Brits abroad can be a lot. I’ll be the first to admit it. Indeed, who amongst us hasn’t felt their souls wither a little at the sight of a shirtless drunken brawl instigated by pasty ‘lads’ while enjoying a family holiday on the Costa Del Sol? It’s a stereotype, true, but there’s no smoke without fire and it’s easy to see why a city such as Amsterdam, a perennial target for loutish tourism, would take umbrage with our heinous behaviour.
But at what point does trying to fix the problem lapse into borderline offensive rhetoric and potentially damaging Nimbyism? The latest digital ‘discouragement’ campaign from Amsterdam’s city council certainly comes close.
The so-called “digital discouragement campaign” specifically targets UK males aged between 18 and 35, ostensibly the sort to hit Amsterdam on a lad’s weekend or a stag do. Of course, with the legalisation of cannabis and prostitution, Amsterdam has always been seen as a haven of debauchery by many but his campaign aims to shine a harsher light on that party-hearty reputation.
Targeted digitally at those searching the web for “cheap flights to Amsterdam,” “stag party in Amsterdam” and other generic search terms relating to partying in the Dutch capital, it’s a pretty hilariously blunt campaign.
The message is uncompromising - a weekend in Amsterdam may create the wrong kind of memories and the escapism you crave in the renowned party capital could result in inescapable convictions. This is run home by videos of drunk Brits being carted away in handcuffs by police. The throughline is clear – if you’re a young British man looking to come here for a good time, stay away.
Not in my backyard!
The concept of nimbyish is not a new one and it is almost certainly Amsterdam locals that are behind this latest campaign. I’m in two minds here. On one hand, I can’t deny that watching swathes of drunkards urinating and vomiting all over the streets and scenic canals of your home city must be a pretty exhausting thing to tolerate week after week. On the other, I feel for the local businesses, which largely rely on tourism, that this campaign will undoubtedly impact.
Then there’s the elephant in the room – if this campaign was targeting any other group of individuals besides young white men, would this campaign even be legal, let alone ethical? This is not a new problem, indeed, back when BoJo was Mayor of London he was invited to the city he dubbed as “sleazy” to see for himself the horrors being wrought by his countrymen.
But I’ve been to Amsterdam numerous times, as a single bloke with “the lads” and with my wife. I always make an effort of getting to know the locals on holiday and whenever the subject of “Brits abroad” came up, nine times out of ten they’d say it’s not the young men that are the problem, as they’ve largely confined to the Red Light District. It’s the sheer numbers that make it feel more like Disneyland than Paris (which is an ironic statement for obvious reasons).
So why single out young, dumb British men looking to let off some steam in Europe’s party capital? Honestly, it’s probably because they are not only easy targets (they really don’t help themselves) but because they are the only section of society it’s still OK to single out and castigate without the worry of reprisal.
A precedent for prejudice
What does this mean for such campaigns going forward? Well, the precedent has certainly been set. Whether or not this leads to other cities following suit (I’m looking at you, Las Vegas) remains to be seen but, personally, it leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
What are your thoughts? As ever, please feel free to sound off in the comments below.
Sareta Fontaine April 1st, in the morningAmsterdam is a fantastic destination, and I have had the privilege of visiting many times, including with my children. Though cannabis and prostitution are legalised in the city, this doesn't mean that the city is a haven of debauchery. Legalisation is about creating a safe and controlled environment for these substances and services.
LAD's culture pervasive in the UK, which is heavily encouraged, is now being criticised when a city takes steps to address the issue. This sense of entitlement that some white males possess - the belief that they can behave in any manner without consequence - is now being challenged. However, the reality is that this behaviour is causing fear and tarnishing a country's reputation.
It is important to remember that bigotry and stereotyping are damaging. The UK should be doing more to address the encouraged LAD culture within its borders. Hotels and holiday homes disallowing large groups of men and controlled timings for alcohol purchases are small steps in the right direction, but there is still more work to do.
The UK is discouraging lad culture, somewhat, on our own soil, but what about when Brits go abroad? Nimbyism much?