Wednesday, 5 August 2009

'A dirty, hoggish people'

How one, admittedly crazy-sounding, Latvian politician saw the British after witnessing planeload after planeload of stag parties puking, pissing, and shagging their way around Riga, behaviour which has prompted the city's mayor to issue a public warning asking all-male groups from the UK to up their game a bit.

I have rather mixed feelings about this. Stag parties are not my thing, and the only one I ever went on involved a bunch of us playing pool in a cottage in Blakeney, having a kick-around, rescuing two small children from the salt marshes (long story), eating some lasagne, then heading back to Norwich full of bracing sea air. I could, I think, manage the 'rugged outdoor activities followed by one big night out in a UK city'-type affair, but the decidedly 2000s practice of decamping en masse to Central Europe, drinking Dreher or Krusovice until it comes out of one's eyeballs, then visiting extremely expensive strip & clip joints leaves me cold. Spending ten months in Budapest's District Seven, effectively the hub of the city's nightlife, has allowed me to witness a lot of these parties at first hand, and they're pretty grim. On our street there's a well-patronised, well-regarded romkert (typically, a squat-like bar set up in a disused building, decorated with furniture collected in the biannual district chuck-out) called Szimplákert. Now, Szimplákert has become, to a degree, a victim of it's own success, and even makes it onto the pages of the typically unadventurous Lonely Planet bar listings, with the result that big groups of Brits - or those smart enough to realise that they're being massively overcharged in the shiny, Square Mile-type bars on Liszt Tér - wind up there. Cue parades of middle managers in polo shirts decorated with 'hilarious', often borderline homophobic slogans ('Budapest 2009 - Gay-vin's Stag Do!' was a recent favourite), yelling at the barmaids in English, and competing with the local winos to see who can leave the biggest patch of vomit on my doorstep for me to step in come Saturday morning.

The thing is, though, that I can't help but feel that the British are scapegoated somewhat. I've seen plenty of Germans, Scandinavians, and Russians behaving identically in District Seven, the difference being that the British only seem to act up when under the influence. When sober, most English people at least demonstrate a degree of embarrassment about their unwillingness to take the plunge with Hungarian, whereas I frequently see Germans snap at shop or café workers (in English or German) then descend into fits of mirth at their addressee's inability to respond. What price a guy from Szeged or Miskolc walking into a bar in Hamburg, rattling off an order in Hungarian, and expressing complete incredulity at his failure to be understood?

I've often asked my students, and people I meet around and about, what their stereotype of an English (or Scottish - they don't often differentiate) person is. Sample answers: 'a snob'; 'an alcoholic'; 'a football hooligan'. The latter I find intriguing - I would have gone along to see Újpest or Fradi by now were their stadiums not more or less given over to Drehered-up ultra groups (witness the behaviour of Újpest's 'boys' as they host cross-border rivals Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League a few weeks back): by way of comparison, I've very rarely felt intimidated either within or en route to any English ground. I do feel that the British, and in particular the English, are frequently asked to take the rap for forms of behaviour which are endemic throughout the whole of Europe. I admit that I feel safer walking around downtown Budapest at three in the morning than I do walking through Norwich's leafy suburbs anytime after eight, but I hardly think antisocial behaviour is a problem exclusive to the UK.

37 comments:

Ernesto said...

I'm obviously out of the loop, I did not know you were in Hungary! (Are you?)

A dirty, hoggish Mexican hug! :)

Joe said...

I am! I have been for the last nine months, but I'm returning in three weeks to start work at UEA. I've written far, far less than I'd have liked to about my time here, rationalising said laziness on the grounds that it will be more interesting to try and reconstruct it all from memory in a bedroom off the (imaginary fanfare) Earlham Road.

When are you finishing, by the way? There is some talk of an ERP meet-up in November - could be Norwich, could be London...

Hug returned from my hoggish self...

Ernesto said...

Cool, mate. And work at UEA! Awesome! Congratulations... I will need an extra year, but I can feel the Frankenstein getting the spark of life... And I'm up for a ERP meeting anytime!

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I am an Indian but from an upper class royal family in India. I lived in Britain for 2 years (In London of course) and moved to France only because I could not stand the low class behaviour of British people. It's a big myth that British are "sophisticated" - go live in their country and you will see how sophisticated they are... maybe the top 1% are but the majority not at all. They are alcoholics, extremely racist, repressed, depressed, unhappy, miserable and violent people on the whole. Even as a well dressed, well behaved Indian - I felt very intimidated going to most parts of the UK even in the so-called wealthy areas because those areas also have their share of the violent racist chavs..even BNP supporters are a lot of wealthy low class people. Anyway - I was living in the UK as an investor and moved because I hated it - their culture is repulsive indeed and all over Europe Brits have an awful reputation.. here in France you hardly see any British because firstly they are not welcome in France and secondly they don't "fit into" the french way of civilized life. Britain now has a huge YOB culture and they are shockingly alcoholic - and once they drink they become dangerous violent people. The lack of safety in UK is another issue - crime rates especially violent crime in the UK is higher than anywhere in the western world - yes this is a fact and there are documented articles / research to prove this. Again all this violence comes from the fact that British people are a repressed culture, they have no emotions and no feelings and a lot of anger - they have always been like this... perhaps the empire was the worst thing for them in a way because losing it made them such a miserable group of hateful people. Sorry whoever says Britain is tolerant - is lying.. its the most intolerant country in reality - they are only tolerant on PAPER...they want slaves to work for them and die for them but they treat every foreigner - rich or poor like shit in the UK....but even if they treated me nice - I find their overall culture to be ugly and pathetic. Now they are just a begger nation living off the welfare from America and exploiting poor 3rd world people.

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