Typical Characteristics of Insular Southeast Asia

Insular Southeast Asia Map

The data from the Country Similarity Index groups the countries of IndonesiaPhilippinesMalaysia, and Brunei into region 8-C, Insular 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 mountainous islands somewhere between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are all part of the Sunda tectonic plate. Their climates are warm throughout the year and they get a lot of rainfall. Most countries in this region have a mix of agricultural and forested land. Rice and palm oil are two of the region’s most important crops. The region is heavily populated and its major cities have many high-rise buildings.

photo by Tom Fisk

The majority of the people in this region have ancestry originating in East Asia. Another thing they have in common is that most people natively speak languages that are part of the Austronesian family. The people in this region tend be especially short, compared to the rest of the world. Most of the population works in the service sector but there are also many who work in industry. There are also more males than females in this region.

photo by Virginia L. Foley

Since this region’s culture was heavily influenced by Arab traders and later European colonizers, most people follow Abrahamic religions, unlike East Asia and Mainland Southeast Asia. Due to the influence of Islam, little alcohol is consumed in these countries. Furthermore, in all the region’s countries more than 50% of their males are circumcised. Both Christian and Muslim holidays are official in these countries. The Lunar New Year is also an official holiday in all countries. Due to European colonization, most of the countries in this region primarily use the Latin alphabet. English is also widespread here, since Britain colonized Malaysia and Brunei, while the Philippines was colonized by the United States. Since these countries are close to the coast, seafood is a big part of their diet. Rice is this region’s biggest staple food. This region does not tend to do well at sports, but Badminton is one they excel in.

photo by R. Glazaro

With the exception of Brunei, all the countries in this region have democratic governments. However, there is little rule of law. Governments in this region tend to not provide much assistance for the unemployed. Same sex marriages are not allowed, but polygamy is allowed in all countries except Brunei. Furthermore, abortion and the possession of pornography is highly restricted in this region. All countries are part of the ASEAN Free Trade Area. These countries also have very open visa policies. In all but Brunei, the citizens of most countries can visit without a visa. However, it takes over 10 years to become a naturalized citizen in all these countries and dual citizenship is not allowed.

photo by Afif Kusuma

The quality of infrastructure varies widely in this region. Due to their proximity to the sea, their shipping infrastructure is heavily used. In all the countries, except for the Philippines, vehicles drive on the left side of the road. Coal and natural gas are the two biggest sources of energy. The electrical voltage is between 220 and 240 volts, but the type of electrical outlet varies.

photo by Uwe Aranas

The islands of Southeast Asia‘s Most Representative Country: Indonesia (69.0 regional average)

Most Similar Regions to the islands of Southeast Asia: Mainland Southeast Asia (8-A)

(Statistics as of 2020)

photo by Khairul Onggon

List of countries by region


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