Balinese welcome boycott by 'Boganaires' - bogans with money

The Twitter campaign for Australians to #BoycottBali over the very sad case of convicted drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran brought with it an immediate and expected backlash by Indonesians.

"Australia can #boycottbali all they want," tweeted @pandji,  "that only means no more stupid drunks on board of Indonesian airlines." And this from @radixhidayat: "Yes, Aussies, please #boycottbali. We'll keep the paradise island, you'll keep the continent of dangerous animals."

While I'm not sure that the feral partygoers would ever boycott Bali, having little concern for international politics or anything other than a raging good time, the reaction of some Indonesians to the prospect of fewer drunken Australians was understandably gleeful. 

The Ugly Australian is such a blight on our beautiful island neighbour that even Australians pause before booking a holiday there. My husband, for instance, is still unconvinced he should ever visit Bali, despite protestations from friends who live there and love it. In my case, I avoid altogether the hard-partying parts of the island, even if they are home to upscale restaurants, glamour resorts and interesting boutiques. But I've never been able to feel the passion for Bali that others do. Maybe, first visiting in the 1990s, I left it too late. 

Whenever I'm in places where Australians have a bad reputation, I always work very hard to show I'm not one of those Aussies. Of course, this is quite unnecessary, because clearly I am not one, and it shouldn't be my burden to compensate or apologise for those who are appallingly behaved. But I can't help it. 

I'm not sure it's from wounded national pride, or a need to be liked, or even the simple desire to make strangers feel more comfortable. I was brought up to be empathetic with others, and while I'm far from perfect, I find a good dose of empathy is one's best travelling companion.

Travel can bring out the best and worst in us, but it's a good start to leave our prejudices behind or at least be open to shedding them as we make new discoveries along the way. The best experiences can be had when you ditch the baggage, bring a metaphorically empty suitcase with you and fill it up as you go along.

Those who party hard and ugly in Bali could be partying hard in Engadine or St Kilda, except the drinks are cheaper and the waiters are too gentle to tell you to rack off (an expression from my youth, sadly not used much today.) It's a kind of bullying, on an international scale, where those with disposable income, leisure time and a highly developed sense of entitlement lord it over those who depend upon their tourist dollars. 

They can't get away with it at home and they're the bottom of the food chain here, so it's the one place on earth they can behave like gods, even if they're too pissed to know it. 


I'm absolutely sure we in Melbourne first coined the term "bogan" and now we have "boganaires" – bogans with money. It's a word we most often use to describe the rise of the uneducated and unsophisticated traveller, more recently from China and Russia, who has suddenly found him or herself a millionaire by dint of the social upheaval in those countries, and who believes wealth trumps local customs and standards of propriety.

Most Australian "boganaires" are without real fortunes, just a healthy exchange rate on the dollar in a low-cost destination that allows them to feel like kings for a week. With them, we export our very serious national problems of alcoholism and hoonery.

These low-rent boganaires may be only a small proportion of Australian holidaymakers who visit Bali and Thailand, but their impact is out of proportion. As a general rule, Australians are very welcome in most places. 

As tourists we are prized because we are easy-going, not too demanding, and generally respectful of itineraries and cultures. We travel for longer periods of time than other nationalities and, enjoying a good time, we're generous spending our dollars on local restaurants and shops. In recent years, with the high dollar, we've stayed in better hotels and enjoyed the sensation of being rich in the way American tourists were for such a long time.

The weakened dollar will make inexpensive destinations like Bali more popular. But it's also likely that more of our cut-price boganaires will be staying home. 

Won't that be fun?