The Awkward Truth About Australian Tourists' Relationship With Europe

As demonstrated by the most unlikely source...

The Awkward Truth About Australian Tourists' Relationship With Europe

Image: Popsugar

Forget boarding pass Instagram stories and wine sipping Boomerangs. Inflatable pink flamingos are the new symbol of European summer. Not only that but this innocent ‘prop that pops’ also exposes a kink in Australian tourists’ relationship with Europe.

The Pink Flamingo’s prevalence everywhere from Santorini to Barcelona exposes the myth many Australians have constructed in their heads that everything is ‘classy’ in Europe.

But we’ll get to that. First: context. When Australian travellers and tourists get back from their various European pilgrimages, common talking points include: how “classy” everything is, how “well-travelled” Old World citizens are and how open minded everyone is – “over there.”

This is most painfully apparent in the summer months when droves make their various French Riviera, Amalfi Coast, Mykonos, Santorini and Capri pilgrimages.

Inspired by articles like “Paradise Beach Photo Exposes Greek Freedom Aussies Can’t Handle” and “Revealed: The Secret To Spain’s Nightlife Success,” these sunburnt sojourners return with tales that would have you think they just got back from ancient Babylon.

However, while they generalise 741.4 million people as casually as they sip their pumpkin spice lattes, there is some truth to their observations.

Europe is more liberal than Australia and America (at least socially). There are less megaphone wielding lifeguards. No one will dob you in for drinking on the beach. There are fewer nightlife laws.

But the most embarrassing stereotype many of us still believe is wrong, and a scroll through the Instagram hashtag ‘pink flamingo’ reveals why.

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What is it? The idea that going to the beach is a classier affair in Europe – a notion which may appear complementary but is actually a fetishisation of 38,000km of coastline, which holds 741.4 million people to unrealistic swimwear (and inflatable animal) standards.

Meanwhile, the truth is, as the proliferation of ‘basic’ pink flamingo beach shots – from Spain’s El Palmar to Greece’s Sigri – shows, European beaches are not inherently ‘classier’ than Australian or American ones.

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What’s more, despite their reputation for being photogenic-as-hell, as numerous professional photographers and travel writers (see Traveller’s recent piece: “‘Like Sydney in Winter’: Why You Shouldn’t Be Jealous Of Your Friend’s European Holiday”) have pointed out, European beaches in summer aren’t all that different from Sydney – or even Maine – in winter.

What’s more: while huge crowds may make for cool aerial photos, dealing with that many people soon becomes tiresome.

Oh and even though cold pebbles and black sand make your umbrellas ‘pop’ for photos (see: Ischia), in terms of comfort they don’t hold a towel to Australia’s soft, yellow sand.

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Moral of the story? Don’t be ashamed of your syrupy lattes and colourful beach toys: just don’t expect all Europeans to deny themselves these ‘basic’ pleasures in the name of cool either.

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