food / travel

Women-At-The-Beach Cliches, A German Take On 4 Nationalities

Can you spot the Russian women lounging under umbrellas? A (male) German writer says he can. British, French and, yes, Germans too.

Not German, Russian, British or French? You can laugh then.
Not German, Russian, British or French? You can laugh then.
Oliver C. Schilling

The Germans
What she looks like
A German girl prefers to go someplace she knows. And if she does try a new destination — say, because the early booking discount was just too good to pass up — it has to have a certain level of organization. There’s nothing better than when Luigi the beach attendant remembers that she prefers her chaise longue set in the second row, or when she can order her cappuccino in her own language.

What she wears
Eat milk chocolate with nuts year round, then get stressed right before holiday time about how you look in a bikini. That pretty much sums up the German girls. So when she’s buying said bikini — even if she blames the lousy light in the store changing room for creating such an unattractive visual effect — she’ll invest in cover-ups just in case. The cover-ups may be kaftans or snazzy Capri pants worn with up-market sandals — and there you have her beach look. If she were thinking along practical lines, she would never take her good designer handbag to the beach (see below, The Russians): It could get sand in it. But she does, and it does too.

Finally, a German girl’s most important accessory is her high SPF sunscreen.

The Russians
What she looks like

If there weren’t any Russian girls around, you’d have to invent them. These girls don’t just go on vacation to read a good book and get a little color. No, beach life to them is a kind of daily soap in which they are the stars.

These are the women that Champagne showers were made for, women who know how to play any mood from frivolous to dreamy with absolute perfection. When Russian girls are around, the meaning of the expression “see and be seen” is fully revealed. Who else would plonk a fat wad of cash down on the counter for the attendant who sets up her beach umbrella in the first row?

What she wears
Preferably very little, but what is there is richly adorned. Flashy to a Russian woman is not a criticism but, in fact, a compliment. But even the Russians have eased off the Western status symbols and stopped carrying everything except big luxury-brand handbags.

Actually, the minimalist bags by Céline that they’ve been using on the beach with such nonchalance have attained the same status as their latest breast implants. Russian girls love to show off what they’ve got. As for other apparel, it’s pretty much the same as ever: heels and short skirts. Did I mention luscious lips?

The British
What she looks like
What having to wear a school uniform does to you is clear by looking at the British women. Because they want to stand out from the others, they focus on original details that will set their uniform-wearing selves apart. On holiday, whether they’re a drunk bunch of girlfriends in Magaluf (Mallorca) or jet setters on Mykonos, they may be minus the uniform, but that penchant for distinguishing detail sets their outfits apart, giving them an individual albeit very motley look.

What she wears
The world could be coming to an end, but British girls would still be wearing their heels, as much a part of them as that little wave is to the Queen. And whether it be alcohol or styling, they pile it on. As far as the look goes, it’s as if they were striving to create their own version of Kate Moss, a mixture of rock bitch and beach babe.

Incredible numbers of chains are thus as de rigueur as sunglasses with lenses as big as bicycle wheels. But if more is desirable in the accessories department, less applies to the rest of the outfit. British girls wear the shortest skirts, the tightest tops, and the most form-fitting jeans that they enhance with their own amusing little add-ons.

The French
What she looks like
If, at the beach bar, you see a woman eat one grape for lunch but wash it down with a glass of rosé, then you can be sure you’re looking at a French girl. To her, pleasure and beauty are not mutually exclusive. French women tend to look a bit bored but cool, even though they may have endured five hours of standstill traffic on their drive down to the Côte from Paris, something they’d rather not discuss.

What they wear
Hippy — sorry, Bohemian — chic is what a French girl wears at the beach. That means bright tunics, glittery sandals, a lot of costume jewelry and something by Chanel, because French girls see the beach as a sort of catwalk. Never would a French woman show up badlymon Dieu! — practically attired on the beach, and so they manage to turn even the most unprepossessing resort into a kind of mini Saint-Tropez.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!