Localism. Now here's a topic close to my heart...
Sometimes it's a reaction to too many fun-boarders (sorry people), surfing unlike several decades ago is now accessable & easy to become involved in. It's easier to learn, specific boards are even made for that purpose, more gut-sliders, you name it, the water is polluted with learners wanting to stand up & call themselves a surfer...before they move on after their summer holiday to the next season's cool marketed consumer experience like snowboarding or whatever.
The thing is if anything...localism has died. Yep. compaired to the primal type-"a" male surfing crowd of the late 70's etc when you didn't even see older men or women in the water (they wern't yet a market to be taped) most breaks are well populated with a variety of people of sexes & ages these days....never saw that 2-3 decades ago did we?
Real locals have given up. They've been overrun with mals, mini-mals & funboards. Game over...People playing localism these days are throwbacks to a lost era.
I travel & surf alot, I never have any problems at foreign breaks. It's simple, before paddling out into a semi-crowded break...just watch awhile, see who's getting waves & who's not, why- are they kooks, try-hards or just useless. Are they being snaked by locals? Just watch & see, if you see a good break working properly all surfers (within reason)will be getting waves, however, if you see lots of guys paddling trying to "call" a wave, or paddling inside of others...there are problems within the pack.. If you can, suss out who the "alpha male" is, is there a ringleader? There usually is.
When you identify him, paddle out & sit near him. Don't hide you've got every right to be there.
Now, when a waves comes, you'll (mysteriously) get the oppertunity to catch it & display. You'd better. Paddle like sh_t, catch it & ride it. If you do, you'll get your share of waves all day and be treated as an equal. If you fail, you're fu_ked...and you may as well get out of the water cause you won't get a wave to yourself for the remainder of your session.
Yep people, standard crowd behaviour, just like on the discovery channel.
For a far more articulate description of this stuff & relating it to surfing go to surfline.com & check out "surfology", best reading I've ever seen on the topic.