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Brits abroad bathe in shame

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By James Stone

The weather, the quality of the local food, the native sensibilities towards alcohol-fuelled nudity: few things in the world of holidaying abroad can be taken for granted these days.

Yet, many Britons still cling to age-old stereotypes of foreign nationals on vacation.

Germans, for example, will always be tarred as the people most likely to rise early and stake a claim to the best spots on the beach or by the pool, the Japanese will always be seen as insatiable photographers travelling everywhere in large groups, while our American cousins are usually dismissed as loud, brash and culturally insensitive.

However, recent research has revealed that such stigmatism is at best misguided and, at worst, highly hypocritical.

According to the hundreds of tourists agencies questioned by the online travel service Expedia, British tourists are the most 'obnoxious' whilst abroad, beating even the Chinese to the title.

Given that there 1.3 billion Chinese in comparison to just 65 million of us, these findings surely warrant some degree of introspection.

Central to the idea of a 'bad' tourist is a lack of cultural understanding and sensitivity and, while this can often be unintentional due to culture shock, it only really takes the minimum amount of effort by the traveller to keep the natives happy.

Learning at least a bit of the local language, consistently cited as the mark of a good and considerate traveller, may seem like a futile gesture when faced with the first disdainful look from a waiter who is disgusted at your treatment of his mother tongue, but it genuinely is worth the effort.

Little things like learning how to say please or thank you will set you apart from the worst class of tourist - incidentally, the French were found to be the worst when it comes to learning the lingo - and perhaps ingratiate you with the locals.

Perhaps it is worth noting, too that, despite ongoing generalisations, the Americans were found to be the best at learning to speak the local language, though admittedly doing so while being poorly dressed.

Likewise, a bit of research on the culture and the local sensitivities of a place before setting off is always a sound idea.

While the temperature may well be soaring during the summer months, any traveller hoping to take in the religious architecture of the Mediterranean or Islamic countries should always pack modest clothing, if only to slip on over the swimwear upon entering the local cathedral or mosque.

The elderly volunteer manning the door may well let in the odd scantily-clad tourist, they will so begrudgingly and while noting their nationality to add to their list of stereotypes.

Though such sensitivities point to the cultural differences between the different nations, one of the things that makes foreign travel so exciting and interesting, some things are universal.

Good manners, long-held as the preserve of the Brits at home, will always travel well, with hoteliers and tourist agencies praising the Japanese as the best tourists for this very reason.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and such observations rely on rather crude generalisations.

However, it is usually the case when holidaying abroad that you get out of your travels according to what you put into them, and making the extra effort to learn the culture and language and being friendly with the locals will undoubtedly make a trip abroad more rewarding and certainly ensure better service at the hotel bar.


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