It is that time of year when we pack our suitcases and head out across the world on our summer vacations. Whether it is the gentle beaches of the Mediterranean, the Art Deco delights of Miami or the exotic appeal of the Orient, we British spread our wings across the globe as Travellers and Holidaymakers and in reverse, a swathe of tourists descend on Great Britain from around the world.
But how are we perceived, both as we travel and by the tourists that come to these shores? According to a recent report published by the British Council, we are not doing too badly, but there is much room for improvement. (The survey took in 5,000 people aged 18-34 from countries such as Brazil, China and the USA, it can be found here)
We are seen as hard drinkers, eaters of bad food, and ignorant and intolerant of other cultures. I see these as partially a hangover, excuse the pun, from the past, and partially true. I can confirm this is true from my personal experience when the Perfect Gentleman has run courses to people coming to this country from France, Brazil and USA. Indeed, as I am teetotal and don’t follow football, when I am overseas few people beleive me to be British.
They all seem to think of us drunkards chewing on revolting food. The latter is exceptionally untrue these days, indeed London is a only a few Michelin Stars behind New York and above every other American city. That is not to mention the breadth of cuisine you can get across the whole of the UK.
As for the drinking culture, gone are the days of a few pints at lunchtime (or more) for most of the workforce, but there is still a way to go to see that excessive alcohol consumption is not always the answer to a great night out.
But it is not all bad, we are known for politeness and good manners, which is a relief. We are also known for our culture and history, something that we should be exploiting and extolling at all times. In fact, the British Gentleman is a key part of that culture and history, I am glad to say, but it seems to be relegated to history generally, especially when we head overseas.
So what do we need to do as Gentlemen to improve our national identity still further.
We need to show that we are far from the pink skinned, union jack wearing, bear toting stereotypes of exploitative reality shows and garish headlines. We need to say that we as British people are more than that, we are better than the fading stereotypes and the Tabloid newspapers.
We have to change on the inside. All of us. Then we need to show this change to the visitors to our shores and to the wide world at large when we travel.
We need to cultivate the value of Respect, enabling us to respect other cultures and peoples. We need to embrace languages and try and speak them. We need to dress with style and flair when we are overseas.
We need to show visitors to Great Britain not only the castles and the Globe theatre, but also the Jerk chicken stalls and the haute cuisine of the chef Jason Atherton. We need to show them the history of the Pub without drowning them in beer and we need to laud the Ladies and Gentlemen who fly the flag so well for us around the Globe.
Let us as Gentlemen do our bit for our Country and change the perceptions for the better.
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