Report: What makes UK attractive to young adults?

What makes people like a country? New research, released today, surveyed more than 1,000 18- to 34-year-olds in each of six countries: Brazil, China, Germany, India, the US and the UK. So what did people think of the UK? Anne Bostanci breaks down the results.

Is the UK the most attractive country in the world?

No, the UK does not quite come out top, but it is doing extremely well!

When respondents were asked to choose up to three preferences from a list of the top 15 economies, the UK came joint second with Australia at 36 per cent each. The US topped the table at 60 per cent as the most attractive country overall.

Looking at people, education and culture – important parts of what makes a country attractive – the UK comes second to the US with regard to its people and its education institutions, and fourth for its culture after France, Italy and the US.

What ingredients go into making a country attractive?

People’s perceptions of a country are based on a combination of different factors — and there are probably too many to ever capture them all.

But it is possible to identify an instructive range of things that contribute to making a country attractive, and the British Council’s research shows which are the most important. Among them are cultural and historic attractions, countryside and landscape, people, cities, arts, and a reputation for being safe and secure (all of which are mentioned by more than half of all respondents in the six survey countries).

They are followed by weather, history, language, technology and infrastructure, social and political institutions, economy and business environment, and education system and institutions, all of which are mentioned by around one third or more of all respondents.

‘Culture’ tops them all – but some countries have slightly different views…

Culture is a particularly important factor of attractiveness. It was mentioned far more often, even in response to an open-ended question, than any other factor.

This notion of ‘culture’ is obviously a broad one. For instance, when asked to name a person they are interested in and associate with contemporary UK arts and culture, respondents came up with the following:

  1. William Shakespeare (by far!)
  2. Her Majesty the Queen
  3. David Beckham

The list also included others as diverse as J.K. Rowling, Churchill, Mr Bean, Adele, Benedict Cumberbatch, Banksy, and Damien Hirst. This list illustrates the many aspects of a culture that play a role in shaping someone’s impression of a country. Mr Bean is a fictional character rather than a real person; and Shakespeare, as a person, is not exactly ‘contemporary’. Yet the former enjoys continued popularity on foreign TV channels and the latter’s work is studied in more than half of the world’s schools.

The UK came joint second with Australia at 36 per cent each as the most attractive country overall.


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