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.
Brunei is part of Southeast Asia, but it is clearly the most similar country to the Middle East in the region. It is a Muslim country ruled by an absolute monarch with very conservative laws. It is also quite wealthy, due to its abundance of oil and gas. Only Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore have a significant degree of similarity to it. The top four countries most similar to it are located in tropical regions around the South China Sea and their people have mostly East Asian ancestry.
Top 10 Places Most Similar to Brunei
- Malaysia is the only country that borders Brunei. Like Brunei, its people are predominately Muslim and natively speak the Malay language. Both countries use Type G electrical outlets and drive on the left, since they were both once ruled by Great Britain. Their governments are also both monarchies, although Malaysia is more democratic. Another difference is that Brunei is wealthier and more developed.
- Indonesia is also similar to Brunei and Malaysia, since they are mostly Muslim and speak mutually intelligible languages. However, Indonesia is less prosperous than Malaysia and Brunei. Furthermore, it was colonized by the Netherlands, not Great Britain, so it has less British characteristics. Unlike Malaysia and Brunei, its government is not a monarchy, but a multi-party democracy that uses the presidential system.
- Singapore is another small but wealthy country near Malaysia, where English is widely spoken. However, despite its proximity there are some significant differences as well. It is much more densely populated and few of its people work in industry, unlike Brunei. Furthermore, it is more religiously diverse. A plurality of its people are Buddhist, but there are also many Christians. Less than 15% of the population is Muslim. Since a high percentage of its people are ethnically Chinese, far fewer people in Singapore natively speak the Malay language.
- Philippines is significantly less similar to Brunei than the top 3 countries. The vast majority of Filipinos are Catholic, although there are a few areas that are mostly Muslim. Its standard of living is significantly lower than Brunei as well. Since it was an American colony, it drives on the right and uses Type A,B electrical outlets, unlike Brunei. However, their ancestries are very similar. In addition, English is widely spoken in both countries and the Malay language is related to Filipino. Furthermore, both countries have a similar tropical climate.
- Oman is has some significant similarities to Brunei, but also some huge differences. On one hand, both countries are extremely wealthy Muslim countries, due to oil and gas reserves. Brunei still uses the Arabic script alongside the Latin script. In addition, they both are monarchies and their leaders are known as sultans. They were both once ruled by Great Britain as well. Moreover, they use Type G electrical outlets. On the other hand, while Brunei is a tropical rainforest, Oman is a desert. Furthermore, the ancestries of their people are extremely different. Their native languages are also unrelated.
- Thailand, 7. United Arab Emirates, 8. Fiji, 9. Qatar, 10. Kuwait
The five least similar countries to Brunei are all located in Africa. Furthermore, these countries have drier climates and are landlocked. They all are less wealthy and have a lower standard of living than Brunei as well. Interestingly enough, four of the five least similar countries have significant Muslim populations, even though Brunei does as well. However, most of these countries have less conservative laws.
Top 10 Places Least Similar to Brunei
- Burkina Faso is mostly tropical savanna and has little forested land. Although over 60 percent of its people are Muslim, there is little else this country has in common with Brunei. It was once a French colony, before becoming independent. Its laws are quite different. It allows polygamy, alcohol, gambling, and most forms of abortion, in contrast to Brunei. Not only is the country’s infrastructure far less developed, but its standards are different. Burkina Faso drives on the right, uses Type C, E electrical outlets, and one-meter railroad track gauge, unlike Brunei.
- Ethiopia is another landlocked country on this list located between the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. The country has a unique mix of Christians and Muslims. Still, its geography and infrastructure are significantly different from Brunei. Due to its high elevation, it has a cooler climate than Brunei. Furthermore, the country uses the unique Ge’ez script, unlike Brunei, which uses both the Latin and Arabic scripts.
- Lesotho, unlike the Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, is located in Southern Africa. Its people are mostly Christian. It is also much more mountainous than Brunei and it has a cooler climate. Although both countries have a monarch, Lesotho’s is mostly for ceremonial purposes. Their diets are also far different. Lesotho’s food is based on corn and potatoes, while meat and rice are a bigger part of meals in Brunei. However, Lesotho is the only country of the five least similar where English is widespread, like Brunei.
- Niger, like Brunei, is mostly Muslim, however other than religion there is little else they have in common. It is much more sparsely populated since it is located in the Sahara Desert. Furthermore, it is a multi-party democracy, which uses the semi-presidential system of government, unlike Brunei. Like Burkina Faso, its laws are far different from Brunei’s as well. Niger is also one of the least developed countries and has a much higher poverty.
- Eritrea is quite similar to Ethiopia in culture. However, its government is less democratic. The country has been ruled by one party for many years. Furthermore, like Brunei, most of Eritrea is relatively close to the coastline. Like other countries on this list, most of its people work in agriculture in contrast to Brunei, where industry provides the bulk of the jobs. Still, both countries rely on fossil fuels to create electricity.
- Chad, 7. Switzerland, 8. Angola, 9. Togo, 10. South Sudan
Brunei is like if Malaysia was more like Saudi Arabia
While Malaysia is by far the most similar country to Brunei, the data indicates that Saudi Arabia is significantly more similar to Brunei than Malaysia. The biggest reason is its government. Both Saudi Arabia and Brunei are ruled by absolute monarchs, unlike Malaysia. Their governments are quite generous to their citizens, since they have tuition-free college and a single payer healthcare system. Saudi Arabia and Brunei are also wealthier and more developed than Malaysia, since they have large oil reserves.
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