Have you ever wondered how similar or different two countries are? The Country Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. It weighs equally five major aspects of countries: their demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. The methodology is exactly the same for each country. The research combines 1,000 different data points to arrive at the conclusions.
Based on the data, Afghanistan should be considered a Middle Eastern country. However, it is unique since it is at the cross roads of three distinct regions: the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. Afghanistan has a mix of characteristics of three countries that border it: Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Iran. Beyond those countries, it is also similar to other war-torn Muslim countries like Yemen and Sudan, due to their low standard of living and conservative laws.
Top 10 Countries Most Similar to Afghanistan
- Tajikistan is another landlocked and extremely mountainous country bordering Afghanistan. Both countries mostly use hydropower to create electricity. Their languages are also extremely similar. Tajik and Dari are mutually intelligible, although one big difference is that Tajikistan was part of the Soviet Union, so it adopted the Cyrillic alphabet. Still, the railroads of both countries use Russian broad gauge tracks and Type C, F electrical outlets.
- Iran is similar linguistically to Afghanistan since Persian and Dari (the lingua franca of Afghanistan) are essentially the same language. They both use the Arabic script as well. Its landscape is also quite similar to Afghanistan since it is also a mountainous desert country in the same region. However, there are some significant differences as well. Although both countries are mostly Muslim, Iranians are mostly Shi’ites, not Sunnis. Afghanistan is also much poorer than Iran. In addition, Iran’s government is run by religious leaders and is relatively more stable.
- Pakistan is located just to the south of Afghanistan. Both countries are mostly desert and have high mountains. In addition, both are predominately Muslim and their governments practice Sharia law. There are also many native Pashto speakers of in these countries. However, unlike Afghanistan, Pakistan was a full colony of Britain, so it has more of a British influence. It drives on the left side of the road and has a parliamentary system of government. Still, both countries enjoy playing cricket.
- Yemen does not border Afghanistan, unlike the top 3 most similar countries. Like Afghanistan, its infrastructure is not well developed in part due to war. The laws in both these Muslim countries are extremely conservative. In addition, both have unstable governments and lots of corruption. Furthermore, both countries are quite mountainous and have a high average elevation. However, Yemen has a lot of coastline. Another difference is that its people natively speak Arabic, not an Indo-European language.
- Iraq is another Arab country, like Yemen, on this list. The governments of both Iraq and Afghanistan were taken over by the United States after 2001. Both countries harbor fundamental Islamist terrorist groups. Still, there are some big differences as well. Iraq is not especially mountainous and it is located on the Arabian tectonic plate, not the Eurasian plate. Like Iran, Iraq is mostly Shi’ites, although it has a higher percentage of Sunni Muslims than Iran.
- Mauritania, 7. Sudan, 8. Somalia, 9. Uzbekistan, 10. Egypt
In contrast to the dry climate of landlocked Afghanistan, four of the five least similar countries are all located on islands and get much more rainfall. Furthermore, four of the least similar five border the Pacific Ocean. Interestingly enough, they are also located in Asia. However, most of the people in these countries have East Asian ancestry, not Caucasian ancestry. In addition, the infrastructure of these countries is significantly more advanced than Afghanistan.
Top 10 Countries Least Similar to Afghanistan
- Japan‘s demographics, culture, and infrastructure are extremely different from Afghanistan, despite both countries technically being located on the Asian continent. It has the oldest average population in the world. Its language and writing system are both completely unrelated to Pashto and Dari. Furthermore, Japan drives on the left and does not use broad gauge railroad tracks. Its electrical system is also different from Afghanistan. It uses Type A, B outlets and a lower voltage.
- Singapore‘s geography is extremely different from Afghanistan, since it is essentially a densely populated city on a flat, tropical island. While there are some Muslims in Singapore, they are less than 20% of the population. Its government is more liberal and has a higher degree of rule of law. Furthermore, Singapore’s population is mostly East Asians, not Caucasians like in Afghanistan. Since Singapore was once a British colony, English is used as the lingua franca there.
- Taiwan is yet another country located on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Although both countries are mountainous, Taiwan’s climate is hotter and wetter. Its laws are also much less conservative than Afghanistan. Taiwan allows same sex marriage, alcohol, and prostitution. Like Japan, it has little in common culturally with Afghanistan. Chinese is its official language and most people are Buddhist, but not especially religious.
- South Korea is another East Asian country on this list, however there are a few aspects that make it more like Afghanistan they the others. Unlike other East Asian countries, most South Korean men are circumcised. Furthermore, although South Korea’s infrastructure is much more developed than Afghanistan, both countries do drive on the right and use Type C, F electrical outlets. Another similarity is that, both countries use the presidential system of government.
- Bahamas is the least similar country to Afghanistan in the Western Hemisphere. The ancestry of its people is primarily from Africa. In addition, in contrast to Afghanistan, it is located on a group of small low-lying islands in the Caribbean. The standard of living in the Bahamas is much higher. Furthermore, its people have a lower marriage rate. Its infrastructure standards are also far different, since they drive on the left and use Type A, B electrical outlets.
- Trinidad & Tobago, 7. New Zealand, 8. Canada, 9. Denmark, 10. Great Britain
Afghanistan is like if Tajikistan was more like Yemen
The data shows that Afghanistan is like a combination of Tajikistan and Yemen. Although Tajikistan is another Persian-speaking country, since it was once part of the Soviet Union, it was much more influenced by Russia than Afghanistan. They use the Cyrillic alphabet, unlike Yemen and Afghanistan, which use the Arabic script. Furthermore, Tajikistan’s laws are more secular, since religion was suppressed by the Communist Party. In contrast, Yemen and Afghanistan practice Muslim religious law. Both countries also have had unstable governments, due to civil war, while Tajikistan has an authoritarian president for more than 20 years. Tajikistan and Afghanistan border each other and are landlocked, unlike Yemen.
Most Similar Demographics: Tajikistan
Most Similar Culture: Iran
Most Similar Government: Mauritania
Most Similar Infrastructure: Somalia
Most Similar Geography: Tajikistan
Least Similar Demographics: Japan
Least Similar Culture: Japan
Least Similar Government: New Zealand
Least Similar Infrastructure: Japan
Least Similar Geography: Trinidad & Tobago
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