Rod Liddle reflects on a recent poll which says that Russians are the world’s worst holidaymakers. Brits are just as bad, he says, leaving a trail of blood and vomit from Biarritz to Dolman
Who are the worst people in the world, do you suppose, based upon your first-person contact with them? I always assumed it would be nigh on impossible to get any worse than a Somali — until, that is, I met a Saudi: woah, as they say. I ask the question because there was an opinion poll in the newspapers last week suggesting that Russians were the worst people in the world, or at least the worst people you meet while on holiday. They have evicted the Germans from the coveted number one position on account of their chav clothes, greed and appalling manners, it was reported. I must admit this surprised me as I have always liked Russians and found them easy to get on with, especially when they are drunk. Chronically bitter and pissed people make me feel ever so slightly better about myself, and that accounts for almost all Slavs, except the Romanians (who in any case prefer to pretend that they are not Slavs, but Latins. Yeah, right, Ion — of course you are).
But back to that opinion poll. I have always rather liked Germans, too, although not in a Taki-Wehrmacht kind of way. But then I have never been on holiday anywhere where you might be expected to claim a sun-lounger beside the pool, or wait in line at an all-you-can-eat buffet, which is where we are told the Russians and Germans disgrace themselves. There is an obvious class element to this poll, then; the Germans whom these British holidaymakers meet abroad are from a slightly lower class of society than the Brits themselves (if that is conceivable). They are not meeting the Archduke of Westphalia, they are meeting Hansi and Ilse from Cottbus with their four little boys Reynhard, Heinrich, Martin and Hermann, the eldest of which is a skinhead and already has a tattoo advising the Turks to go home. But simply because class intrudes a little into this exercise, it does not mean that the exercise is pointless. We should grasp whatever opportunity we have to be racist these days and this poll — given legitimacy by all the newspapers which reported it — was certainly pandering to racist sentiments. So let us pander on a while.
I have just returned from a fairly regular holiday in Malaysia, a fabulously successful country despite its own somewhat precarious ethnic balance (i.e. majority Malays with the political power, minority Chinese with the economic muscle). There is no doubt who, as holidaymakers, they loathe more than anyone else — the Arabs. And particularly the Saudis, although with an honourable mention as next-worst-in-show for the Emiratis. They get a lot of Arabs out there, Malaysia being a nominally Islamic country, but almost every Malay you meet will tell you how much they despise Arabs for their arrogance and stupidity. Here are a couple of anecdotes to illustrate why the feeling is so strong.
The first concerns a friend of mine, a Muslim, who works as a naturalist and runs eco-friendly excursions for holidaymakers among the mangrove swamps. On one occasion he rescued an Arab woman who, dressed from head to foot in pitch-black hessian sacking with a narrow slit for the eyes, and thus half-blinded, had fallen backwards into the swamp. Having waded in and dragged her free of predatory alligators and pit vipers, he was promptly smacked in the mouth by her furious husband, who would rather she had drowned than be touched by another man.
Another friend, Mohammed, drives a cab on the island of Langkawi. He once picked up an Arab couple who sat in the back seat: him be-robed, she dressed once again in the manner of one of those second world war pill-box defence instalments you can still see on our southern and eastern coasts. Having twice accused Mohammed of ogling his wife (‘what was there to ogle?’), the husband reached forward and wrenched out Mohammed’s rear-view mirror and threw it out of the window — and then refused to pay for either the journey or a new mirror. During the 1990s and the rule of that wily (and extremely competent) Mohammed Mahathir, there was often an undercurrent of anti-semitism in Malaysian affairs; but talk to the ordinary Malays and you will find that it is the Arabs, rather than the Jews, who most annoy them. That might be partly because you can’t enter Malaysia with an Israeli passport, mind.
Ask the people of southern Europe which holidaymakers they most loathe, though, and there will be no equivocation: the British. This is largely because from Biarritz in the north to Cadiz in the south, from Granada in the west to Dolman in the east, our emissaries have left a trail of blood, vomit, vast lagoons of untermensch semen, smashed bar stools and urine wherever they have set foot.
The same, sadly, is true of a swath of central and eastern Europe, from the Baltic outposts of the Hanseatic seaports to the elegant cities of the former Austro-Hungarian empire — disparate communities joyfully linked by the liberating capitalism of easyjet and Ryanair. It is impossible to talk to someone from, say, Riga or Prague or Ljubljana without first copiously apologising for what our countrymen have done to their lovely cities. Hell, at least with Dresden and Cologne there was a sort of moral excuse, of sorts (and in any case apologising for that only opens up a whole can of worms and a multitude of apologies from the other side). The last time I was in Wenceslas Square in Prague it resembled a giant Yates’s Wine Lodge in the centre of Stoke-on-Trent; Bratislava was not much better, Krakow even worse — ‘nah, fuck Auschwitz, let’s get mullered’, etc.
In another opinion poll, carried out about ten years ago, we were voted the most unlikeable people in Europe by, uh, the people of Europe. The Germans were a few points clear in second bottom position. Only the Norwegians and the Portuguese could abide us — and my guess is that since then the Portuguese have shed their historic alliance as a consequence of that Madeleine McCann business. Top of the poll, natch, came the cheerful Irish, who never hurt anyone and are always singing and dancing jigs. I don’t know what any of this tells you about the world, except that given half a chance to be racist we tend to grasp it with both hands.