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 Iceland
Iceland is located in the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe. However, it has much closer ties to Europe. The four of five most similar countries to Iceland are in the European Union. Furthermore, the four most similar natively speak Germanic languages. In addition, with the exception of Ireland, they are mostly Protestant. They all are very democratic and have some of the highest standards of living in the world. Moreover, the average temperatures of these countries are some of the lowest in the world.
- Norway is by far the most similar country to Iceland. Their demographics are nearly identical, in part due to the fact that it was settled by Norwegians. Both countries use a lot of energy and primarily rely upon hydroelectricity to produce it. Their landscapes are also fairly similar. They are both mountainous and have a lot of coastline. However, unlike other countries on this list, Norway is not in the European Union.
- Sweden is another Scandinavian country like Norway. There are few aspects where Sweden is more similar to Iceland than Norway. Sweden is less mountainous and its climate is more temperate than Iceland and Norway. Ice hockey is also more popular in Sweden than those countries. Another difference is that Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and it has a bicameral legislature.
- Denmark actually ruled Iceland until World War II, so they share a lot of the same traits. Both countries have potable water and get most of their water from ground water, not surface water. However, although both countries enjoy lots of coastline, there are some significant geographical differences since Denmark is very flat and has a much more temperate climate. In addition, Iceland does not have a railroad, while Denmark’s network is quite dense.
- Ireland is another country located on an island in the Atlantic Ocean. It might seem to be a surprising inclusion in the top five, since it is mostly Catholic. However, the countries share deep rooted history since Vikings captured many Irish and brought them to become slaves in Iceland, which created a blend of Irish and Norse cultures there. Their people both primarily grow barley and also eat a lot of fish. Furthermore, both countries are parliamentary democracies with strong social welfare systems.
- Finland is yet another sparsely populated Nordic country on this list. The biggest difference between these countries is that most Finnish people natively speak a Uralic language. Like Ireland, both countries have a parliamentary system of government with no monarch. Although most people in both countries have blonde hair and blue eyes, the ancestry of Finnish people is slightly different.
- Netherlands, 7. Austria, 8. United Kingdom, 9. Germany, 10. Switzerland
Top 10 Countries Least Similar to Iceland
Four of the five least similar countries to Iceland are located in Africa. These countries all have a much lower standard of living. Furthermore, they tend to be much more religious countries. They are also all located closer to the equator. Most are significantly less mountainous than Iceland as well.
- Sudan is located in the Sahara Desert. Its climate is much hotter and drier than Iceland. It is Muslim country with a low standard of living. The country has recently experienced internal conflicts. As a result, it lost some territory to the newly formed country of South Sudan. In contrast to Iceland, its laws are far more conservative. It does not allow abortion, same sex marriage, or alcohol.
- Eritrea is located on the Red Sea, next to Sudan. It is the only country on this list with a majority Christian population. However, they are mostly Oriental Orthodox and more religious than Iceland. In addition, Eritrea is extremely poor and its government has been a dictatorship for almost 20 years. Still, most of the land in both countries is near the coast and they are also fairly mountainous, with little vegetation.
- Cambodia is the least similar country to Iceland in Asia. Its people are mostly Buddhist. Its government is far less democratic and much more corrupt. The country’s terrain is much flatter than Iceland. It also has a much higher percentage of forested and agricultural land. Khmer is complete unrelated to Icelandic and it uses its own writing system.
- Somalia is yet another country near the Red Sea on this list. It is another anarchic, war-torn, Muslim country in stark contrast to Iceland. The country relies on imported oil to create electricity, unlike Iceland. However, despite their languages being completely unrelated, both countries use the Latin alphabet. One of the other characteristics that these countries have in common is that both do not have railroads.
- South Sudan is a fairly flat and landlocked country located in the tropical savannas of Africa. The country is mostly Christian and its official language is English. However, it is one of the poorest countries in the world and its infrastructure is not well developed. Furthermore, its people have less Caucasian ancestry than some of the other African countries on this list.
- Bangladesh, 7. Chad, 8. Ethiopia, 9. Niger, 10. Gambia
Iceland is like if Norway was more like Greenland
Norway is by far the most similar country to Iceland. Very few countries are much more similar to Iceland than they are to Norway. One place that is slightly more like Iceland than it is to Norway is Greenland. It is another island in the Atlantic Ocean, located between the North American and European mainlands. They are also less densely populated than Norway and have a lower percentage of built-up area. Unlike Norway, neither has their own regular military.
All data accurate as of 2020.