There are countless Great British exports known the world over. These are the things that we’re known for, the stuff that gives us a global identity. From legendary spies in luxury cars to grown men shouting ‘Ni!’, we’ve definitely got an international presence. So, what does the world see when it looks at Britain? What are our greatest exports, and which countries love them?
Musical Great British Exports
Some of the biggest and most enduring Great British exports are of the ear-food variety. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, Queen… When you’ve got practically as many tribute acts in Japan as you do in Europe and America, you know your music scene’s doing alright. Even the 2012 Olympics gave the world audience plenty of what they know best about Britain – our music.
Did you know that Bananarama have had more worldwide hits than any other girl group in history? That Iron Maiden sell out stadiums in South America? Or that The Police’s Every Breath You Take held the number-one spot in the US billboard charts for eight weeks? Radiohead’s Creep shot to fame in Israel first, with subsequent success in Spain and New Zealand, dwarfing their early UK record sales. Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin created the template for scores of US metal bands to come. Since then, even to the modern day, musicians like Bowie and Florence Welch have given the UK a worldwide reputation for reinvention and experimentation, and a soaring, classical modernity respectively. In terms of variety and enduring global appeal, it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that Britannia rules the airwaves.
Automotive Great British Exports
Jaguar Land Rover is Britain’s largest car maker, and exports to 38 markets around the world – and in 2013 alone, the company enjoyed a 19% increase in sales over 2012. British motor exports have stayed strong even through the recession, and both Jaguar and Land Rover models enjoy a good degree of demand in countries like Russia, Korea, India and Brazil. This is a prestige market – British car manufacturers generally being regarded as innovators and sticklers for a classic sense of style.
Let’s not forget the other big British car brands either – Rolls Royce and Bentley are enjoying huge foreign demand for luxury, high-performance cars made in Britain. British car brands may be largely owned by foreign companies, but the style and the production of the cars is still very British – and it’s as totems of Britishness that these cars are so popular abroad, everywhere from the USA to the Middle East. Of course, it helps that brands like Bentley are favourites among the likes of Her Royal Highness and James Bond himself…
Cinematic Great British Exports
Everyone on Earth knows how James Bond likes his vodka Martini. Creatures on planets at the other side of the universe can do a Sean Connery impression, even the species to whom the concept of ‘impressions’ are incomprehensible. As a Great British export, Bond’s done alright for himself. It’s not hard to fathom the global appeal of the franchise – if the films’ sophisticated action fantasylands of fast cars, huge explosions and general clothing droughts don’t do it for audiences, then the thought of jetting off to Istanbul or Montenegro certainly will. There’s one destination in particular that can’t get enough of James – the Caribbean, 007’s favourite stomping and/or yachting ground, which has enjoyed an immense amount of cinema screen time ever since Dr No.
Another British export visible from space is Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Tickets for a one-off London show coming this year sold out in 43 seconds, and it wasn’t just British audiences buying. The Pythons are in their seventies now – and nevertheless, fans around the globe are asking for a world tour. It seems that British daftness knows no boundaries… and wafer-thin mints, naughty non-Messiahs and sorcerors named Tim seem to appeal whether you live in Rochdale or Rome.
Televisual Great British Exports
The US has fallen in love with a score of Great British exports for TV. Peep Show, The Office and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? are all hugely successful British exports to American screens. Search YouTube for nature documentaries, and the 60-year work of David Attenborough comes out on top. Doctor Who is one of the greatest British exports in entertainment history, with a gigantic following in Australia and the States – although non-English-speaking countries like Japan still have something of a cultural hurdle when it comes to embracing the show’s quintessentially British flavour. Mr Bean, however, is known the world over – it’s British humour without the language barrier, and it’s a nice cakey slice of clean, accessible humour. And, for some reason, it’s insanely popular in Morocco.
Sherlock Holmes transcends the cultural divide too, and enjoys huge success in China. As in, huge. His appeal draws on China’s love for an idealised vision of Britain, one of nobility and eccentricity – and the new TV series of Sherlock has won millions of admirers in China for its plots, characterisation and its movie-style production values. He’s not known primarily as ‘Sherlock’ in China, though – his Chinese name is Fuermosi. And their name for Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the great man? Curly Fu, owing to his famously wavy Cumberthatch. Why Watson is commonly referred to as ‘Peanut’, however, is anyone’s guess.
Article photos courtesy of N. Preston, L. Salmoral, B. R. Kitties and BBC/N. Wong; Flickr/Photopin.