Europe is taking British tourists for mugs

·5 min read
A view of nightlife in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
A view of nightlife in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Many European tourist chiefs seem to have decided that the British are no longer good enough for them. We are riff-raff, and they don’t want our custom any more, thank you very much.

In November, Majorca’s director of tourism announced that the island was “not interested” in having “budget tourists from the UK”. In February, Lanzarote sent a similar message. And then this week, most insultingly of all, Amsterdam’s city council launched a kind of anti-advertising campaign, specifically designed to discourage young British men from coming over on stag dos. Apparently the locals consider them to be unseemly yobs.

In the following days, however, something curious happened. A travel agency that specialises in stags dos reported a sudden surge in young British men wanting to go to Amsterdam. A spokesman for The Stag Company said bookings had shot up by an astonishing 649 per cent. Evidently, the campaign had spectacularly failed.

Or had it? Perhaps, instead, it had spectacularly succeeded. What if it was actually a cunning publicity stunt, cleverly highlighting how popular Amsterdam is for stag dos – while reminding young British men of its red light district and liberal approach to drugs? It may also have been a sly use of reverse psychology. As in: “The Brits are so pig-headed that if we tell them they can’t come, they will.”

I’m not sure which is worse. The Dutch insulting us – or playing us like a fiddle.

Either way, it’s very rude. The trouble is, it’s hard to see how we can get our own back. If we stay away, we may just be giving them what they want. And if we visit them, we may just be giving them what they want.

The rise of the middle-class sodcaster

In a column the other day I called on the Government to extend its crackdown on anti-social behaviour by passing a law to ban sodcasting. This, as anyone who has taken a bus or visited a park in the past decade will be all too miserably aware, is the practice of broadcasting hideous music at top volume from the speakers of a mobile phone, to the annoyance of everyone in earshot. Typically it’s a pastime favoured by teenage boys.

It’s important to note, however, that they aren’t the only offenders. Because, in recent times, we’ve seen the rise of an unexpected new category of sodcaster: the outwardly respectable middle-class professional.

These days, commuters routinely find their train journey to work ruined by smartly dressed, well-to-do sodcasters watching TV box sets on their iPads – without using headphones. As a result, the din is inflicted on everyone else in the carriage, making it impossible for them to think or read.

It seems to be growing more common by the day. A couple of weeks ago, a Telegraph colleague found himself in the same carriage as a woman who was sodcasting some imbecilic TV show from her iPad. He was tempted to move to the empty seat beside her, and say, “Shall I watch this with you, seeing as I have to listen to it?” Instead, however, he decided to move through to the next carriage for some peace and quiet. Whereupon a man entered that same carriage, sat down, whipped out an iPad – and started sodcasting from it.

Personally, I suspect there’s a small but crucial difference between the two types of sodcaster. The teenage boys use sodcasting as a kind of power play. They’re asserting their authority, and defying you to challenge it, confident that you won’t dare. I doubt the middle-class sodcasters share this motivation. They sodcast because it simply doesn’t occur to them to consider how other people might feel. It’s just sheer entitlement.

At any rate, I suspect that this is the real reason behind the rise in working from home. Nothing to do with people wanting “a better work-life balance” or “to spend more time with my family”. They’re just desperate to avoid all the sodcasters on the commute.

Why do musicals attract such louts?

Sir David Hare, the lofty Left-wing playwright, complained last month that there are far too many musicals on in the West End nowadays. He was widely dismissed as a snob. On reflection, though, I think he had a point. Not because the musicals themselves are bad. But because their audiences are.

According to the results of a survey published this week, a remarkable 45 per cent of theatre staff are considering quitting their jobs because they’re sick of being forced to put up with awful behaviour by audience members – almost invariably at musicals. They say they’ve had to deal with verbal abuse, physical assaults, sexual harassment and even brawls. Just two nights ago, a performance of the Meat Loaf musical Bat Out of Hell had to be halted while staff threw out a member of the audience for screaming profanities during the show.

The main reason for all this bad behaviour is said to be drunkenness – although how the audiences manage to get so drunk, I’m not sure. Recently I went to see Moulin Rouge in the West End, and was startled by how extraordinarily tiny and cramped the theatre bar was. Now I’m wondering whether it was built that way on purpose, to make it as hard as possible to get a drink during the interval. I witnessed no bad behaviour from the audience that night, which I believe lends credence to my theory.

None the less, I think the most sensible solution would simply be to cancel all these rowdy, packed-out musicals, and replace them with high-minded Left-wing plays by Sir David Hare. After all, if everyone in the audience is asleep, they can’t abuse or assault each other.

'Way of the World' is a twice-weekly satirical look at the headlines while aiming to mock the absurdities of the modern world. It is published at 7am every Tuesday and Saturday