The Objectively Least Similar Countries

Have you ever wondered which countries are the least similar to each other? According to the Country Similarity Index, Niger and Japan are the least similar countries in the world. Their demographics, culture, governments, infrastructure, and geography are extremely different.

Japan happens to be an outlier among countries for a variety of reasons. It is frequently the least similar country to most developing countries outside of Asia. The three least similar countries to Japan are all landlocked countries located in located in the Sahara Desert in Africa. Although Niger happens to be the least similar, Chad and Mali are not far behind. These countries are mostly Muslim and were once colonies of France. They are also some of the least developed countries in the world. Here is how Niger, Chad, and Mali compare to Japan and its most similar countries: South Korea and Taiwan:

This article focuses on the reason why Niger and Japan are the least similar countries in the world by comparing their demographics, culture, government, infrastructure, and geography.

Demographics

While Japan has the oldest population in the world, Niger has one of youngest populations in the world. The average Japanese person is over 45, while the average person in Niger is around 15 years old – a whooping 30 year age difference. Not only does Niger have a much higher birth rate than Japan, but the people there have one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, further contributing to its young population.

Another big difference in their demographics is that the people in these countries are different races. Due to long geographic isolation after migration out of Africa, East Asians are especially different from Africans. As a result of living at a higher latitude, East Asians developed lighter skin color.

While most people in Niger work in agriculture, most Japanese work in either industry or the service sector. The Japanese tend to be better educated and have a much higher average income as a result. More than 18% of Japanese have a college degree, while less than 1% of people in Niger do. One of the few aspects these countries share is a relatively similar rate of employment for both men and women.

Photo by NigerTZai

Culture

There is very little Niger and Japan have in common culturally as well. The Japanese language is not related to other languages outside of Japan. Furthermore, Japan uses both kanji borrowed from Chinese characters, and its own unique syllabic writing system, kana. In contrast, Niger’s official language is French, but the majority of its people natively speak languages from the Afro-Asiatic family.

Japan is also one of the least religious countries in the world. 75% of its people say religion is not important in their daily life. In contrast, almost everyone in Niger says religion is important in their daily life. Furthermore, they follow religions that are unrelated. Most people in Niger are Muslim, while in Japan, most people follow Buddhism or Shintoism. As part of their religion, most males in Niger are circumcised, unlike in Japan.

The average personality of their people is also different. According to the Lewis Model, people from Niger tend to be much more outgoing than the Japanese. Furthermore, Japanese tend to smoke more cigarettes and drink more alcohol. However, one thing these countries do have in common is that their rate of suicide is similar.

While both countries are interested in soccer, Japan is one of the few countries where the favorite sport is baseball. Japan has been relatively successful in the Olympics, especially in gymnastics. Niger has only won two medals, in taekwondo and boxing. Countries with lower average incomes tend to have less free time to devout to sports.

The cuisine of these countries is also far different. Most dishes in Niger are based on sorghum or millet, while in Japan rice is the staple food. The Japanese also tend to eat a much larger amount of meat. It is no surprise their food is so different, since the agricultural products they tend to grow are quite different due to vastly different geography and climate.

Photo by YACOUB DOUNGOUS

Government

Japan’s government is much more democratic than Niger’s. The rule of law there is also much higher. While Japan uses a parliamentary form of government, with a constitutional monarch, Niger uses the semi-presidential form of government. Japan has a bicameral legislature, while Niger has a unicameral legislature.

What makes Niger especially different from Japan’s government is that has had many military coups in its past, although the last transition of power was democratic. Japan’s head of government changes often. In fact, since 1990, Japan has had 18 different prime ministers. Niger has had two presidents that ruled for at least ten years during that time period.

Their laws are quite different as well. Despite, Niger being a predominately Muslim country, gambling is legal in Niger, while it is illegal in Japan. Abortion is also illegal in Niger. There are a few points they have in common as well. Both countries prohibit prostitution. They also both do not allow polygamy or same sex marriage.

Photo by Abdallahbigboy

Infrastructure

Since Japan is a much wealthier country, its infrastructure is much better developed than Niger. Japan has one of the most sophisticated network of high speed trains and mass transit in the world. In contrast, Niger does not even have a railroad in the country. Japan also has around 650 vehicles per 1,000 people, while there are less than 10 vehicles per 1,000 people in Niger.

Furthermore, their technology standards do not match. Japan uses Type A, B electrical outlets, like the United States, while Niger tends to use Type C electrical outlets like in Europe. The Japanese also drive on the left, unlike Niger. While the bulk of the electricity in both countries is created by fossil fuels, Niger primarily uses oil, while Japan uses coal and natural gas.

Japan’s tap water is potable, while Niger’s tap water has a very low water quality score. Most people in Niger do not have improved sanitation and many people go to the bathroom out in the open. In addition, few households in Niger are connected to the power grid. In contrast, Japan has some of the fastest internet speeds in the world.

Photo by Hassan Dadi

Geography

Japan is a mountainous island located in the Pacific Ocean, while Niger is a landlocked, relatively flat country in Africa. The majority of Niger is located in the Sahara Desert, while Japan gets a relatively high amount of precipitation. Less than 10% of Niger is considered to be mountainous, while its estimated that between 40-60% of Japan is mountainous.

Japan is also much more densely populated than Niger. In order to save space, Japan’s cities are filled with high-rises and skyscrapers. Niger’s tallest building is less than 100 meters tall. Despite being so densely populated, around 70% of Japan’s land is forested, while Niger is mostly barren or sparsely vegetated land. Japan’s farms mostly grow rice, while in Niger they grow sorghum, millet, and cow peas.

Japan’s time zone is eight hours ahead of Niger. Although, both countries are located in the Northern Hemisphere, Niger’s climate is much hotter than Japan’s, since it is closer to the equator and does not have water surrounding it to moderate its climate. The countries are not located in the same tectonic plate or continent and their flora and fauna are quite different.

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