Debauched drunks, prudes – what’s the story with you Brits?
Given how braying, shocking headlines about have become a tradition around this time of the year, a new pan-European survey naming Brits of all seems a tad out of place. According to 6,000 or so people questioned across the continent, English people tend to be more shy and conservative on the beach than their Spanish or Italian counterparts.
Before we go any further, I’d like to slip in a quick disclaimer and admit that I’m French and that, as an immigrant here, part of my contract requires me to advocate for more nudity and fewer Jagerbombs, which is exactly what I’m about to do, so it’s all great.
Getting back to British nudity (or lack thereof), the news is not really surprising. If you think about it, half-naked 20somethings throwing up on their barely there bikinis, and the idea of a coy nation collectively raising an eyebrow at topless sunbathing are two faces of the same coin.
Of course large groups of drunken idiots can be found anywhere up and down the UK on any given Saturday night, but it does feel as though said drunken idiots make a special effort to behave even worse when abroad. We’re all slightly more hedonistic versions of ourselves when we go on holiday, but some Brits seem to go that extra mile to put bacchanalian orgies to shame. What’s interesting, though, is that it’s not very clear who exactly “they” are, how many of them exist, and whether there really are enough of them to justify the horrified tabloid front pages.
The Magaluf revellers feel in part like a media construct, reinforced by a collective need to constantly be outraged by something. If these intoxicated groups didn’t exist, someone would invent them – partly, I think, because of an underlying quiet jealousy.
If, as the recent study suggests, 40% of Brits are “uncomfortable” when faced with “women in skimpy underwear” on the beach, then surely newsstands should be a bit less quick to feature full-page splashes of practically naked teens downing vodka shots? Or are these acceptable because those women are easily shamed for their appearance and demeanour?
The cognitive dissonance is quite staggering – we frown upon these partying youngsters so much that we just can’t get enough of them.
But why oh why do they behave the way they do? While getting hammered is a universally recognised way of spending a decent evening, some can’t help but push it too far. And it’s quite a British problem – heaven knows that we on the continent like to make arses of ourselves after a few bottles of wine too, but rarely to the extent that people here do.
There are probably several explanations for this, but the most obvious one is that other nationalities don’t need alcohol to feel comfortable in their bodies and – let’s be honest – sexualities. This isn’t to say that Britain is a lone repressed, patriarchal island stuck by the shores of a continent where people enjoy a sweet life of red wine, olive oil and free-flowing genitals, but there is truth to the cliche of Brits being far too repressed for their own good.
A complaint I’ve heard from many fellow immigrants is that people here need to have downed their own body-weight in beer before making a move on someone, by which point they normally try to ram their tongue down your throat with the grace of a starving anteater. This presumably means that they’d been thinking about it all damn evening, but only had the courage to act upon it once drunk.
The same reasoning seems applicable to the British attitude to holidays: you’ll spend all year quietly tutting at people having remorseless fun, then spend two weeks in July somewhere mildly sunny, behaving like teenagers who stumbled upon a stash of unlimited condoms and blue WKD.
You may think that the kids of Magaluf sully the reputation of your wonderful country, but this is a monster you created, and only an – admittedly extreme – symptom of your inability to let go of yourselves. Would you really need to be this aggressive in your demand for drunken debauchery on holiday if you weren’t so hopelessly frustrated by your normal lives?
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