Latvia says no more British bachelor parties

The Latvian government is apparently pissed off about Brits heading there for wild stag parties and allegedly stirring up trouble. For example, Nils Usakovs, mayor of the Latvian capitalof Riga, isn't keen on tourists urinating on the city's central monument. It's odd to me that some of the government officials are so open with their anti-British sentiments.

Usakovs said some British visitors were guilty of misbehaving: "Let's not be politically correct - unfortunately, this is their speciality."

He also said if the city had more regular tourists the badly behaving British visitors "would not be as noticeable"...

Last year the country's then interior minister, Mareks Seglins, complained about "English pigs" and said they were a "dirty, hoggish people" after a British tourist was sentenced to five days in prison after being caught urinating on the war memorial.

Earlier this year South Wales Police sent two officers to Riga to advise on how to deal with hen and stag parties from Britain.

"Latvian warning for British stags" (Thanks, Antinous!)


  1. True or not, the stereotype of rowdy, drunk British tourists getting out of hand is a very strongly reinforced one across the rest of Europe.

    Think U.S. college kids on Spring break in Mexico.

  2. Y’know, when I think of places to have wild and crazy blowouts, the Baltic states do not come to mind. Is the Mediterranean too touristy for these people?

    1. I seem to remember a friend of mine going on a drunken blowout in Estonia while she was living in Germany.

  3. We’re so proud of the idiot violent binge drinking culture we’ve cultivated, we want to export it to YOUR nation! Watch this space!

  4. Q: What’s the difference between a pig and a Brit boy abroad?

    A: A pig doesn’t turn into a Brit boy when it’s been drinking.

  5. @Neoncat: I don’t know – it’s in the EU, so no visa requirements, and it’s likely to still have quite a depressed post-Soviet economy, meaning cheap accommodation/booze. I can see how it could work.

  6. Kieran: Latvia has not been a Soviet state for -what? – close to twenty years – so it’s just another Northern EU country, now.
    So why no drunken “Brit abroad” binging in Scotland? Oh, right…they’re even worse (ie more boorish and violent) when they’re drunk, so their cops well know how to “scotch” such behavior: the Lats are learning too, it seems.

  7. Instead of sending the police on a mission to educate the Latvian police on how to deal with drunk and rude Britons on stag and hen parties – why not educate those traveling party-goers on the polite way to behave in another country? I would be pissed too if my hometown was being trashed by inconsiderate tourist revelers.

    Why so surprised about the open anti-British sentiments? If the situation was reversed you don’t think that your local officials would be expressing some negative opinions about the people responsible?

  8. I recall that when I looked into booking a hostel in Amsterdam, one of them required a hefty deposit specifically for groups of four or more males from the UK/Ireland.

  9. Antinous: I once went to an Estonian wedding, where ALL toasts (and there were many!) were made with full shots of ice-cold vodka: IMHO, the Estonians know both how to drink, and how to deal with drunks.
    It’s the Lats who seem to be having trouble keeping these Brit drinkers in “good order”.
    As my Estonian friends have told me, do not confuse the Baltic States: they are each very unique and different from each other. The Estonians and Finns are culturally and linguistically close: but it is not so, between Estonians and Latvians.

  10. When I was traveling in Israel, there were some kibbutzim that wouldn’t accept British volunteers, because the volunteers saw it as a low-cost sunny vacation destination and ended up partying all the time and not working…

  11. I used to believe that Americans were the worst tourists, particularly after witnessing one of my compatriots, in the 1970s, telling a French waiter that we had saved their asses in WWII. However, a 12-hour layover in the Gatwick departure lounge showed me a side of the UK that you just don’t get to see on Masterpiece Theatre.

  12. There have been a lot of advertising campaigns promoting cheap flights/alcohol in Latvia in the UK, so for their troubles they’ve now got a lot of drunk Brits on their hands. Be careful what you wish for!

  13. Indeed Orpheus: the tourist spending helps Latvia’s current-account deficit, and Latvia has serious balance-of-payments problems, IIRC.
    They ought to create a tourist “Zona Rosa” for these boys, in Riga, perhaps.
    They need the cash: but they do not need the expense of clean-up.

  14. having travelled in both tourist-y areas and non, I have to say that the Brits are by far the rudest visitors I have ever encountered, generally speaking. Not every Brit, mind you, but enough to avoid them whenever I can from now on.

    I’m not surprised at all, David. In fact, i’m surprised there isn’t more of a backlash.

  15. Krakow, Poland has had similar problems for quite awhile and similar comments from officials complaining about the British stag/hen parties.

    Where a beer might be 5 or more quid in the UK, it’s around HALF that for a beer here …and that’s at the most expensive places. It’ll be a quarter of the price in your average bar. The flights here are dirt-cheap, too.

    My wife and I have met a number of English, Scots and Irish on holiday here who were more or less well-behaved, given how drunk they were. But we’ve also ran into stag parties that were just making complete asses out of themselves to the point where the people around them are embarrassed on their behalf.

  16. To quote Adrian Edmonson: “British thugs, Eddie — best in the world!”

    Seriously though, speaking as a Brit it’s always depressing to hear about this kind of shit.
    Everyone – honestly — there are plenty of Brits who aren’t Brits-on-the-piss arseholes.

  17. The same thing has been happening here in Wroclaw, Poland. Lots of Brits have been coming here on the weekend for stag parties (the cheap direct flights certainly help) and making a mess of things. When you’re out on the town, more often than not, it’s quite clear who the Brits are.

    Krakow has had the same problem and some establishments have put up signs saying they won’t serve or board English guests. It’s not right, but then again, I don’t go to other countries and openly disrespect everything in sight.

  18. Speaking as a Brit, Latvia has my sympathy. “Dirty, hoggish people”? Ouch. But hey, a not insignificant number of my compatriots do indeed specialise in behaving like ars*holes when they’ve had a few beers, so I can sympathise with the sentiments expressed.

  19. this is interesting:
    there is a perception that the UK (in particular) does not deem public intoxication or disorderly drunken conduct unfavourably. This behaviour seems to be well tolerated at home.

    Is this a difference in social graces, or a difference in respect for a place while visiting?

  20. @7 UGLY CANUCK
    “So why no drunken “Brit abroad” binging in Scotland?”

    Um… Scotland is part of Britain, so therefore not abroad – and the term Brit abroad would therefore also cover Scots.

    @20 CARRIEM

    With regard to public intoxication, is that such a bad thing? Why shouldn’t people enjoy themselves when they’re on holiday. As for disorderly drunken conduct, a decent police force / trained bouncers can & should take care of that.

    Latvia either needs to stop advertising itself as a bargain holiday destination or follow the pattern of other European countries and create a dedicated resort(s) to cater to stag/hen weekends and lads/lasses holidays.

    The prime example of this (from my personal knowledge as a British lout abroad) would be Magaluf in Majorca. While the rest of Majorca is family and tourist friendly, Magaluf is geared towards and prepared for lads/lasses holidays – the drinks are cheap, the hotels are forgiving and the bouncers/police are out in force. Works like a charm.

    (On a side note, having recently come back from a lads holiday in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria – where there is a very small British presence – the Germans, Scandinavians and Austrians are just as bad as us).

  21. Drunken English louts are a very common stereotype in many parts of Europe, but as others point out, it might just be because English speakers end up clustering in certain locales.

    I know that many other countries in Europe (and even North America) are pretty damn tired of drunken Australian louts and Drunken German louts. I’m guessing tourist destinations in SE Asia have their own favourites, too.

    Pretty much what we have here are liminal expressions of community taken out of context. The problem is that such liminal expressons usually include a lot of drinking.

  22. Isn’t the problem that these stag and hen parties go to these places because they think they can go completely wild with no consequences? They go to forget their (probably depressing) jobs, their (likely depressing) financial situations, their nagging families and neighbours and think that “What happens in Latvia stays in Latvia”. They can vomit in their own hair, run naked down darkened alleys, say terrible things about the locals, and behave in horribly bigoted ways – and they believe that it’ll never get back to their friends, families and co-workers at home.

    Indeed, if you told these people beforehand to behave in Latvia, they’d probably pick somewhere else to be their guilt-free European Vegas. Perhaps public humiliation back in their own country and/or workplace might be a more effective deterrent. Then again, that assumes they have a sense of shame.

  23. Thank you Belgium, this is exactly what I am talking about. Every brit I have spoken to about this has the same attitude: what’s wrong with “enjoying” yourself on holiday? A police force is an appropriate response to disorderly drunkenness…

    I will hazard a guess that this attitude is NOT tolerated abroad. Enjoying yourself is one thing; urinating / vomiting in public and harrassing people is another. When the people around you are cringing on your behalf (fontrum), this is noteworthy. And where I come from, police aren’t bouncers, nor should they be. But this is normal in the UK, I’ve noticed.

    Surely the nation doesn’t think that it’s merely COINCIDENCE that Brits are singled out as least-welcome guests.

    This behaviour is not tolerated in my home. It doesn’t matter who you are.

  24. Where I live in Spain it is a regular occurrence to see drunkenness and people snorting coke and toking on joints. These are Brits. They are very sad. It is an embarrassment to be associated with them at all by being British myself. What is worse is that the majority of them are retirees who are bored to tears with their shallow lives. There are waiting lists for the English language Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as well.

  25. I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned the supreme irony of Poland and Latvia complaining about British visitors to their countries.

    For the uninformed, there has been a huge wave of immigrants to the UK from Eastern European states, particularly Poland, since their accession to the EU, which has triggered a rather unpleasant wave of nationalistic/racist sentiment amongst certain groups of Brits.

    You could (quite easily) compare it to US attitudes toward Mexico — particularly how many Eastern Europeans are incorrectly identified as Poles, just as many dark-skinned Hispanics in the US are labeled Mexicans, regardless of their actual nationality or ethnicity.

  26. The UK’s early pub closing times are a bit to blame. Conditions people to drink quickly. Add a few more hours at the same rapid pace, and there’s going to be an effect.

    Also, as an American, I can proudly say we don’t piss on important monuments. We can’t find them …

  27. ‘So why no drunken “Brit abroad” binging in Scotland? Oh, right…they’re even worse (ie more boorish and violent)…’

    I’m interested to know what makes you think Scots are worse than the English (I’m assumimg that’s what you mean when you say British) when it comes to drunken behaviour? Living in Scotland and with English parents I would say that drunken idiots from either country are just as bad as each other.

  28. I am British but I totally agree with this city’s sentiments. I’m from a town that attracts alot of stag nights and hen nights and they really are absolutely awful people. They come, get murderously drunk, shout, scream and urinate all over the town before going back to a crappy bed & breakfast and returning next day to their hovel in London or the North.

  29. Neoncat,

    It’s changing fashion and a search for the cheapest large quantities of alcohol. Many of the places get more touristy and expensive, and the Britons become more unpopular, the fashion moves on. It’s already happened with Amsterdam, Prague, Zante, Falariki…

    Try searching BBC News for terms such as “drunk Brits” to see the many places my the reputation has been spread.

  30. What I found funny about this is that pissing on the Latvian National Freedom Monument seems to have become a de rigueur stop on the stag party circuit, like visiting the Uffizi on a fin de siècle grand tour of Europe.

  31. Brit’s and Irish in America never seem especially rude, but then again everyone is rude in beantown.

    The same thing is going to happen to americans if we’re ever allowed to vacation in cuba again, it’s about a thousand miles closer to the northeast than vegas, with (hopefully) the same gambling, better weather and views (not desert), and cheaper rum/cigars, and most importantly, it’s 100% NOT atlantic city or on an indian reservation. hordes of yuppies are going to turn havanna into the post-college equivalent of spring break, the ultimate brodeo.

  32. “So why no drunken “Brit abroad” binging in Scotland?”

    If I was to guess, something about them being reluctant to engage in the citizen-provided “cranial percussive therapy” that would await them.

    Hell, they’re my own countrymen, and they frequently frighten me. Though if you like comedy, I’d certainly recommend checking out the Fringe Festival.

  33. @7 -The shining example of Canuck-ness
    Actually whilst we’re not getting drunk and being more boorish and violent we’re secretly plotting on how to take over the world by infiltrating Masonry with (Scottish) Enlightenment-era trained Philosophers and rationally re-inventing most of the up and coming new technologies and principles of Law and Economics whilst undermining and eschewing the Patriarchal conspiracy of Void worship at the heart of said prolific orginisation.

    Certainly Ugly.

  34. #33 gee. the main monument in Riga is the Brivibas (or “Freedom”) monument.. it is of a woman holding up three stars (see link). the idea of foreign men peeing on a woman is particularly offensive to me.

    I agree that pissing on a monument is especially rude in any case. However, you’d have to be pretty darn drunk to piss on this particular woman (50+ feet off above ground) ;)

  35. Less than a week ago, I was walking through the very touristy Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco at 9am. A sidewalk commotion turned out to be four young men from England (judging by their accents and their Manchester United shirts) who were literally too drunk to stand up. They repeatedly tried to help each other into a vertical position and never quite made it. There was also a really pissed off looking waiter, order pad in hand, standing over them (they hadn’t paid their bar tab?)

    I know this is just anecdotal, and it’s terrible to bolster a stereotype. But it was really, really, really funny to watch.

    On topic: Maybe some of the bad behavior comes from the fact that these are all male or all female “stag” and “hen” parties? Mixed groups could be a lot more civilized.

  36. Yes, Unexploded: I’m very fond of Scots myself, partly because of their endearing orneriness and sense of personal liberty. Plus, they’re good fighters.

  37. Cog Diss: Take it from me, Cuba is great for vacations! I hope it’s as good once the US grows up about Cuba and allows (ed.: allows!! Land of the free? Right.) its citizens to travel/do bizness there (and concurrently stops screwing the US public with subsidies to US sugar producers: the ban on Cuban sugar imports = subsidy, all right).
    I think I’ll go buy some good Cuban stogies tonight – at my local tobacconists.

  38. Dare I mention the reportedly inexpensive commercial sex industry in Eastern Europe as an attractant for stag parties and the like?

  39. Bradmofo, Anonymous: My experience of Scots has been of a sober, hard-working, and very capable and shrewd people, deeply (and fiercely) protective of their liberties and of their independence of thought. And never afraid to say what they think.
    The “Scottish Enlightenment” has certainly not been forgotten, particularly in our “rationalist” countries of North America.

    That being said, based upon the very few Scots that I have seen drunk: well, IMHO, abstemiousness and sobriety are prized virtues amongst the Scots for a reason! The reason is: if they are drunks, they are bad drunks.
    Their independence of thought, along with their tendency to clear-headed sobriety in deed and thought, renders “group drunkenness” rare amongst them. But that independence of thought itself renders the individual drunk a more difficult person to deal with: they tend to be hard-headed, independent, and solitary. As I said above, they tend to be good fighters, too.

    They know themselves well enough to shut down the booze pretty tight: as do all of the Scandinavian countries! They know, in other words, how to hold their liquor as a society. As, I think, do the Brits: that’s why they are “escaping” to drink abroad.

    All of this is just IMHO of course: the biochemists have now shown that alcohol is a mitochondrial poison: causes cancer too.
    IMHO it should actually not be used as an intoxicant.

    Leglize marijuana!

  40. there is nothing uniquely British about binge drinking. Dublin was the popular destination for UK stag parties about a decade ago but a few large groups on the piss creates an unpleasant atmosphere that drives other (wealthier) tourists away so the decision was made to stop marketing Dublin as a stag destination.

  41. There are waiting lists for the English language Alcoholics Anonymous meetings…

    That’s either one of the funniest things I’ve ever read … or the saddest.

  42. lol Ugly Canuck.

    I find myself agreeing and at the same time, disagreeing with everything you’ve said.

    As I recently heard a Scottish Comedian quip:

    “Scotland is a bit mental. But it’s a friendly mental. We may kick the crap out of you but we’ll happily give you directions to the hospital afterwards.”

    I think this was hammered home to me one night about four years ago when my newly moved-to-Scotland, Australian flat-mate approached me with a look of humiliation and shame etched in deep lines about his face.

    It took some explaining and corroborating phone calls and text messages to confirm that he had indeed been the life of the party and everyone was looking forward to hanging out with him again.

    I suppose it has something to do with tolerances for verbose and sustained acts of high-tomfoolery.

    Gee’in it LALDY!
    [trans: “He’s putting lots of effort into having fun”]
    Pronounced like sheen and shall-he.

    -2k (can’t remember pass!)

  43. @ 33

    Peeing on Brivibas Piemineklis is an absurdly offensive and gruesome act. The man is VERY lucky he was caught by the police and not any of the rampant Latvian gangs, or else 5 days in jail would have been preferable over potentially murder. I have friends who have been assaulted in Riga for nothing, nevermind desecrating a national monument.

    That said, maybe Latvia should deal with their own alcohol-related problems rather than what the tourists bring in. The article highlighted Brits making a mess of the old city, which is the cleanest part of the entire country. It should stay that way, however the drinking and driving, alcoholism, orphaned children, death rates and any other bad stat always have Latvia in the top 3 in all of Europe. There is far more to worry about within its own people than tourists ruffling the potted plants by the capital. Many of my friends volunteer at underprivileged children’s’ camps in Latvia, and the stories they bring back are atrocious.

    (disclaimer – I’m saying this all as an actual Latvian)

  44. This is the sort of behavior that ruined the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo for everyone earlier this year.

    It seems that tourists always feel like when they are abroad they are somehow immune to the local laws, customs, and manners… when if fact the implications of breaking those rules will likely be more severe than in the tourist’s respective home countries – for not only themselves but future visitors as well.

  45. every tribe is guilty of this to some degree. The best solution?: the local jurisdiction should throw the book at the most egregious offenders and then pay to advertise it across the globe. No easy deportation, no caving in to economic pressure, just make some examples. Or openly ransom them from prison for absurd amounts of money.

  46. Now if we can just stop the German tourists from wearing black socks with their sandals in U.S. national parks…

  47. I’m Finnish living in Tallinn, Estonia – and same is happening here. The British stag parties come here to drink, fight and f*ck.

    People in small post soviet countries are often bit shy, quiet and conflict avoiding, so the aggressive behavior of the football loving stag party lad’s in their humor print T-shorts are quite stark contrast.

  48. may I add 2 thoughts:
    1. British stag parties *are* indeed special. you don’t need any anti-British sentiments to realize this, just spend a couple of years in the nightlife of Prague, Budapest, or, as we see, Latvia. it is a major dilemma: these guys spend a crapton of money, but they are also chasing away “normal” tourists and ruin reputation of a city’s nightlife.
    2. I wonder if Latva can afford banning these people now, being on the brink of bankrupcy…

  49. Ive lived in Riga for the past 8 years and have seen the rise of stag parties, british drunks etc. – its bad but definately not the worst thing going on in this country.
    Usakovs is the new Riga mayor and needed to look like hes doing something whilst the whole country is falling into a heap. Heck the amount of Brit tourists is way down now so I dont know why he’s bringing this up again. Yes, there have been Brits ( and a few other nationalities) that have pissed on the monument but they also forget to tell you that a few locals have also been pinged for doing this.
    BTW, the reason stag parties come here is cheap booze (of course) – a litre of beer can be bought for less than a litre of orange juice…and they say the Brits are the problem!

  50. We dont’t want them in Cracow either. The most wondering thing is for people from Cracow question – how the hell they can be so loud even if they are not drunk? 4 souber british men in the pub, make noise just like 20 USA people or 15 Italian. Besides, Brit tourist started to have problem with prices. In Cracow you are not able to buy a beer for 1 pound, and they still think that with 5 pounds they can rule the world :)

  51. @23(carriem)

    Yes, getting absolutely falling-down drunk, vomiting or pissing in the street, shouting and generally causing trouble seem to be pretty much normal at night in British town centres unfortunately.

    I had to walk through my city centre (sober) a while back at 2am – the stench of vomit was horrendous.

  52. Whenever I’ve been in America, I always seem to get mistaken for an Irishman; I used to assume that this was because of my fairly soft lowland Scottish accent, but I’m now wondering if it’s just because I can stand vertically without assistance and am not enthusiastically voiding bodily fluids in all directions.

    Also, Anonymous@30 – You’re bang on. The Edinburgh Festival has just started here, and we’re being subjected to the usual 11pm street scenes of paralytic Sassenachs who can’t pace themselves, because that’s about when the English pubs close.

  53. It’s endemic. One could probably find a news story about Brits behaving badly abroad every day; here’s today’s.

    I wonder what my grandparents would think of the fact that my gf & I tend to converse in (bad) German rather than be overheard as British by
    a) the residents of foreign cities we visit and
    b) fellow Brits staggering around those cities.

  54. Yes,jem71: my Estonian friends tell me that public all-night drinking was a problem in the summertime in estonia long before the Russians de-camped and the tourists started coming.
    Drunken Brits may be bad, but from what I’ve heard, drunkeness/alcoholism is a serious social problem in Russia generally, altering the life expectancy numbers.
    Educate, regulate, discourage. What else can be done regarding substance abuse, of any kind, without stepping on individual freedom and autonomy?
    Freedom is such, that it can be abused. That’s freedom for you, and no excuse to take it away.
    And to be in tune with perfect freedom, the laws must be assented to by those who are to be bound by them, prior to their becoming binding. And laws incapable of rational justification in a free society must be abolished.
    Legalize marijuana!

  55. Hal @ 47,

    Indeed a very specific move was made to ban/discourage British stag/hen parties from Temple Bar in Dublin. Good riddance too, they’re a nightmare.

  56. RainyRat.. why?

    Scots are British. They don’t like being called English, to be sure, but to my experience aren’t that bothered with being British.

    Now the Irish, on the other hand..

  57. Yes, it’s true. From a local viewpoint, stag parties in Central Riga are a problem, largely because they’re loud (as compared to the quite moderate and temperate Latvian character).

    Then comes in the need to climb up any sculpture to take photos with it and your mates standing round you. This is provoked by drinking plenty of beer, which in turn results in the need to pass urine.

    And this is where it starts, probably, also ends in a police cell.

    I wouldn’t blame it generically on the British, of course. We have our punks and clouts, too. The problem is that the cheap flights bring over nothing but people that want to have big fun for small money. They want it all – the flight, the beer, the girls and the fight. One’s needs are related to one’s social standing. That’s all.

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