UK: 'Racism, lager louts, wild girls'
Mainland students travelling to British universities leave home with their heads full of Jane Austen, garden parties and polite gentlemen, only to have their dreams shattered by drunk lager louts and 'wild girls in short skirts', according to a new study.
Half had experienced racism and many were afraid to walk in the streets at night, the report said. The prognosis for Britain 'was not good'.
However, the report said older British people were seen as polite and Britain's independent legal system was considered much fairer than the mainland's guanxi system, dominated by personal influence.
The study, conducted for the British Council by a Glasgow University professor, was based on 'open-ended' interviews with 35 mainland students, teachers and cultural workers plus five administrators.
The report's author, Greg Philo, research director of the university's media group, followed these up by interviewing 120 students on educational quality.
'Before people came to Britain, beliefs about the country were generally overwhelmingly positive,' Professor Philo wrote, adding that the preconceptions were largely based on classic literature such as Charles Dickens and Sherlock Holmes. 'These great expectations were shattered when people lived in Britain. They were shocked especially at the behaviour of young people, who were seen as drunken and out of control, with streets unsafe to walk on.'
One interviewee said there was an 'undercurrent of discrimination against other races'. Two-thirds of the sample were concerned about the 'out of control' drink culture among Britain's younger generation.
'Young people get drunk, the behaviour would be frightening,' said one student.
Another began his British experience in York, which turned out to be 'even more beautiful' than the country he had imagined before arriving. But he saw a different side of Britain when he later moved to Leeds.
'It was rough and dirty. Girls danced on tables with no underwear, wore short skirts, were vulgar,' the report quoted him as saying.
But when asked what they wanted to take back home, the interviewees cited British people's relaxed lifestyle, the politeness of the older generation and a sense of public duty.