The Objectively Most Similar Countries

Have you ever wondered which countries are the most similar to each other? According to the Country Similarity Index, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are the most similar countries in the world. Their demographics, culture, governments, infrastructure, and geography are extremely similar. Bahrain and Kuwait are also quite similar to these countries. Two other pairs of countries that are extremely close in comparison to each other are Burundi & Rwanda and Czechia & Slovakia. Keep in mind, the index does not include micro-states, like Liechtenstein, Monaco, and Barbados. For a list of least similar countries please see this article.

This following article focuses on the reasons why these countries are so similar to each other and the reasons why they are not part of a united country.

Doha, Qatar
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Qatar & United Arab Emirates

Both Qatar and United Arab Emirates are located in the Persian Gulf and border Saudi Arabia. Their landscapes are both almost entirely barren desert, except for their bustling cities that feature many modern skyscrapers. Because of their hot, dry climate, these countries don’t grow many crops, except for dates. Most of their land is close to the coast and their terrain is fairly flat.

Their cultures are extremely similar if not the same. The citizens of both countries natively speak Arabic, but due to a large amount of immigrants to these countries, English is also widely spoken. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were once British protectorates as well. The vast majority of their citizens are Sunni Muslims. Despite this, one difference is that just Eid Al Adha and El Al Fitr are official holidays in Qatar, while in United Arab Emirates the Islamic New Year and Muhammad’s birthday are also official. Their cuisine is also nearly identical. Both countries prefer eating chicken and tend to eat a lot of fruits, along with staples like bread and rice. Soccer and cricket (due to immigration from the Indian subcontinent) are these countries most followed sports. Another difference is that while neither country has had a huge amount of success in the Olympics, Qatar has won most of its medals in athletics, while UAE only has two in shooting and judo.

Due to a large amount of construction in these countries, leading to many immigrant men coming to Qatar and United Arab Emirates for work, both have a far greater amount of men than women. As a result, a low percentage of their populations are made up of elderly people. Most people in both countries work in the service sector and over 90% of their men are employed. They are also quite wealthy countries and have a higher than average percentage of millionaires living there.

Both countries have a high standard of living, since their economies are strong due to a large amount of oil and gas reserves. There is nearly 100% access to electricity and water in Qatar and UAE. Most of the power plants in these countries are fueled by natural gas. However, their water resources are scarce. Both countries rely on groundwater and the desalination of seawater. Their technology standards are similar as well. Both countries use Type G outlets, drive on the right side of the road, and use standard gauge railroad tracks. Both of these countries also spend a relatively high amount of money on their military and also have more guns per capita than most countries.

Another way Qatar and United Arab Emirates are similar is their form of government. Both countries are monarchies. However, UAE is slightly different since it is a federation of seven different sheikhdoms. While according to their laws, both are constitutional monarchies, very few people are allowed to vote in these countries and in practice they are run like absolute monarchies. Censorship of the media and the internet is widespread.

Due to their conservative Muslim culture, most forms of abortion, gambling, alcohol consumption, pornography, and prostitution are banned in these countries. Same sex relationships are criminalized, while polygamy is allowed. Both countries are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Their people can travel freely between each other and can even work without a visa. Also these countries do not use the same currency, but they both have a hard peg to the United States dollar. Interestingly enough, UAE cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar in 2017, but has since renewed them.

Qatar and United Arab Emirates have been part of the same country in the past. As recently as the 19th Century they had been part of the Emirate of Nejd. When the British decided to leave Qatar and the Trucial States, these countries planned to unite under one state comprised nine sheikdoms. However small disagreements lead to Qatar being independent from the United Arab Emirates.

Bujumbura, Burundi (photo by Dave Proffer)
Kigali, Rwanda (photo by Jenny Paul)

Burundi & Rwanda

Burundi and Rwanda are landlocked countries located next to each other in the Great Rift Valley of Sub-Saharan Africa. They have nearly the same land area and population density. Both have a tropical savanna climate. A high percentage of their land is used for agriculture, where beans and bananas are some of their most common crops. The terrain of both countries is quite hilly, but Rwanda has higher mountains due to the Virunga Mountain Range.

Kirundi is spoken in Burundi and Kinyarwanda is spoken in Rwanda, but for the most part these languages are mutually intelligible. Due to European colonization, these countries use the Latin alphabet and their people are mostly Christian, although Burundi has a slightly higher percentage of Catholics. One of the biggest differences that French is the predominant foreign language used in Burundi, while English is more often used in Rwanda. Still, both countries have both French and English as official languages. The banana is a huge part of the diet in Burundi and Rwanda. In fact, much of the alcohol consumed in these countries made from fermented bananas. Neither country excels at the Olympics or soccer and their sports infrastructure is not well developed.

The average age of the people in these countries less than 20 years old. Most people in Burundi and Rwanda are farmers, but Rwanda has less poverty and less dependent on agriculture. Both countries have slightly more females than males. Their also females have especially high rates of employment.

The infrastructure in Rwanda and Burundi is not well developed. They are among the countries with the least vehicles per capita in the world at less than 10 per 1,000 people. They also have no railroads. Due to once being a Belgian colony, these countries drive on the right and use Type C, E electrical outlets. Both countries use little electricity and are reliant on hydropower to create much of it.

The government in both countries is also extremely similar. Both Burundi and Rwanda have a presidential form of government with a bicameral legislature. The legislatures of both countries are dominated by one party that often rigs elections. The media is highly censored as well. Both countries are members of the East African Community so they share a common market. Although they do not share a common currency, their currencies are both named Franc. Also, Rwandans and Burundians can visit each other without a visa.

The laws in Burundi and Rwanda are not far different. Polygamy and prostitution are criminalized. Abortions may only be preformed there if the mother’s health is in danger. One difference is that in Burundi, same sex relationships are criminalized, while in Rwanda they are not. Neither country has a robust welfare system. Only primary school is free and retirement money is only available to people that contribute to it.

From 1916 to 1962, these countries were part of the Territory of Ruanda-Urundi, which was ruled by Belgium. However for hundreds of years prior to this, Burundi and Rwanda were traditional kingdoms ruled by different monarchs. So, when Ruanda-Urundi became independent, the territory again separated along these traditional lines.

Prague, Czechia
Bratislava, Slovakia

Czechia & Slovakia

Two of the most similar countries in Europe are Czechia and Slovakia. They are both landlocked countries located next to each other in Central Europe. While both countries have a temperate climate, Slovakia is generally colder and more mountainous. Another geographic difference is that most of the water in Slovakia drains to the Black Sea, while most of the water in Czechia drains to the North Sea. Their primary crops are wheat and rapeseed, although Slovakia tends to grow more corn.

While Czech and Slovak are considered to be separate languages, they are mutually intelligible and their people have little trouble communicating. The predominate traditional religion in both countries is Catholicism, but Czechs tend to be less religious than Slovakians. Uniquely, both countries have St. Cyril and Methodius Day as a public holiday. According to the Lewis Model, Czechs tend to be less outgoing than Slovakians. Still, their sports culture is especially similar. Both countries love soccer and ice hockey. They also excel at the Olympics. These countries are especially good at canoeing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, and shooting sports. Furthermore, both countries tend to consume a lot of alcohol.

Their demographics are nearly identical, although Slovakia is slightly less affluent. Both countries are well educated. They have high literacy rates and around 8% of the people both countries have a college degree. The average age of both countries is over 40 years old.

There is relatively little different about the infrastructure in both countries as well. Both countries drive on the right, use standard gauge railroad tracks, and have Type C, E electrical outlets. One big difference is the way their electricity is created. Czech Republic relies on coal power plants, while most of Slovakia’s electricity is created by nuclear power.

Czech Republic and Slovakia are parliamentary multi-party democracies with a prime minister and a head of state that is elected by popular vote. However, Czechia has a bicameral legislature, unlike Slovakia. Their courts systems are nearly identical. Both are based on Germanic civil law. The countries do not allow capital punishment, but allow life imprisonment. In addition, the countries provide relatively generous welfare to their people. University education and healthcare are free. Both countries are not only members of the European Union, but also NATO. However, one difference is that Czechia has not yet adopted the Euro. Still, the citizens in Czechia and Slovakia have freedom of movement without the need for passports and can work in each others countries without a visa.

While most of their laws are the same, one difference is that Slovakia is slightly more conservative so Civil Unions between same sex couples are not allowed, unlike Czechia. Furthermore, Czechia has one of the most liberal drug policies in Europe, since having small amounts of drugs is decriminalized.

Since 1993, Czechia and Slovakia have become independent nations. Before this they were a united country called Czechoslovakia for over 40 years. Earlier in history they were also a part of Austria-Hungary. Slovakians wanted more independence from the government in Prague, while many Czechs disliked the amount of economic support given to the less affluent Slovak region.

Which countries do you think are most similar? Please leave any thoughts in the comments.

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