A little bit of moderation might go a long way

There are so many Scots and Brits here it feels like a colonial outpost. Tenerife, the sunshine island, a holiday paradise. Sort of.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re having a lovely time. A good dose of sunshine and doing very little is just what the doctor ordered. The most taxing decision of the day is which DVD to watch late evening.

But it requires suspended belief and a certain parking of scruples to holiday here.

This kind of tourism is surely, highly unsustainable. Tenerife has at most, two weeks of rain a year, yet the rate of water consumption to enable all this holiday-making is terrifying. All those hotel rooms and flushing loos, swimming pools, bars and restaurants. The island – as do the other Canary Isles – are in constant battle to generate more water and find ever more industrious and creative ways to do it.

From their necessity, perhaps, come lessons we might do well to learn. And while we’re here availing ourselves of the island’s hospitality, do our bit to minmise water use.

There are lots of nationalities here on holiday – Dutch, Germans, Italians, Irish, other Spaniards but mostly everywhere you look and listen, Scottish and English accents predominate. I’m amazed there’s anyone left at home.

And we continue to bring an arrogance with us abroad. We expect the kind of service here we wouldn’t dream of providing for our own visitors at home (an excellent blogpost on this by the way from David Berry). Generally, we receive it, yet are entirely ungrateful for it. The Brits motto abroad is moan, then moan again.

We drop our litter, expect our cooked breakfasts, demand that everyone speaks our language and complain at the expense of it all. Yet, the cost is no more than at home; the problem was that it used to be much cheaper-ago.

We have no desire to learn about the Canarians and their culture and ways and means. It is no different from when I was last here some twenty years ago, except bigger, more developed and more consumerist. Who can blame these islands for milking their biggest, daftest cash cow?

Especially when they behave so badly. In four days, I have witnessed shoplifting, xenophobic behaviour towards waiting staff, alcohol consumption on an unbelievable scale, a three year old girl being taught that Rangers are *dirty*, a female fight fuelled by alcohol at midnight in front of a distraught five year old child, stealing, the blush inducing marking out of poolside territory before the cleaners have even begun work, and a father who thought it was funny to smash a ball in the water into the faces of children.

We may come on holiday to exorcise demons but the heat has the unfortunate effect of magnifying them and bringing them to life. But then here I am, doing what Brits love to do best abroad – moan.

Yet it is not all bad – absolutely not. In fact, the positives outweigh these negatives and for sure, they could be witnessed in any main street in any Scottish town, any day of the week.

There are fond and fleeting acquaintances to be made poolside and at the beach, with fellow Scots and Spaniards alike. The sunsets stretching miles across the horizon are truly jaw-dropping. We saw a school of pilot whales, utterly beautiful and entrancing, as they engaged in some synchronised swimming in their natural environment. And some bottle nosed dolphins joyously playing hide and seek with the tourists. The sunshine is glorious, the water an incredible shade of turquoise and there is always a sunbed to be located by the enterprising. Stumbling upon a Spaniard-dominated restaurant resulted in the best and freshest fish and seafood tasted in a long time.

Boy Wonder has a new best pal and is as brown as a berry, defying sun worshippers’ logic, as usual, by spending most of the day submerged in water. Spending time together doing nothing very much, idly chatting and sharing small moments, is the real bonus of this holiday.

And yet, still a nagging concern persists that this artificially contrived, concentrated hedonism – of which I am undoubtedly playing my part – is not normal, cannot ever be appropriate and is definitely not globally responsible.

But what is the solution? Deny the Scots and Brits a very healthy dose of vitamin D? Allow holidays abroad to become only the preserve of the rich again? Return the Canary Isles – and other sunshine paradises – to their previous, more impecunious existence?

Of course not. We need a third way, to coin a phrase, that is not rendered impractical by ecological zealotry nor dismissed for being too costly or too difficult. Scots and Brits in particular export their bad behaviour with them – like so many things, change begins at home. A shift away from excessive, unregulated free marketeering towards moderation can be achieved with political and common will. That applies to consumption as much as it does to provision.

A balance, as with all things, must – and surely can be – found.

6 thoughts on “A little bit of moderation might go a long way

  1. I experienced this living in Cyprus with the Army, the island was focused on tourism and 90% of the population spoke English (Except when insulting you:-).

    It was a culture shock when I moved to Germany and this was the opposite, Germans do not cater for tourists in most areas they just get on, but the Laws are there to keep the country clean, like fines for not recycling. This was a great experience and we could learn a lot from this.

    We need to start this at home at a fundemental level, only then can we expect Brits to behave abroad.

  2. The amount of money spend on foreign aid to “protect British interests abroad” – maybe there should be money spent on educating British tourists on how to behave – it’d certainly do a lot for the way we’re viewed around the world.

  3. This year we decided to stay at home. Or more specifically my London based partner and teenage kids decided that we wanted to spend a fortnight touring Scotland, including spending a week with my parents. (Personally my vote was for the Canaries as well!). It was the Glasgow Fair, the weather was meant to be crap.

    But it wasn’t. The sun split the sky for nearly 2 solid weeks. We toured the country and stayed in B&B’s and small hotels. Some of them were excellent, some of them were rubbish and we learnt a lot about Scotlands wildlife and history. We also got a lot of pleasure from each others company, even the two teenagers who allegedly hate each other.

    I’m still in the warm glow before going back to work tomorrow but must admit I have been bitten by the Scotland the holiday bug. Next year boating holiday on the Caledonian Canal anyone???

  4. Interesting post. I lived in Gran Canaria for a year or so and my eldest son was born there. What you say is right about the Brits – and to a lesser extent other nationalities – abroad.

    There were places you could go to get away from the pack and enjoy sunshine and excellent hospitality. In Gran Canaria, tourism of this kind is very much concentrated on a sliver of coast at the bottom of the island, leaving the rest of this very beautiful place untouched. I suspect it’s similar in Tenerife.

    I don’t really know what the answer is, because it seems to me for some people a holiday isn’t a holiday unless it contains all of the excesses you describe. I’m not sure how you stop people indulging in that, but if you could it would be wonderful.

  5. ….and send cheerier postcards – you’re on holiday ffs!!

  6. Due to a combination of circumstances I haven’t been abroad for 15 years. We spent a week in Northumberland recently. Sunshine, white sands blue water and rolling waves with hardly a soul to share the beaches with. Medieval castles and ruins for a bit of kulchure too. And there was a local pub with cheap booze and food.

    Smug? me?

    Aye and even more so now!

    Seriously, have a good break.

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