‘Drunk’ French tourists in Oz bring shame to France

France's consul-general in Australia has been forced to issue a plea to French backpackers, saying their rowdy, rude and drunken antics as well as reported shoplifting is bringing shame on the country's community in Oz.

'Drunk' French tourists in Oz bring shame to France
French backpackers in Australia are accused of rampant shop-lifting, drunkenness and disrespect, causing France's consul-general to speak out. Photo: Spelio/Flickr

Tourists from Australia have something of a reputation. Whether travelling in Europe, the UK or Asia, Aussies are known for being larger-than-life characters – friendly, boisterous, and not afraid of a beer or two.

Now it seems, however, that it’s the French in Australia who are shaming officials with their hard-drinking, disrespectful behaviour.

Shop-lifting by French backpackers has even reached the point that the practice is often known as “French shopping,” especially in the Western Australian towns of Exmouth and Carnarvon.

France’s consul-general in Sydney, Eric Berti, was forced earlier this month to publish an open letter to the 22,000 young French currently in possession of a “working holiday” visa.

The French official expressed horror at his youthful compatriots’ “noisy and provocative behaviour, drunkenness, and lack of respect for police and authorities.”

Berti encouraged his fellow French nationals to check on each other’s actions.

“Do not hesitate to make [other] young French people around you aware of the behaviour that’s expected of them in a country where honesty and respect for values and authorities is paramount,” he said.

The diplomat also reminded visitors from the hexagon that their own chances of success Down Under could be harmed, if they were tarred with the same brush as their loutish, thieving compatriots.

“This attitude could have repercussions for the French community in Australia as a whole, and young people with a working holiday visa could find themselves blacklisted when looking for a job,” he added.

The top French official’s moment of scolding comes after a Frenchman, described by local police as a “disrespectful knucklehead,” damaged the ANZAC cenotaph at Martin’s Place in Sydney, earlier this year.

Local daily the Sydney Morning Herald were told this week that police did not collect crime data according to nationality, and so couldn’t give official figures for incidents involving French culprits.

However, since Berti’s letter went public, the French consulate has tried to soften the tone of their criticisms against what is thought to be a relatively small number of French tourists.

“The same thing can happen with young Australians visiting Bali or China,” said a consular spokesman this week.

Despite this disclaimer, the consul-general appears not to be the only Frenchman in Australia dismayed by the behaviour of his fellow nationals.

In a post entitled, “Hey French backpacker, why are you a asshole?” (sic), a French blogger living in Australia earlier this month declared that: “During my trip in Australia, I met a lot of people from countries all over the world and, for my experience, the people who make the most of troubles are … the French” (sic).

“Why can’t you understand that it’s not polite and respectful to not speak in English when there are foreigners around?” he asked.

Indeed, the language barrier appears to be a large factor in the difficulty that some French backpackers have in Australia.

French website Le Petit Journal earlier in May described the “disillusion” experienced by many French young people who come on a working holiday visa.

Many find themselves in trouble due to sub-standard English, and a failure to practice after arriving, poor preparation for their visit, and an underestimation of the cost of living and accommodation in Australia.

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Macron arrives on rare French presidential visit to Australia

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Australia on Tuesday, with the two sides expected to agree on greater cooperation in the Pacific to counter a rising China.

Macron arrives on rare French presidential visit to Australia
French President Emmanuel Macron leaves his presidential Airbus A330-200: Photo: Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP
Fresh from meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington, Macron touched down for the first foray Down Under by a French leader since François Hollande came to Brisbane for a G20 summit four years ago.
His advisers said he wanted to discuss a “common response” to security and climate tensions in the South Pacific, which includes the French territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia.
Macron told reporters he intends to “anchor” the Franco-Australian relationship “strategically, economically, but also scientifically, culturally and linguistically”.
He described ties between the two countries as historic, recalling how Australian soldiers helped defend France in World War I and II. 
France envisages a “strengthened strategic relationship” through a new axis grouping Paris, New Delhi and Canberra, he told reporters.    
French ambassador Christophe Penot said earlier that Paris sees Canberra as a “pivot” for broader involvement in the Indo-Pacific.
“What the president will tell your prime minister is that we are ready and willing to do much more with Australia in the South Pacific,” he told the Australian Financial Review on Tuesday.
“We must support the South Pacific islands in their development and give them options when they want to develop infrastructure. That doesn't mean we want to oppose China on that. It is just that we want to be complementary and make sure they have all the options on the table.”
Australia has become increasingly alarmed at China's push into the Pacific, which could potentially upset the delicate strategic balance in the region.  A senior Australian minister recently called Chinese infrastructure projects in the Pacific “white elephants” while reports last month, that were denied, said Beijing wanted to establish a permanent military base in Vanuatu. Australia's Lowy Institute estimates China provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16.   
Macron will also be keen to talk defence and trade, building on a mega Aus$50 billion (US$37 billion, 31 billion euros) deal agreed in late 2016 for France to supply Australia's new fleet of next-generation submarines.
The May 1-3 trip comes hot on the heels of his pomp-filled visit to Washington and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's journey to Normandy for World War I Anzac Day commemorations last month.
It will have a strong cultural flavour with France's 40-year-old leader discussing food Wednesday at a lunch with Australian and French chefs. As often on his foreign trips, Macron will also meet local artists, 
specifically Aboriginal artists whose work deals with the climate change — a subject on which Macron, custodian of the 2015 Paris Agreement, has taken a leadership role.
Following the Australia visit, the French leader will continue on to the French territory of New Caledonia, where a crucial independence referendum is due in November.