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31 Jul, 2014

British Council Survey: Brits Polite & Friendly but Drink Too Much

London, 29 July 2014, British Council media release – Research by the British Council shows that the UK’s culture and history are our biggest draws in the eyes of the world – but the UK weather and food put the most people off.

The research was carried out for the British Council by Ipsos MORI and In2Impact among young adults in Brazil, China, Germany, India and the USA. When asked which one thing makes the UK attractive to them, culture was the most common response, followed by history. When asked which one thing makes the UK unattractive, weather was the most common answer, followed by food.

The report, called As Others See Us, also gives an insight into what the rest of the world thinks about the UK’s people. ‘Politeness and good manners’ emerged as our best characteristic (46%), followed by ‘educated and skilled’ (37%). ‘Friendly’ (31%), ‘respecting the rule of law’ (27%) and ‘sense of humour’ (25%) complete the top five*.

But, when it comes to our worst characteristics, ‘drinking too much’ was the top answer (27%) with ‘bad eating habits’ in second place (23%). These were followed by three characteristics on a similar theme: ‘ignorance of other cultures’ (22%), ‘too nationalistic’ (22%) and ‘intolerance towards people from other countries’ (20%)*.

An eclectic range of people were identified as the UK’s three greatest cultural icons. When asked to name a person they are interested in and associate with contemporary UK Arts and culture, William Shakespeare was the most common answer, followed by the Queen and David Beckham.

A wider survey that included young adults in Great Britain (in addition to the five countries mentioned above) showed that, in terms of overall ‘attractiveness’, the UK was ranked second only to the USA, sharing joint second place with Australia – with France in fourth place and Italy in fifth (respondents could not rate their own country).

The report calls on the UK to recognise the value of home-grown arts and culture, and to support and invest in them.

John Worne, Director of Strategy at the British Council, said: “This research confirms culture and education are among the UK’s biggest assets in attracting people from important countries to the UK’s future. But, while there’s a lot to be proud of, some stereotypes still colour the way that we’re viewed overseas: boozy, bad eaters and ignorant of other cultures all figure in our worst characteristics.

“At our best we are rated ‘polite’, ‘educated’ and ‘friendly’, and the English language, our cities, universities, Arts and culture definitely make people want to visit, study and do business here. So there’s plenty we can do to ensure that the nation’s smile matches its many attractions in the eyes of the world – and that’s a job for us all.”

The research was carried out as part of the British Council’s work to build people-to-people relationships for the UK around the world through English, education and culture.