The Most Similar Countries to Indonesia


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 Indonesia

Indonesia is part of Insular Southeast Asia. Few countries have a high degree of similarity with it. The five most similar countries to Indonesia all border the Pacific Ocean and have tropical climates. They all primarily use the Latin alphabet and most people in four of the five countries speak Austronesian languages. With the exception of Vietnam, the vast majority of the people in the top five countries follow Abrahamic religions.

  1. Malaysia is highly similar to Indonesia, since their people speak mutually intelligible languages and are mostly Muslim. Both countries do not excel at the Olympics, but most of their medals have been in badminton. However, Malaysia’s economy is more prosperous. In addition, Malaysia’s government is unique since it is an elective monarchy. Furthermore, unlike Indonesia, most of its agricultural areas are devoted to the cultivation of palm oil. Malaysia was also a British colony, unlike Indonesia, which was a Dutch colony.
  2. Philippines is another densely populated archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. Their people have relatively similar demographics and standard of living. However, the biggest difference between the Philippines and Indonesia is religion. Most Filipinos are Catholic, while Indonesians are mostly Muslim. Another big difference is their infrastructure. Philippines drives on the right and uses Type A, B electrical outlets, since it was once a colony of the United States.
  3. Brunei used to rule a large portion of Borneo, before Indonesia and Malaysia took over a majority of the island. Like Indonesia and Malaysia, Brunei is mostly Muslim and natively speak the Malay language. However, Brunei is much more wealthy and developed than Indonesia due to its oil production. Its government is also an authoritarian monarchy, unlike other countries on this list.
  4. East Timor gained its independence from Indonesia in 2002. It still shares the island of Timor with Indonesia. However, it is mostly Catholic, since it was once a colony of Portugal. In addition, the genetics and ancestry of its people are quite different from the majority of Indonesians, since they have more mixture with Melanesians. The country’s official languages are Portuguese and Tetum, although many people still can speak Indonesian there.
  5. Vietnam is another Asian country bordering the South China Sea that is similar to Indonesia. While Indonesia was colonized by the Netherlands, Vietnam was colonized by France, although it was for a much shorter time period. Both have a similar tropical climate and long coastlines. They also both use the Latin alphabet, despite their languages being completely unrelated. Still, Vietnam’s government is not a democracy and its people are mostly Buddhist, but not especially religious.
  6. Myanmar, 7. Thailand, 8. Bangladesh, 9. Sri Lanka, 10. Cambodia

While Singapore might seem like another similar country, it does not even make the top 10 for a variety of reasons. It is a much more prosperous country and its standard of living is much higher. Furthermore, only 15% of its population is Muslim. Although one of Singapore’s official languages is Malay, only about 10% of its people speak it natively. Singapore is also a small, extremely densely populated urban area with few agricultural or forested areas, unlike Indonesia.

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Top 10 Countries Least Similar to Indonesia

The least similar countries to Indonesia are all far wealthier and have colder climates. They are all predominately Christian countries. Not only is the infrastructure in these countries far more developed, their technology standards are also different, since they drive on the right side of the road and use a different gauge of railroad. Interestingly enough, most people in these countries speak Germanic languages, but like Indonesia, they use the Latin alphabet.

  1. Canada is by far the least similar country to Indonesia. The countries share little demographic, cultural, or technological similarity. In addition, their climates are significantly different since Canada is one of the coldest countries with relatively little precipitation compared to Indonesia. While Canada technically has a lot of coastline, most of the land area is far from it.
  2. United States is just to the south of Canada. It also has little similarity to Indonesia in demographics, culture, or technology. One thing the countries do share is that they are both democracies that use the presidential system. The geography of the United States is closer to Indonesia when compared to Canada, in part because it is warmer and has a denser population.
  3. Iceland is a well developed but sparsely populated country. Not only are their demographics and culture quite different from Indonesia, but also their geography. Iceland’s climate is much colder and hardly any of their land is used for agriculture. Still, both countries are located on mountainous islands. People from Iceland are mostly Protestant and are also far less religious than Indonesians. Most of its energy is created from renewable energy sources, unlike Indonesia, which mostly uses coal and natural gas.
  4. Switzerland is one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world. Switzerland’s geography is also quite different from Indonesia, being a temperate, landlocked country. However, both countries are mountainous. It is also more democratic and employs a unique governmental system that has a 7-member executive council.
  5. Luxembourg is another landlocked and very wealthy European country on this list. Unlike Switzerland and Indonesia, it is not very mountainous. Like other countries on this list, the personality of its people, according to the Lewis Model is far different from Indonesia. Luxembourg and Indonesia have a similar percentage of agricultural land, but they grow completely different crops due to the climate.
  6. Finland, 7. Sweden, 8. Ireland, 9. Belgium, 10. United Kingdom

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Indonesia is like if Malaysia was more like East Timor

Malaysia is by far the most similar country to Indonesia. However, these countries do have a few significant differences. Indonesia is not as well developed and it was not a British colony. East Timor is one country that has characteristics of Indonesia that Malaysia lacks. They are not as wealthy as Malaysia. Furthermore, since they were not colonies of Britain, they use Type C electrical outlets and their legal systems are based on Civil Law. Furthermore, while Malaysia’s agriculture is focused on the production of palm oil, East Timor and Malaysia tend to grow more rice and corn.

Full Ranking of Countries and Territories Most Similar to Indonesia

All data accurate as of 2020.


Country Superlatives

Most Similar Demographics: Malaysia
Most Similar Culture: Malaysia
Most Similar Government: India
Most Similar Infrastructure: South Africa
Most Similar Geography: Malaysia

Least Similar Demographics: Germany
Least Similar Culture: Japan
Least Similar Government: Canada
Least Similar Infrastructure: United States
Least Similar Geography: Libya

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