I had to cringe when reading the news stories about a bunch of British tourists behaving badly.

They got it from all corners of the country for being complete rascals (Question: Is there such a thing as an incomplete rascal?).

It seems that everywhere they went they left mayhem in their wake. What made me wince was not just the vitriol that was poured down upon them but the knowledge that New Zealanders abroad are not always shining beacons of good behaviour.

The drunken exploits of Kiwi travellers are legendary in Europe and the British Isles. They are notorious at events such as the Oktoberfest in Munich and, at one point, were considered the worst of the international visitors.


When I was living in Germany, I rarely meet any fellow New Zealanders but the few encounters were embarrassing as they gleefully told tales of drinking, throwing up and assorted methods of cultural vandalism inflicted on stunned locals.

They spoke of these escapades with pride and little memory of where they had actually been. They could have stayed home, got drunk, thrown up, passed out and saved themselves the airfare.

This was all the more shocking as, at the time, I was working as a musician playing music venues and pubs around Germany and never ever saw a fight, someone throw up or experience a drunken demand to play a Neil Young song.

I used to be out late at night in big cities and small towns and always felt safe.

On returning to New Zealand and playing in pubs here, it was a shock to witness fights, drunken rambling, threatening orders to play "something we know".

I have never felt I could go out into the streets of any of our towns or cities late at night and be safe because an encounter with a bunch of drunks might end in violence.

It is easy to see why women are reluctant to go downtown. The daily reports of harassment and assaults on women provides strong evidence for why this is so risky.
It should not need to be this way. People of all gender definitions should be able to go out at night and feel safe.

There was a T-shirt that read "Instant Ar**hole just add Alcohol" which summed up the equation eloquently.


The other part of the mixture is what is often called Toxic Masculinity. This is the notion that being a man requires elevated ignorance and brutalist views on anything that challenges the notion that men are meant to be Masters of the Universe with confrontation replacing dialogue.

The notions of what constitutes a "real man" are changing. For some men this is scary and when you are scared it is important that nobody sees the fear, and so aggression is used to provides camouflage.

Changing this is a massive task. It begins with boys and young men refusing to adopt the aggro macho posturing. It is happening; it is a work in progress — but it requires some recalibration of the mechanism that powers masculinity and adjustment to the critical settings in which this operates.

Men need to participate in this, recognising that not only is this necessary if we are to reduce violence to women and children but also to reduce the risk of violence between men.

Aggressive masculinity fuelled by reckless drinking is a toxic mix that causes havoc on New Zealand streets every night, so we should think carefully before finger-pointing at tourists for behaving badly.

Terry Sarten (aka Tel) is a writer, musician and social worker — feedback welcome: tgs@inspire.net.nz