Typical Characteristics of Mainland Southeast Asia

Mainland Southeast Asia Map

The data from the Country Similarity Index groups the countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam into Region 8-A, Mainland Southeast Asia. It is one of the 27 world sub-regions identified by the Index. Here are some of the traits most of these countries share:

These countries are all located on the peninsula between India and China. Except for Myanmar, they are all in the same time zone. Their climates are warm throughout the year and they get a lot of rainfall. The countries in this region have a mix of farmland and forested land. Most farms in this region grow rice. Their flora and fauna is also quite similar. For the most part, the region is densely populated.

photo by Q. Hưng Phạm

The majority of people in this region have ancestry originating in East Asia. Compared to the rest of the world, they tend be especially short and skinny. They are also not especially wealthy or educated. In every country in the region except Laos, there are more females than males.

photo by Allie Caulfield

Mainland Southeast Asia is so linguistically diverse that three different language families are represented. This region’s culture was heavily influenced by India. Four of the five countries in this region use Indic scripts. Furthermore, the predominate religion in this region is Buddhism. In fact all countries except for Vietnam also follow the same school of Theravada Buddhism. Rice is by far the biggest staple food of this region’s diet. Seafood is also popular, due to its close proximity to the ocean. Beer and spirits are the two most popular types of alcohol. According to the Lewis Model, the people in this region tend to be introverted. This region is not especially good at sports. In fact, most countries in this region haven’t even won an Olympic medal or gone to the FIFA World Cup.

photo by Basile Morin

The governments in this region are not especially democratic and freedom of press the press is highly restricted. There is also not much rule of law. Same sex marriage, polygamy, and prostitution are illegal in all countries in this region. With the exception of Myanmar, all the legal systems in this region are based on Civil Law. They are also all part of the the ASEAN free trade area. Most countries in this region have received arms from China or Russia. Mandatory military service or military drafts are common in this region.

photo by Tony Wu

There are very few cars per person in Mainland Southeast Asia. With the exception of Thailand, they drive on the right side of the road. All these countries typically use one-meter wide railroad tracks. Natural gas and hydropower are the main sources of energy in the region. All countries except for Myanmar primarily use Type C electrical outlets. The electrical voltage is between 220 and 240 volts and the frequency is 50 hertz.

photo by Alex Deem

Mainland Southeast Asia‘s Most Representative Country: Cambodia (69.5 regional average)

Most Similar Regions to Mainland Southeast Asia: Insular Southeast Asia (8-C)

(Statistics as of 2020)

photo by MJ Preecha

List of countries by region


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