Who are the friendliest people on earth?

by on January 29, 2010 at 7:12 am in Data Source, Travel | Permalink

Chug points me to this latest survey, and here is the list:


1. Bahrain


2. Canada


3. Australia


4. Thailand


5. Malaysia


6. South Africa


7. Hong Kong


8. Singapore


9. Spain


10. United States


That means friendly to expats, not friendly to each other.  You’ll notice that English-speaking or English-fluent countries are overrepresented, plus Thailand (ahem).


Here is a critique of the survey and mostly I concur with the criticisms (sorry Omar).  More generally, unless it is a woman seeking marriage, I view “friendliness to expats” as a social strategy, often intended for internal consumption, not necessarily insincere but not reflecting true temperament either.  It’s not driven by actual friendliness.  By the way, how did Spain ever make it to number nine?


Are the Japanese the most or the least friendly people on earth?  “Helpful” isn’t the same as “friendly.”  In what country are you most likely to make real friends?  Marry a native?  Aren’t those two variables inversely related?


“Friendly” is one of the words most likely to arouse my deconstructive suspicions.

Andrew January 29, 2010 at 7:22 am

English speakers and Thais, probably for the same reason.

Tyler D January 29, 2010 at 7:56 am

there are two Hs in the http of that second link

Eric January 29, 2010 at 8:08 am

After living in Japan for 5+ years, speaking fluent Japanese and getting a PhD from a Japanese university, I have to say Japanese are among the least friendly. As you note, friendly isn’t the same as helpful, but even in the “helpful” category Japan doesn’t rank at the top. You don’t really get a sense for the people of a country by visiting for a week or two, however this is the only option most people have to judge other countries.

Bruce January 29, 2010 at 8:44 am

The survey actually has very little to do with “friendliness” at all, it’s really a tool for examining the ease of which new immigrants felt integrated. Friendliness was one of the categories, but it was measured in a very specific way, not one I would take too seriously as a general indicator. This would say little with respect to tourist behaviour, for example.

Also, that survey is methodologically questionable; Bahrain comes out on top because 31 of about 2000 respondents rated it highly, about 1.5% of the sample group. That’s got to be roughly the sampling uncertainty, but the doughnutheads at HSBC and Forbes reported it with straight faces anyway. This is why social science has such a bad name guys! Do your stats right and pull up your socks! This is pretty inexcusable.

Henry January 29, 2010 at 9:13 am

Most friendly place? At least in the Western Hemisphere, Costa Rica by a mile, both to expats and to each other.

Spaniard January 29, 2010 at 9:26 am

Why do you say that of Spanish people?
You could tell us any bad experience AT LEAST !!!

Tom January 29, 2010 at 10:09 am

Here’s a couple of examples of kindness me or my parents received as foreigners living in Japan:
-Never having to wait more than 10 minutes for someone to pick me up hitchhiking.
-A complete stranger letting met stay at their home when I was stuck, alone, without a hotel room while on the road travelling (three separate occasions).
Things like this happened all the time to me. That was while living in a rural area of the country though– I might not have received similar treatment in Tokyo. I guess you could say that those people were just trying to be ‘helpful’ and not ‘friendly’ but I don’t see much of a difference. How can you tell actual friendliness from the fake variety anyway?

Brian January 29, 2010 at 10:36 am

Had a good laugh at Spain at #9–must’ve been folks who spent most of their time in Andalucia.

Costa Rica the friendliest in the Americas? Sure, if irritating machismo doesn’t bother you–but please check in with your female friends.

Given the biases of the survey, surprised The Philippines didn’t crack the top 10.

Donnie January 29, 2010 at 11:02 am

Canada has been very welcoming to me. I’m an American expat, and although I get teased a lot about it, it is usually all in good fun. That being said, I live in Toronto, and you’re not exactly going to get people walking up to you on the street and talking to you here. Once you get past the total stranger awkwardness though people are very accepting. Probably because half the people that live in the city were born in another country!

Outside of Toronto I’ve found people to be downright friendly, even to strangers, and I lived in Oklahoma before I came here so that’s saying a lot.

Michael F. Martin January 29, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Not Finland? really?

thehova January 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Wild generalization, but I find locales with a tumultuous past are unfriendly.

The English speaking world has been roughly free of the chaos of the 20th century.

Rahul January 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Australia ? Wow! This is strange. Last I heard they were hurling racial abuses and attacks on Indians, with their ministers apologizing for the incompetence as far as maintaining law and order is concerned.

franko January 29, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Canada got pipped by Bahrain? Really? Sample size issues there since Canada is a must-see kind of destination whereas Bahrain is a leeeeetle beeet out of the way, no? And take it from me, a denizen of toronto, the most friendly places are outside the major urban centres and their suburbs (toronto, vancouver, montreal, ottawa, calgary). So sod off >;-#

hibikir January 29, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Spain varies heavily by region. You’ll find your fair share of friendly attitudes in many places. Now, if you were stuck in Barcelona, just think that over there, even a Spaniard that dares not speak Catalan will be treated like a foreigner: That’s what a few decades of regionalistic bile will do.

John January 29, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Rahul, as an ethnic Australian (not Indian, but I have many Indian friends), I would say that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear in the news. Plenty of racism here, but less than in almost every other country I’ve been in (unless, of course, you’re aboriginal). Besides, most of the expats in the survey would be fluent English speakers I’d guess, which makes a big difference.

I’m curious about a ranking of countries by marriage rates between expats and locals. That says a lot to me about whether racial difference is genuinely accepted. Don’t see how it is necessarily inversely related with making local ‘friends’.

twasher January 29, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Note the difference in scores for “making friends” and “making local friends” in places like Singapore and Malaysia. A friendly expatriate community doesn’t translate into friendly locals.

k January 29, 2010 at 7:55 pm

After living in Japan for 5+ years, speaking fluent Japanese and getting a PhD from a Japanese university, I have to say Japanese are among the least friendly
Japanese people dont like foreigners that speak japanese.

mae January 29, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I’ve been to 5 of the countries on the list, and many other countries. Spain is the most unbearably unfriendly place I have ever been. (Spent 2 months there once but it seemed like eternity). The only person who ever talked to me, showed me a photo of her son, stuff like that ended the conversation by mentioning that her psych drugs were working better than before — in other words, the only friendly Spaniard is certified mentally ill. Two or three people who had STAYED IN OUR HOME and had eaten at our house a number of times while in our town, never so much as invited us to have a drink.

Countries I have found more friendly than Spain: US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy (my candidate for #1), Israel, Hungary, Japan, Hong Kong, England, Ireland. I have been in people’s homes in every one of them, but not Madrid.

Ricardo January 30, 2010 at 1:49 am

I agree with everyone else’s defense of Thailand. Some Thais do speak English and exude genuine friendliness. I’ve had long road-side conversations with street vendors who didn’t expect any extra business from me and invited to join groups of locals who were motivated by little more than curiosity and hospitality (e.g. I didn’t pay for their food or drinks and was not expected to).

The Philippines is similar so I’m also surprised it didn’t crack the top 10. It’s very easy for anyone who wants to make the effort to make genuine local friends.

There is the point, though, that race can matter quite a bit. I don’t have the illusion that a black person would necessarily find these countries equally welcoming as most of the “expats” in the survey were almost certainly white. I’ve heard Chinese-Americans who don’t speak Chinese can encounter outright hostility in China or Taiwan while Caucasians who don’t speak the language will be treated very well.

Heru Muskita January 30, 2010 at 7:19 am

I think you have to define friendly. If you include the ease of marrying natives as friendly, Indonesia is certainly one of the friendliest country.

CBBB January 31, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Funny, I JUST got back from a vacation to Thailand and I didn’t find them unfriendly but they didn’t seem to live up to the hype either.

Staufer February 3, 2010 at 4:36 am

Living as an expat in the Philippines, I am also surprised that the Philippines didn’t make it to the top ten. It is fairly easy to make local friends, there is far less need to move only in expat circles; the culture is rather open, communication is easy. I don’t see why Malaysia with its latent tensions should be friendlier. Traffic behaviour is the only instance where this breaks down – people don’t accomodate strangers – it’s devil take the hindmost all the time…

Kermit February 14, 2010 at 7:49 am

Yes, please do not believe everything you hear about Australia in the media. The reportings really are exaggerated and distorted just to create a good story. Unfortunately it spreads hate against Australia that really is completely unjust. The dead set honest truth is that Australians are an incredibly happy, bubbly and friendly bunch of people, always willing to help anyone. We are very generous when it comes to aiding international nations in disaster.

traveldog April 11, 2010 at 10:44 am

It’s really hard to define what “friendly people” means. I live in London. When I firstly came here I couldn’t believe how rude people looked like. After a few months looks like the friendliest place on earth. It is pretty unfair to judge a place for just being there for a few days, it is just nothing. Apart from that, cultural differences are the key. For a Greek might look friendlier a Spanish or an Italian but a German may find it rude, but staying in a place for more than a few weeks helps you to find out more. It’s like buying a chocolate and you judge it by the cover paper, but you need to eat it in order to understand.

I like Spaniards, they may look strange especially with English speakers but if you live there you will be surprised how easy going and helpful could be. I found Barcelona a place with a great human touch but for a tourist could look a place full of arrogant people, lawless, dangerous, but as I said you need to live in order to understand.

I found the Irish very clannish and anti-foreigner. I can’t believe how over rated Ireland could be while in every forum they promote it as a friendly and open minded country. For me it looks very backwards.

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