National traits take a television holiday

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The Independent Online
CHANNEL 4 secretly filmed 120 tourists from four countries for a "mammoth psychological experiment" into national stereotypes, writes Paul McCann. The Tourist Trap, which airs next month, used hidden microphones and cameras to film tourists from Britain, Germany, Japan and the US on a free holiday in Turkey they were told might make a television show.

Undercover actors tried to provoke their compatriots into showing national differences by stealing, confessing a likely adultery, queue-jumping and taking a naked shower. The organisers also tried to provoke reactions in the tourists by lacing their wine with vinegar to see who would send it back, organising a toga party and a sandcastle-building competition. The Britons were least worried about the actor stealing drinks while a barman's back was turned and joined in drinking them.

The Japanese ostracised their supposed thief and came close to informing on him to the hotel.

In some ways the tourists, matched to be the same age, class background and occupations, lived up to national stereotypes. But the film-makers also found some surprises: the normally restrained Japanese were as boisterous as the British, and the Americans spent much time trying to break the hotel's no-smoking rules. The tourists were told on the last day they had been secretly filmed and gave permission to have the results broadcast.