seek Out Other Brits
Yes, plenty do – and some avoid other Brits like the plague. However, generally speaking, every nationality seeks out their own. The Cervantes Institute in Manchester is packed with Spanish, as is the Spanish tapas restaurant nearby. In the town in which we live there are German bars for the Germans, Scandinavian bars for the Scandinavians and South American bars for the South Americans. It’s common practice, simple as that.
Drunk, Bad Mannered and Rude
Some destinations are promoted as party destinations and guess what? You’ll get drunken, bawdy behaviour in those places – not always just amongst the British. But, yes, thanks partly to antiquated licensing laws that for years ignored the evidence from other European countries, some young Brits can be overly boisterous when they go abroad in groups.
As for Brits being considered bad mannered and rude, politeness is what we’re known for. We’re the nation that’s criticised for saying ‘thank you’ too much. A friend was even laughed at by some German friends for being too polite.
I’ve friends who are tour guides. One is French, the other is Canarian and has worked in tourism around the world. Both are multi-lingual and have years of experience taking various nationalities on excursions.
Guess who their favourite nationality is when it comes to taking tours? Brits. In their experience, the British people they have met over the years have been polite and interested in the destination they are visiting. Unlike some others.
As a nation of travellers we’re not perfect by any means, but neither do we deserve the tag of being drunken, ill-mannered slobs who’ll only scoff greasy British breakfasts and address everyone in English.
But hey, these are only my subjective thoughts. However, they are as valid as Triposo’s survey whose contributors seem to have extremely limited views and who tend to see people from various nationalities as clichéd stereotypes.
Triposo advertises itself as being ‘by and for travellers’. Where on earth do they travel to where they’re exposed to all those obnoxious other travellers?
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+