I HAVE LIVED ON THE JERSEY SHORE for a grand total of nine months, and despite what you’ve heard, it’s actually a really lovely place. People are friendly and laid back, the food is insanely good, and the culture, for an area that doesn’t have any huge cities nearby, is surprisingly vibrant. But on the weekends in the summer, it becomes a slightly less nice place. The towns fill up with the tourists you probably recognize from the show Jersey Shore and there’s a lot of public drunkenness, lewdness, rudeness, and general ickiness.
It’s the curse of all vacation destination towns: we love our beach homes, but the economy in our area mostly revolves around tourism, which means that in order to fund our town’s continued existence, we have to put up with the annual invasion of drunken douchebags.
This is not limited to the Jersey Shore. “Drunken tourism,” according to the New York Times, has gotten so bad in Spain that Spanish officials have called in their equivalent of the National Guard, and have requested that the British government send their own officials to deal with rowdy British tourists. The bad behavior is by no means restricted to alcohol: In Italy, American tourists with selfie sticks carved their names into the Colosseum. Russian tourists filmed a porno at the Pyramids. Backpackers in Laos practically destroyed the small town of Vang Vieng by turning it into an eternal, anarchic party, And for whatever reason, people from all over the place have been stripping nude at Cambodia’s sacred Angkor Wat.
This type of bad behavior ruins it for everyone. Some cities, like Barcelona, have implemented tourist taxes and have frozen new hotel construction permits. Copenhagen has instituted tour bus “quiet zones” and has made an effort to integrate tourists, rather than cater to them. The country of Bhutan has adopted an extremely anti-tourist policy that makes visiting very difficult in the name of preserving their pristine Buddhist culture. But for places that are more reliant on tourism than a self-sufficient city like Barcelona or Copenhagen, and for places that don’t want to wall themselves off from the rest of the world like Bhutan, measures that discourage tourists may not be an option, which means that citizens must simply grudgingly put up with tourists. This can curdle into resentment and even hostility.
Speaking as a tourist town resident, I can say that I genuinely don’t mind when people come into town and have one too many to drink, or when they come into town to have fun. I have one too many pretty frequently. And it is fun here. That’s why I live here. When it becomes a problem is when people start shouting obscenities in front of kids, puking in the streets, and peeing on our lawns. There’s a very, very simple rule to follow, whenever you visit a new place: treat it like a friend’s house.
Imagine you’re visiting from out of town. You’re staying at your friend’s place. How would you behave in their house? You might have a couple extra glasses of wine over dinner, because hey, you’re on vacation. But you wouldn’t go pee in their closet. You wouldn’t shout at them for not giving you more wine. You wouldn’t puke all over their couch.
I mean, maybe you would, maybe you’re a totally terrible person. But you shouldn’t. Thi is the type of behavior that would make your host much less likely to invite further visitors in the future. This same principle applies regarding tourism.
Fun during travel is fine. Trashing someone’s home is not.