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Australians behaving badly in Asia

By Erin Chew, Convener for the Asian Australian Alliance.

It should come as no surprise that there appears to be repeat offences where some white Australians cause havoc and really mess up popular tourist spots within Asia. They are loud, rude, and culturally inappropriate, disrespecting the respective country’s rule of law. The drinking, sexcapades, rude behaviour and pure stupidity epitomises the scum and trash that plague the Asian tourism industry. Now this does not apply to all white Australians, but there does appear to be a trend where particularly young, reckless and ignorant Australians prance around in Asia as though they own the joint. Not only do they push their “whiteness” around whilst in bars and clubs, but they feel invincible and think that they can get away with murder. They fail to respect the rules and laws of the respective Asian country, because in their minds, the rule of law is dictated by them and Asians are beneath them and don’t even fit into the equation.

The reasons behind travelling to Asia usually revolves around a quick getaway or a cheap boozey weekend. A number of them get caught by authorities for “allegedly” smuggling or using illegal drugs and substances. This is extremely common, and there have been many cases over the years involving both white and non-white Australians who have been caught, charged, and have had to face the consequences of their actions.

One specific instance which is still considered as a “who done it” mystery is the Schapelle Corby saga. Schapelle was convicted of smuggling drugs into Indonesia on May 27, 2005. She spent nine years imprisoned in Bali at Kerobokan Prison. Since her arrest Corby has publicly maintained that the drugs were planted in her bodyboard bag and that she did not know about them. Her trial and conviction were a major focus of attention for the Australian media, with many of these media outlets actually believing that she was innocent and criticised the Indonesian Government for pushing a guilty conviction. Now Schapelle is just one case, and one where a number of agencies in Australia (including Government) put so much effort into ensuring she was released before completing her full sentence – and it worked.

On the lesser extreme scale, anti-social behaviour has become a norm. The ignorance and stupidity of young white Australian men and their refusal to research and understand the country’s laws and customs has caused much outrage in Asia. The recent situation of the nine young Australian men, who in Malaysia, stripped down to their budgie smugglers themed with the Malaysian flag at the F1 Grand Prix has not gone unnoticed.

What is most infuriating about this case is that their stripping down was not spontaneous or an “at the moment” type situation. It was actually on the contrary and premeditated. These foolish young men had planned this before they even attended the event. Call them stupid or ignorant, but they were absolutely disrespectful to the conservative nature of Malaysia. Not knowing is not an excuse, because there are actually Australian Government websites dedicated to providing information on a country’s basic codes of conduct and warns all Australians about keeping safe whilst travelling. Clearly, these young white men (all who come from private school education and successful professional careers) just ignored all instincts to check and understand Malaysia’s cultural norms and laws and decided that their skin colour and their privilege would be enough to give them green lights at every turn.

The worse thing about this situation is that Australian mainstream media blamed Malaysia for it, trying to pass this incident off as a joke and calling the Malaysian Government out for having no sense of humour and using this for political leverage. Malaysian authorities originally planned to investigate them under Section 504 of the Penal Code for intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace and Section 14 of the Minor Offences Act 1955. And where it isn’t illegal to wear swimsuits in Malaysia for foreign tourists, they are reminded to dress modestly in line with cultural customs.

Well it appears Malaysia fell to diplomatic and media pressure from Australia and these stupid men got let off with nothing more than a soft slap on the wrist. Will they learn their lesson? Probably not.


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  1. Kurt Liffman

    The “budgie nine” drink too much beer and could lose some weight.

  2. Gangey1959

    And asian people and companies are all 100% respectful of Australia’s laws and traditions when it comes to the opposite situation Erin ?
    I don’t think so.
    Personally, I don’t think that the Australian government should have gotten involved, and the guys involved are just a bunch of morons who deserve whatever they got. The malaysian government is quite happy to have the grand prix and everything that that draws into malaysia, so maybe some tolerance for the foreign tourists, many of whom come from countries where alcohol is normal, should be included, because THAT is how things work in reality.
    Personally, the bit that I felt most let down by was the fact that OUR prime minister did NOT just sack chrissy pyne’s adviser who was involved in the debacle and who SHOULD have known better and been advising his mates. That guy should have had no job to come back to. Period.

  3. Sir ScotchMistery

    @Gangey – for your PM to sack Miss Prissy Pyne, he would be required to be possessed of a pair of danglers.

    He doesn’t – ergo – moot point.

  4. Harquebus

    If Malaysia wants to hold international events and attract overseas tourists then, they should show some leniency towards other behaviors.

  5. townsvilleblog

    Erin, I have run into Australians behaving badly overseas in Asia, they are an ugly mob. That said most often Australians do comply with the traditions of other countries apart from a few dickheads. Though it is our custom in Australia that women do not wear head scarf’s yet we have immigrants not abiding by our customs, so perhaps these days it’s a free for all?

    I can only speak for myself, and I would comply with the customs of other countries, and expect any visitors immigrants to Australia would also comply with our customs.

  6. helvityni

    “If Malaysia wants to hold international events and attract overseas tourists then, they should show some leniency towards other behaviors.”

    Harquebus, what would Australians say if nine brown-skinned Malaysian youths stripped down to their underpants depicting a Aussie flag, and wait, on ANZAC Day in Sydney.

    You think our politicians would see it as an innocent prank, or would they jump to the their usual conclusion: they are Muslims, they are dark-skinned, they are TERRORISTS.

  7. Harquebus

    I can imagine the uproar but, would they be charged for it?

  8. helvityni

    Yes, H, they would, they lock up fourteen year old ‘terrorists’ for less.

  9. Klaus

    I am sorry Harquebus, but the Australian behaviour as tourists is different from almost any nationality in the world. I have seen it in Germany, Bali, US. In my humble view, no other nation has this drinking/violence problem than Australia has. It is called respect.

    Personally, I rather have one drink too much than not. So I am not adverse to drinking. What I see combined with the mentality, correctly described in this article, is the fact that the hotel staff is often treated as shit, the complaints I here from Australians, who can’t afford overnights in hotels in Australia, about trivial things at the breakfast table, are breathtaking.

    There is such a thing as the ugly Aussie, and it shows strongly in overseas tourist destination.

    Respect it’s called. And that is missing.

  10. Martin Bryce

    Klaus, ‘…no other nation has this drinking/violence problem…’? Have you seen Brits abroad? It’s in their genes. No wonder some white Australians are ignorant, ugly, violent, drunken louts. It’s inherited.

  11. helvityni

    Some years back we were in Buenos Aires, dining in a very nice Italian restaurant. The locals eat late so we were the first early customers. We ordered a bottle of Chilean(?) red wine.

    Another early bird, a single man ,walked in. When passing our table he smiled and said; “You must be from Australia”, pointing at our bottle of red.

    “Happy for you to share our table and our wine”, he gracefully accepted the offer. According to him one glass of wine with the meal was a better option than a half a bottle each… 🙂


    I would just like to add that after returning from a holiday overseas and observing many people from different cultures and religions that too many Australians have poor manners and are extremely rude. Sure we queue politely where others may not. I blame lack of discipline in the home and school. Too fearful of reproach we pussy foot around and yes, just a slap on the wrist if that!

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