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.
Top 10 Countries Most Similar to Belgium
Many European countries are relatively similar to Belgium. The top five countries are all in the European Union and use the Euro. These countries have significant Catholic populations, although their people are not very religious. They also have a high level of development and their democratic governments have relatively liberal policies. The top four countries all border Belgium. Furthermore, these countries are quite densely populated as well.
- Netherlands is just to the north of Belgium. Belgium was once part of the Netherlands before it became completely independent in 1839. One reason it succeeded from the union is that it is mostly Catholic, unlike the Netherlands, however nowadays neither country is very religious. It is the only other country in Europe that has Dutch as one of its official languages. Both countries are multi-party democracies that have bicameral legislatures. They also still have constitutional monarchs as their heads of state.
- Luxembourg is another country with a mix of French and Germanic cultures. Luxembourgish is a Germanic language that is similar to Dutch. A province of Belgium was once part of Luxembourg and is actually named Luxembourg too. Both countries are mostly Catholic. One difference is that Luxembourg is landlocked. According to the Lewis Model, Belgians also tend to be more outgoing than people from Luxembourg. Still, their laws are extremely similar. Both allow same sex marriage and abortion. They also have decriminalized the possession of marijuana.
- France is to the south of Belgium. Belgium has been part of France in the past. Both countries have many native French speakers and are mostly Catholic. In addition, they both use Type C, E electrical outlets, unlike most other European countries. However, France’s government is a semi-presidential republic, not a parliamentary government with a constitutional monarchy. Its southern portions also have a much warmer climate than Belgium.
- Germany is another country that borders the North Sea. Germany and Belgium were both originally part of the Holy Roman Empire. German is one of Belgium’s official languages, although few people speak it natively there. However, like the Netherlands, it has a higher percentage of Protestants than Belgium. While both countries have a parliamentary system of government, Germany no longer has a monarch as head of state.
- Austria and Belgium were both ruled by the Habsburgs, even though they are not adjacent to each other. Both countries are mostly Catholic. Furthermore, according to the Lewis Model, the typical personalty of Belgians and Austrians is quite similar. One big difference is their geography. Austria is much more mountainous and it is also landlocked. It is also less densely populated and has more forested land.
- Denmark, 7. Slovenia, 8. Czechia, 9. Poland, 10. Spain
Top 10 Countries Least Similar to Belgium
The four least similar countries to Belgium are located around the Red Sea. These countries all have large populations of Muslims. In addition, their hot desert climates and sparsely populated, barren landscapes are massively different from Belgium. Furthermore, the standard of living in all these countries is quite low. Their governments are less democratic and they have more conservative laws.
- Sudan is located in the Sahara Desert. It is predominately Muslim country and most of its people speak Arabic natively. Its infrastructure and standard of living have suffered due to recent civil war. It recently lost some territory to the newly formed country of South Sudan. Its government is especially different from Belgium’s. The country criminalizes same sex relationships and does not allow abortion. Moreover, gambling and alcohol are banned.
- Eritrea borders Sudan. It is another country located on the Red Sea. It is the only country on this list with a majority Christian population, but its people are part of the unique Oriental Orthodox denomination and more religious than Belgians. Its government has been a dictatorship for almost 20 years. Although both countries are close to the coast, Eritrea’s climate is far different. In contrast to Belgium, its farmlands mostly grow sorghum.
- Somalia is even further in distance from Belgium than Sudan and Eritrea. It is another anarchic, Muslim country with poorly developed infrastructure. It is very conservative, in contrast to more liberal Belgium. However, despite the fact that Somali is completely unrelated to French or Dutch, all these languages use the Latin alphabet. In contrast to Belgium, Somalia does not even have a working railroad. It also relies on oil to create electricity, not natural gas or nuclear power.
- Yemen is across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. Unlike other countries on the Arabian Peninsula, it is poorly developed due to civil war. While Belgians tend to be quite tall, Yemen is one of the shortest countries in the world. The country is also much more mountainous than Belgium. Still, Yemenis are considered to be Caucasian, although their ancestry is significantly different from Belgians.
- Laos is another country in Asia on this list, although it is significantly different from Yemen. Laos is a landlocked and mountainous country located in the tropical climate of Southeast Asia. The country’s culture is also far different from Belgium. The Laotian diet mostly consists of rice, while Belgians eat a lot of bread and potatoes. It is mostly Buddhist. In addition to having a completely unrelated language, Laos also uses a different writing system as well.
- Papua New Guinea, 7. South Sudan, 8. Myanmar, 9. Uganda, 10. Solomon Islands
Belgium is like if the Netherlands was more like France
Although the Index shows that Netherlands is the most similar country to Belgium, one country that is much more like Belgium than the Netherlands is France. This result is not surprising since Belgium is located in between these countries. There are far more Catholics and French speakers in Belgium than in the Netherlands. According to the Lewis Index, these countries are also both more outgoing than the Netherlands as well.
All data accurate as of 2020.