Graphic design with the EU flag vs. England flag

The truth about what Europe thinks of England: revealing how Europeans really feel about us (part two)

Part two of my essay about how Europeans really feel about England is here! If you missed part one, I highly recommend you catch up first.

It describes in detail the first of seven

4. Terrible Tourists

The hostility England is experiencing from Europe isn’t just down to Brexit and English arrogance, though. The English also have a particularly bad reputation across Europe as both tourists and expats. 

Many European countries grapple with their feelings around accepting Brits into their country. On one hand, it’s excellent for their economies. Some countries rely solely on tourists to help them stay afloat. On the other hand, we English do have a bit of a reputation…

Why Europe hates England: we're terrible tourists. Photo shows English tourist lying on beach with bright red England pants on.
British sunbather on a beach.

Magaluf is nicknamed “Shagaluf” in England, due to the common group holidays consisting most often of 18-21 year olds. The idea is to get as drunk as possible as quickly as possible (preferably starting in the airport Wetherspoons before your 6am flight) and stay like that during your week of debauchery. Police had to issue a statement recently begging English tourists not to defecate in the streets. We’re a classy bunch.

Going back to our previous point about how arrogant and entitled we are, you will find cafe after cafe across Spain and its Islands that only serve beige English food. The Full English breakfast, chips with every meal, an all you can eat buffet. Oh, and don’t forget English beer. 

In some places you’ll be hard pushed to find anywhere that affords the opportunity to actually try the local cuisine. We’re so entitled that we’ll go somewhere beautiful and hot on holiday, but we’ll stay firmly inside the all-inclusive English speaking resort, thank you very much.

From the expat side of things, some Brits also add to this bad reputation. You’d think that moving abroad might broaden your mind a little and allow for some empathy and perspective. Not always. Some British expats never integrate into their new society, learn the language or have an open mind.

A great uncle of mine spent over 30 years of his life in France but couldn’t speak a word of French. Another family member lived in Italy for approx. 20 years and had not one nice thing to say about Italy or the Italians, despite being married to one and purposefully choosing to live there for such a significant period of time.

I am at the point in my German journey where I am now starting to criticise the government, certain rules etc. But there is a difference between understanding these little nuances and finding them annoying and straight up hating the country. For the record, I bloody love Germany. The fact that I moan occasionally is a good thing because it shows I’m starting to actually understand what the hell is going on. That’s integration, kids.

Really, all of the above problems mostly stem from a country that a) is feeling a bit fragile in its current state, b) has a massive drinking problem and c) doesn’t do well in group settings.

From Instagram:

Brits have such a terrible reputation as tourists & expats throughout Europe”

I know in Spain, specially in the tourist regions, they have a love-hate relationship with GB in general. Love cos money, hate due to the behaviour of said Brits when they visit those areas.

I know in Spain, specially in the tourist regions, they have a love-hate relationship with GB in general. Love cos money, hate due to the behaviour of said Brits when they visit those areas.

5. Fan Behaviour

Speaking of drinking problems and group settings, let’s talk about the most obvious reason Europe is not particularly happy with England right now.

If you don’t follow football and you’re not aware of wtf happened during this year’s EUROS 2020 competition, I’ll give you a short summary:

  • English fans booed almost every country’s national anthem before the games.
  • One English fan shone a laser in the eyes of the Denmark goalkeeper during the semi-finals.
  • Fully grown adults mocked a small German girl who was crying at the loss of her team. Ring any bells? (*insert image of Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg*)
  • A nice kind Welsh man set up a crowdfunding page to raise money for said small German girl, more out of solidarity than anything else. He was subsequently subject to online abuse, which got very personal. The small German girl, angel that she is, and her family expressed their wish to remain anonymous and that the money should be donated to UNICEF.
  • Hundreds of fans stormed the barriers at Wembley for the final against Italy, injuring many people and taking seats of those who had paid to see the game.

The reply from many English people I’ve spoken to about this is that “it’s just the minority, it’s not fair that we all get tarred with the same brush.”

It’s a bit like when immigrants, refugees, Muslisms, black, brown and Asian people all get tarred with the same brush, isn’t it? How does it feel to be on the other side of the fence now?

No, it’s not all England fans. I saw plenty of Instagram stories and posts from those who went to a local pub or to a friend’s house to watch the game, felt disappointed after the loss and went straight home to mourn/go to sleep. 

But enough people caused problems for everyone else to take notice. 

In our constantly connected world, where news reaches other countries quicker than your Deliveroo driver from Nando’s can reach your door, it was more than enough.

It should be noted that Italian fans were also caught booing Spain’s national anthem a few days prior to their game against England. French and Russian fans have also come under fire in previous years for their behaviour. It’s not necessarily country specific. Maybe it’s the sport itself?

However, the problem with England is that it’s almost constant and it’s consistent. This isn’t the first time England fans have spoiled the fun for everyone. There have been repeated occasions of disruptive, disrespectful and disgusting behaviour by England football fans throughout history. One need not look far.

Thoughts from Instagram:

“The fans behave like dickheads. Booing national anthems in only one example. The fans didn’t deserve such a good time.

 The booing during the anthems

booing during the national anthem time and using the laser pointer to the GK were not acceptable

6. Racism

Eight of the eleven players in the England football team come from at least one immigrant parent. No immigrants = no team.

Graphic taken from BLM Twitter showing England team without immigration.

The England team themselves provided one of the lasting images from this year’s competition, by taking the knee before every game to highlight racial inequality. Even for this peaceful, simple action that harms nobody and does not distract from the game, they received boos and backlash

To add to this insensitivity, YouGov decided it would be a good idea to survey some Europeans to get their opinion on whether taking the knee does anything to combat racism. As if it matters.

That should give you an idea of the mentality of fans going into this.

Fast forward to the final match. England v Italy. It goes to penalties. 

Three English players – Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho – took shots at goal. They missed. And, most importantly here, they were all black players.

Suddenly, the fans who were excited about and all for multiculturalism when England were winning matches, took off their masks (physically and metaphorically) and revealed themselves as raging racists.
The abuse came in thick and fast after the match against Italy. Social media platforms were awash with “a torrent of racist comments” and offline, a mural of Marcus Rashford in Manchester was defaced.

Racism has been rife throughout the competition. Bulgaria fans made monkey noises, Nazi symbols and fascist symbols aimed at black England players during their qualifying match against England

As Kemi Alemrou writes for gal-dem magazine – “we have entered a hellscape of regular public dehumanisation and excruciatingly demoralising ‘debate’ that extremists, politicians, and straight-up trolls wish to exploit by using these key moments to stoke tensions.” 

There have been arrests made against some of those involved in the online abuse. The Rashford mural in Manchester was re-covered with messages of love and support. In the aftermath of this event, more people have denounced racism than fueled the fire. Love always trumps hate. But hate shouldn’t have a voice to start with.

Why can’t England fans simply be happy with the exhilarating moments of joy they experienced throughout this competition? Why is it impossible for many of them to see the grit and determination this particular team showed that has inspired and given hope to millions of children? Why is it so damn difficult for them to feel upset, disappointed but ultimately commend and applaud their team for the great effort they gave?

Thoughts from Instagram:

And the racism coming out today, after the loss? That makes me never want to cheer for England.

 the racism is unacceptable in any case

6a. Xenophobia

I cannot ignore the blatant tone deaf comments that have come out of this competition against Germany. This will displease those who think Gareth Southgate can do no wrong.

Unable to let go of anything, Mr Southgate couldn’t help himself bringing up the war after Germany’s defeat against England. Claiming to believe that Britain’s ‘Blitz Spirit’ was partially behind the win, he said “People have tried to invade us and we’ve had the courage to hold that back…You can’t hide that energy in the stadium against Germany was because of that.”

German tabloid ‘Bild’ rightly pointed out that we live in 2021, not 1945. 

“Sorry, Mr. Southgate, you’re crazy! What possessed you to make these statements? Did you watch too many Churchill films in the training camp and now want to become the second greatest Briton of all time? Have you been in a national drunken stupor? Were you thinking of your grandfather who served in the navy under Churchill?

Never mind. We Germans, rightly eliminated for sporting reasons, should look forward to a great final. If England win, it will be because of Sterling and Kane, not the war.” (translated from German)

I never thought I’d agree with Bild, but here we are. 
This isn’t the first time Britain have been unable to let go of the war. As John Kampfner points out in his brilliant book ‘Why Germans Do It Better’, before the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany, a journalist from the Daily Mail (shock) wrote “West Germany may beat us at our national sport today, but that would only be fair. We beat them twice at theirs.” After England won, a new chant was born: ‘two world wars and one world cup’.

Thirty years later, during the 1996 Euro competition, the following headline dominated the front page of the Mirror: “Achtung Surrender! For you Fritz ze Euro Championship is Over.”

Aside from our inability to let go of the war, there have been other incidients of xenophobia throughout this year’s competition.

A Danish family were attacked after their loss to England, despite them politely congratulating England fans on their win. Italian fans were attacked after the final game. England supporters even went after their own national police officers after their loss at the final.

England fans clash with police officers after the England v Italy final.

If none of the other points convinced you there is a problem with English football fans deeply rooted in our society, I sure hope these ones did.

Thoughts from Instagram:

Of course Germany has accepted that we lost WW2 (and 1), that’s not the point. But comparing the game to this war…why? That’s so tone deaf and wrong.

2 world wars and one world cup shows exactly why the rest of mainland Europe wants nothing to do with England”

7. That Bloody Song!!

The English love to cling on to stuff from the past that we were once really good at.

That 1966 world cup, that one time we won Eurovision, colonialism, the war. You know, all the good stuff…

Another thing we really can’t let go of is a song released in the late 90s about football, for the 1996 European Championship.

Many Europeans find the song to be an extension of our arrogance because the only line they ever hear from this song is “It’s coming home”. It’s the chant you hear across stadiums and in pubs across the world. It’s the meme you see online. 

From a European perspective, it looks like England fans are perpetuating this arrogance once again by declaring an early victory.

A thorough listen to the full song and lyrics will provide you with an understanding that the track is more of a lament for the disappointments and underachievement of years gone by. However, most people, especially Europeans, never get to hear the full song. They’re simply stuck with that one line chant over and over and over again.

You can understand why they *might* dislike it a tad.

Thoughts from Instagram:

“Sick of hearing It’s Coming Home!!”

that terrible song

I hope you enjoyed this essay as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it.

The response to part one was amazing. I hope that I can write more of these in the future. I love having these discussions.

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