What makes a country attractive?
June 9, 2005 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Help me with my senior research: What makes a country attractive to others?

In his book Soft Power, Joseph Nye defines soft power as "the ability to get others to do what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments," elaborating that soft power "arises from the attractiveness of a country's culture, political ideas, and policies" (x).

In order to even start my research on soft power, I've got to figure out how to measure it so I'm currently brainstorming possible indicators. Nye suggests things like music and book sales, life expectancy, and number of Nobel prize awards, among others.

So, when weighing how you feel about a country, what factors do you consider? What determines whether you find another country attractive or unattractive?
posted by Crushinator to Education (9 answers total)
How hot the women are.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:46 AM on June 9, 2005

The coffee.
posted by keswick at 9:47 AM on June 9, 2005

Beer and quality comedy television are two factors for me. That's why I love Ireland and the UK respectively.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:50 AM on June 9, 2005

Your best indicators for the variable itself will be survey responses, if they exist. You might look into Eurobarometer or World Values Survey to see if they ask respondents how they feel about some list of countries -- feeling thermometer scores would be ideal. You'd be limited to whatever countries they ask about, but that should be acceptable for a senior thesis. Both are in ICPSR as far as I know.

I dunno that a cross-section will tell you much other than which countries have done something embarrassing lately (invaded Iraq, blown up Greenpeace, whatever), but the alternative is ugly time-series stuff.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:55 AM on June 9, 2005

It really has a lot to do with what a country wears and how it takes care of itself. Sometimes I sidle up to a country at the bar and say "hey baby, that's some GDP you're wearing there" and discover that what I thought was a hot immigration policy is really just poorly guarded boarders. Sometimes a country is really hot that first night but then the next day I gotta say "baby, baby, I'm looking for some short-term market fluxuations in currency values, not to join a Warsaw Pact wit chu, you knew that when we met."

Seriously, when you ask what makes a country attractive, in what sense do you mean? As a somewhat business-minded person I find China's population and future buying potential attractive so if you mean as a "customer", I find them attractive. Mexico's labor pool and regulatory issues makes them attractive as an "employee." Canada's health care and progressive politics makes them attractive to me if I had to pick a place to live but I have almost no interest in vacationing there. I'd love to see Cuba on the other hand but obviously don't want to live there.

Or are you looking to quantify some magic conglomeration of these traits to come up with a gestalt describing our overall positive and negative views on a country? In which case I'd probably say that what makes one attractive or not to me depends on how well it fulfills my expectations, desires and needs from it.

Someplace like Ireland that I have an interest in visiting and living would rank high. Panama would rank low. Cuba and Canada in the middle.
posted by phearlez at 10:05 AM on June 9, 2005

Attractive as in live there? Or attractive as in travel there?

My concerns as a citizen:
Some safety nets without too much taxation.

A government and bureaucracy that is as unobtrusive as possible. Specifically little/no legislation concerning personal freedom as long as the practice of that freedom does not harm others.

Protection of the environment which includes reliable, easily accessed mass transit as well as large green spaces open to all.

A citizenry that is relatively cheerful and knows how to have a good time, but still get some work accomplished.

The ability of the average citizen to earn a relatively comfortable life style. Not the ability to buy anything your heart desires and live in a vast mansion and drive a gas guzzler, but access to good quality food, affordable housing, basic health services, and a good education for everyone.

My concerns as a tourist:

Spectacular scenery

Safety. In particular safety from being kidnapped, blown-up, murdered, or raped. A little theft is not going to bother me. Safety as well from life-threatening diseases such as Ebola or SARs.

Interesting local traditions, arts, costumes, cuisine. Good museums, architecture, and botanical collections.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:50 AM on June 9, 2005

For me, it was industry. Some industries, such as film, aerospace, video games, etc., only exist in a small few very-large-economy countries. If you want to work in those areas, and your country doesn't have that kind of industry in a substantial way, both moving to the top of your field, or simply getting a foot in the door, will likely mean moving to another country.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:29 PM on June 9, 2005

One of the foremost factors in my opinion of a nation is how authoritarian I perceive it to be. A nation's degree of social regulation also colors my opinions strongly. An authoritarian, socially oppressive country is likely to be unattractive to me than one that takes its citizens and their rights more seriously.

The Mayor's and keswick's indicative factors -- tongue in cheek that they may be -- also ring fairly true to me.
posted by majick at 2:37 PM on June 9, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your insightful (and humorous) responses. I appreciate your help.
posted by Crushinator at 7:26 PM on June 9, 2005

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