Tuesday 29 July 2014


  • Culture and history the UK’s most attractive features, weather and food its least
  • Politeness and education our people’s best traits, drinking and eating habits our worst
  • Shakespeare, the Queen and David Beckham our biggest cultural icons

Research by the British Council shows that the UK’s culture and history are our biggest draws in the eyes of the world – but our 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.


Notes to Editor

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Mark Moulding in the British Council Press Office on 0207 389 4889 or mark.moulding@britishcouncil.org

The full report is available at: http://www.britishcouncil.org/organisation/publications/as-others-see-us

The full research results – including a country breakdown – are available on request.

Technical note:

Research was conducted among 5,029 online panellists: 18–34 year olds in Brazil (1,003), China (1,007), Germany (1,003), India (1,006), and the US (1,010), with a minimum of secondary level education. The question about attractive/unattractive features of the UK was asked of a fifth of the total sample in each country (c.200 respondents in each). The remainder were asked about other countries (randomly allocated).

The data on overall attractiveness of countries is based on the same research, but includes an extra sample from Great Britain (1,022).

* For each question on characteristics, respondents chose from a list of ten answers, with additional options for ‘other – please specify’, ‘don’t know’, and ‘none of these’.

Data are weighted on gender and age to reflect the relevant population profiles.

Fieldwork took place between 18 December 2013 and 17 January 2014 and was conducted by Ipsos MORI. Analysis of the data was provided by In2Impact.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 7000 staff – including 2000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year teaching English, sharing the Arts and in education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A publically-funded grant-in-aid provides less than a quarter of our turnover which last year was £781m.  The rest we earn from English teaching, UK exams and services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with other institutions, brands and companies.  All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and creates prosperity and security for the UK and the countries we work in all around the world.

For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org. You can also keep in touch with the British Council through http://twitter.com/britishcouncil and http://blog.britishcouncil.org