Aussies Abroad, Shame On You (Again)

Aussies Abroad, Shame On You (Again)

Over the weekend, a group of nine Australian tourists were arrested in Malaysia after they stripped down to their Malaysian flag-emblazoned budgie smugglers whilst amongst a crowd at the Grand Prix. The men were celebrating Australian Daniel Ricciardo winning the race by cheering, stripping and doing ‘shoeys’. Classic Aussies, right?

Always being such larrikins, drinking beer out of shoes and disrespecting international cultures.

The Malaysian Police Force are hoping to charge the men with “intentional insult with the intent to provoke a breach of the peace”. The consequences for this crime range anywhere from a fine to two years in jail. The Malaysian flag, which the men had flying across their arses, is in fact a symbol of sovereignty and monarchy in Malaysia and its misuse in this way has reportedly insulted the nation’s King. That’s a little bit serious.

Unfortunately, this is not the first (and undoubtedly will not be the last) incident of Australians behaving badly abroad.

Just over a month ago, Australian woman Sara Connor, was accused of being involved in the murder of police officer Wayan Sudarsa on Kuta Beach in Bali. Her British boyfriend was also accused after Sudarsa was found deceased on the famous tourist beach, covered in 42 wounds. Pair that with Australians getting in trouble for attempting to smuggle drugs into Indonesia and just being general drunken hooligans, and there’s no wonder Aussies abroad are all over the media.

It’s definitely not a secret that a lot of Australians are less than polite and respectable when they’re overseas. In fact, some of them can even be downright racist and embarrassing. Obviously not every Australian is like this. There are those who respect local customs, have quiet conversations and just want a coffee with breakfast instead of several beers. But I’ve never really seen them. These people are often overshadowed by the Aussies who just want to prove that they are the loudest, proudest and most drunk. And of course, the most culturally insensitive. I would place myself sort of in between these two categories. By day, I don culturally appropriate attire and try my darndest not to step on a Balinese offering. By night, after a few bevs, there may be some unintentional insensitivity when I come across a sandy, secluded beach before a useable bathroom. But I’ve never so blatantly disrespected another culture and its laws in front of a crowd and worldwide media.

There’s nothing wrong with having a good time overseas. Drinking, partying, letting your hair down, these are often a part of going on a holiday. And as the Malaysia’s Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed has stated, the country is happy to open its doors to tourists: “We try to treat them as well as we can, sometimes even better than our own people,” he said. But how can Australia as a nation be so demanding that people coming to our country to live, respect our laws, when as tourists, so many of us can’t live by another country’s laws for even a few weeks?

The Australian Government promotes the respect of culture whilst overseas. The government’s travel advice website, SmartTraveller, advises tourists to follow local customs and laws in Malaysia, including those related to the Muslim religion.

“Malaysia is a multicultural but predominantly Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultural or religious beliefs. There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in many areas of Malaysia. You should find out what customs are observed at your destination and take care not to offend.”

The same advice is given to people travelling to Indonesia. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is often reminding tourists, “You are not subject to the laws of Australia, you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting.” And yet some people still think it’s appropriate to strip near-naked in public whilst donning the country’s flag whose laws they are breaking.

Oh, did I mention that one of the men arrested in Malaysia is a policy adviser to Christopher Pyne, Australia’s Minister for Defence? What a guy. Cheers fellas. You’ve really done Australia a solid favour with this one. Now we know who not to trust when seeking political advice and how not to act abroad. Keep it up. Or not.

Cover via AP