The reputation of Britons abroad suffered yet another setback this week, when 19-year-old Thomas Strong was expelled from Turkey for exposing himself and shouting obscenities at a statue of the nation’s founder.
The Cumbrian teenager was unable to explain his behaviour when he appeared before a Turkish court in the holiday resort of Marmaris, telling the judge: “I don’t know why I did it.”
He was summarily deported and banned from re-entering the country for five years, but locals who do not feel honour has yet been satisfied have set up a Facebook group titled “String Up Strong” and are calling for him to be hanged.
Ayhan Hatay watched in horror on Sunday as Strong pulled down his shorts and began swearing at the statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who led the Turkish national movement and established the Republic in 1923.
“To be honest, he’s lucky it was the police that took him – Ataturk is the father of the Turkish Republic and a national hero – the local boys wanted to kill him for being so insulting,” he said.
Last month, the Foreign Office said 237 Britons were arrested or detained in Greece and 434 required hospitalisation between April 2008 and March 2009.
The problem is not confined to the Greek beach resorts popular with young British binge-drinkers: a total of 4,603 Britons were arrested in other countries around the world between 2007 and 2007, according to the most recent British Behaviour Abroad report.
The shenanigans of this raucous minority do not go unnoticed, and British tourists were recently named the worst behaved in Europe in a survey by Expedia, the holiday bookings company, of more than 4,500 hoteliers.
But Dr Arthur Cassidy, a social psychologist at the Belfast Institute, believes the stereotype of badly behaved Britons abroad has become a self-fulfilling prophesy, with tourists conforming to the perceived norm of drunken, loutish behaviour as a way of coping with a foreign environment.
“When we find ourselves in an alien environment in which we aren’t sure how we should behave, we begin to conform to group expectations,” he said.
“We know, as British tourists, that we are expected to binge drink and behave badly, and there is a strong element of peer pressure in groups of young people who travel abroad together, so they find themselves conforming to the cultural expectations of their own country, rather than the country they are holidaying in.
“For young people, often, the psychological cost of failing to conform to group pressure – the fear of exclusion and loneliness – seems far greater that the cost of engaging in dangerous behaviour.”
Dr Cassidy also said binge drinking habits have eroded the social skills of many British tourists, so they overcompensate by engaging in risky sexual and physical activities.
“Drinking to excess to the extent that your life is at risk has become a central part of British culture, even though it is not enjoyable,” he said.
“While in other cultures in Europe people drink as part of a varied social life, here it is the focus. This kind of excessive drinking has led to a sort of verbal amnesia deficit – we have forgotten how to communicate with each other, and we compensate for our verbal incompetence with physical and sexual display which can be offensive in other cultures.”
The psychologist also suggested that a lack of inhibitions when away from home and the higher temperatures of many European countries made people more prone to violent and sexually risky behaviour.
Higher levels of disposable income among young people in Britain than in the rest of Europe also made it easier for them to spend large amounts of money on alcohol, he said.
Excessive drinking and poor-quality, strong alcohol frequently contribute to arrests and hospitalisations abroad, according to the Foreign Office.
This is particularly true in the European tourist destinations made accessible by cheap airlines.
The mayor of the Latvian capital of Riga said earlier this month that British stag parties would no longer be welcomed to the city, telling a local magazine he had lost patience with the unruly groups urinating and climbing naked on Riga’s revered Freedom Monument.
“Let’s not be politically correct – unfortunately, this is their speciality,” said Nils Usakovs.
Last month, a young British plumber, Stuart Feltham, became a target for national outrage in Greece when a local woman allegedly threw her drink over him and set him on fire because she claimed he exposed himself and tried to grope her in a nightclub.
But while the Expedia survey showed Britons were voted the worst behaved visitors by hoteliers in European countries, they were ranked the second best tourists overall by hotel staff around the rest of the world.
Stephen Davis, head of research at Expedia, said the speed and ease of cheap flights to other European cities mean Britons are more likely to misbehave closer to home than they are after investing the time and money needed to reach a further flung destination.
“When it comes to holidaying outside Europe, because of the cost involved and the time it takes to get there, Brits seem to make more of an effort to immerse themselves in the culture of the country they’re visiting and in turn paint a better picture of themselves than our closest neighbours might see,” he said.
But expats Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors did their bit to prove Britons who venture outside Europe can sometimes be just as badly behaved as the binge-drinkers closer to home, when they were arrested last July for being caught in flagrante on a beach in Dubai.
The latest British Behaviour Abroad report, which documents the number of arrests, deaths and hospitalisations of Britons overseas, will be released by the Foreign Office on Monday.