Published On: Wed, Jul 10th, 2024
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I worked in Tenerife for two years – there’s a dark side of the island | World | News


At the age of 20, after completing my second year at university, I embarked on an unforgettable journey to Tenerife with a friend. We had secured jobs as bartenders and had our own flat just a stone’s throw from all the action in Playa De Las Americas – the island’s party hotspot.

The exhilaration of independence was what thrilled us most. Like many young tourists on the island, it was our first taste of such freedom.

The resort is the perfect recipe for a party holiday – a stunning beach with boat parties aplenty, a plethora of bars with top-notch DJs offering cheap drinks, and other fun-loving tourists ready for a good time.

However, there’s a sinister side to the island, a serious drug underworld. It’s easy to see how some unsuspecting Irish and Brits abroad can innocently land themselves in hot water.

The case of missing 19-year-old Jay Slater has been making headlines over the past few weeks. It’s every parent’s worst fear to wave their teenager off on their first holiday with mates, only for them not to return, reports Wales Online.

The British teen attended a music festival in the south of Tenerife and the police have since called off the search for him, although the missing person case remains open.

Seven years back, working and residing in Tenerife lived up to my dreams. Such was the allure that I returned for another season.

Earning less than €4 an hour and serving cocktails for six nights didn’t bother me as I was enjoying life immensely. Days meant lazying around by the pool or sunning at the beach, evenings were accentuated by serving refreshments with a cheerful mien, and off-duty times boasted VIP access to supreme festivals and vivacious parties.

Emphasising on the job’s hidden obligations during those high-spirited nights often included drinking while working. In these tourist-centric bars, your job didn’t just end at serving drinks; you were expected to epitomise excitement and energy.

The arrival of bar hopping groups signalled the start of the show: scramble onto the public-house counter, initiate a round of dances, and proceed to serve shots directly into eager mouths.

However, vaulting onto the bar counter wasn’t really my cup of tea, an emotion reflected in my manager’s observations when they stated that I “needed to be more fun like the other girls”.

Shortly after, I decided to shift scenes to a karaoke pub, catering to hen and stag parties which did nothing further to increase my faith in love – noting the regular exit of brides and groom-to-be with the evening’s entertainers.

I observed other bars deeply involved in illicit activities, providing a haven for dealers throughout the night. Many young workers on the strip, oblivious to the serious risks, found themselves caught up in dangerous situations linked to these dealers.

Guiding drug-seeking tourists to these dealers would earn them a swift €10. In stark contrast, my friend and I begged for tips just to quench our thirst, unlike others who seemed to live without such financial worries.

While the culture of drinking while on duty was promoted, there were penalties for overindulgence. The punishment?

A €50 fine, which surpassed our nightly earnings. We were also obligated to dedicate three or four hours each week to thoroughly clean the bar. Failure to show up resulted in another €50 fine.

The two summers I spent there were certainly unforgettable, but I count myself lucky not to have faced any serious issues – except for the time my handbag was forcibly taken from me as I walked home. Every country or city has its problems, but these party destinations seem to function within their own lawless microcosms.

To all young people setting off on your first party holiday, have fun, but stay vigilant.



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