Huffington Post: Whatever the weather, culture is our biggest draw


Once again we’re in the middle of a heatwave – which isn’t all that unusual for a British summer (cast your mind back to our sun-drenched, rose-tinted Olympic summer of 2012 as the sun shines on Glasgow 2014).

But the rest of the world just doesn’t believe it.

In the British Council’s new report, As Others See Us – we learn what people from key countries for the UK’s future think of us. And, the biggest cloud on the horizon? The British weather rains on our parade.

But the good news is that the news is, in fact, mostly good.

The report shows that, despite some faults, we’re still an extremely attractive country in the eyes of the world. In terms of overall ‘attractiveness’ as a nation, we (along with Australia) come second only to the United States.

So what is it that makes us so attractive?

In regards to our national character, our politeness and good manners come top, followed by the fact that we’re considered educated and skilled. The world also thinks we’re friendly, respect the rule of law, and have a great sense of humour.

And, when asked which one thing makes the UK attractive to them, the top response – by quite a significant margin – is ‘culture’.

UK culture means different things to different people. But the top three cultural figures from our global sample were William Shakespeare, HM The Queen and David Beckham.

And therein lies one of our biggest advantages. The UK’s cultural attractions span hundreds of years (in fact thousands as Stonehenge gets a regular mention). What attracts the world to the UK encompasses everything – the stage, the pitch, the throne and more.

But the survey also gets personal, and looks at what the world thinks about the less attractive characteristics of UK people. And they told us that our worst traits are drinking too much (as if we didn’t know), bad eating habits (how dare they), and – less good news for our international cultural relations – ignorance of other cultures, being too nationalistic, and intolerance towards people from other countries.

Hmmm, we need to keep working on the nation’s smile to shift the latent stereotype of boozy, flag waving Brits eating junk food in the rain.

But overall, despite the odd hiccup and belch, we’re considered an attractive bunch. The English language, our great cultural attractions, our universities, sports and arts scene save our bacon – and bring it home too.

Official statistics show that, even in tough economic times, the UK’s creative industries have been growing, and at a rate that outperforms any other sector of UK industry.

The latest estimates put the value of the UK’s creative industries to the UK economy at more than £71 billion a year – that’s £8 million an hour.

So there’s plenty to be proud of when it comes to UK culture and our national image. And that’s important as it attracts people from around the world to visit, study here and do business with us.

The world may (wrongly this week) think that our weather’s terrible – but the sun never sets on UK culture, and it shines all around the world.