by Miles Caston
Mon 14th Jul 2014
I have just returned to the UK from a week in the Corfiot Sun, and feel fresh and well rested. This post may well be the start of something more extensive, but I must make these notes while the vibes still resonate.
Stereotypically, we go on holiday to escape our hectic home lives where we juggle myriad chores, hobbies and interests around work. As MJ used to sing: "...Gotta leave that nine-to-five upon the shelf and just enjoy yourself..." Most people have jobs which consume them and their time - and a lot of people don't like these jobs, or the people they work with, or the place in which they work, or the hours they are contracted to work. So a holiday is a freedom that breaks all of these chains. Switch your mind (mobile, iPhone, iPad, laptop, Bluetooth...) off and sit back to soak up the rays. If you have chosen an active or even an Arctic-based break, the daily shackles are still broken.
Being away in a foreign land, I found that observing the daily rituals and habits of those around you can actually help to build a clearer individual perspective. In that place, at any given moment, you are who you want to be. Many categories of the workplace and home life need not exist. Nobody knows your name, who you are or what you do. However long your trip, it is, in a sense, a kind of reinvention, if you want it to be.
It did not take long before I was struck by the overbearing gulf in behaviours and attitudes of native Greeks and visiting holidaymakers, and I mean, British holidaymakers. The Greeks appeared happy, smiling, and ever willing to help you with anything they could.
I consciously observed more and more British behaviour as the week went on. To spot a Brit was easy. If they were not generously proportioned in the waistline (most of them were), the distinct lack of style was comical. I can imagine how as each item of the most mishmash outfits are donned, the wearer’s confidence grows until they stand proudly in front of the mirror, convinced they are ready to change the world – after a quick selfie, of course. The only thing worse than a t-shirt that reads: “Body of a God – Shame its Buddha” is no t-shirt at all. Red, swollen paunches overhanging beige three-quarter length shorts are not funny, particularly when complimented by overly long socks which conceal all but an inch of pasty leg and blindingly white Reeboks.
Any remaining inhibitions these people may feel (unlikely, one thinks) are soon swimming in a concoction of lager, sweat, sun cream and chips. They are after a home from home in the sun, and I saw dozens of them, shirtless and oblivious, plonked down in the shade with fags, booze and their favourite Red Top read. Nothing like getting away from the same old thing, eh!
On one occasion, I happened to be reading in one of the local bars, taking a break from the midday sun. I overheard two couples comparing holidays: “We’re gonna go to that beach tomorra, as we’re off home the next day…” That beach was 20 yards away, yet this woman pointed and announced it like it was a trek across the Sahara which had to be meticulously planned. I can only assume they had spent most of their holiday in that same bar, eating, drinking and smoking, and finding non-British things to compare and complain about.
It was impossible to forget the British had conquered here even in the toilets opposite the bar. In a beautiful example of lager-fuelled loutishness, a large fist print was engrained in the door. Of course, I am merely assuming this was the mark of a boozed up British fist. But to suggest otherwise would spoil the idea that we Brits do in fact live up to how we are perceived abroad.
Airports provide the first and last opportunities for Brits to exert their embarrassing shamelessness. They shuffle along, hot and grumbling about how UK airports are superior in every way, whilst modelling some amazing displays of sunburn. One man actually drank a can of Stella whilst queuing to drop off his baggage, and shared with everyone his world record attempt at the loudest laugh.
What more can I say? We Brits abroad, en masse, are very uncool. No shame at all, no sense of our surroundings, and frankly I was embarrassed. That I was often mistaken for a native Greek was perhaps the biggest blessing of my entire week.