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 data from the Country Similarity Index was used to cluster countries into different regions by average linkage. This resulted in 9 distinct macro-regions:
- Western World
- Central & South America
- Middle East & North Africa
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- Central Asia
- South Asia
- East Asia
- Southeast Asia
- South Pacific
The most average country in each macro-region was computed from the data.
- Western World – Croatia, 71.8 average
- Central & South America – Colombia, 71.8 average
- Middle East & North Africa – Jordan, 73.0 average
- Sub-Saharan Africa – Cameroon, 70.0 average
- Central Asia – Uzbekistan, 73.4 average
- South Asia – India, 66.7 average
- East Asia – South Korea, 64.5 average
- Southeast Asia – Malaysia, 65.0 average
- South Pacific – Vanuatu, 71.7 average
Please note that the most average country in each region can be skewed if there are a lot of little countries that similar to the most average country.
Croatia is at the crossroads between Southern, Eastern, and Central Europe, so it makes sense that it is the most average country in the Western World. The country was once part of Austria-Hungary before becoming part of Yugoslavia. Like many countries in Europe it has many Catholics. Furthermore, like most of Eastern Europe, its people speak Slavic languages. They also use the Latin alphabet, as is the standard in the Western World. While its coastline has a Mediterranean climate, its inland portions have a Continental climate. The country is also part of the European Union. Croatia’s high average is due in part to having many extremely similar countries to it that were once part of Yugoslavia. The least similar country to Croatia in the Western World is Australia. Obviously geographically Australia is far different from Croatia, since it is located on the other side of the globe and has a much drier and hotter climate.
Colombia is at the border between Central America and South America, so it is centrally located within its region. The country has coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Like the vast majority of nations in the region, its people natively speak Spanish and are mostly Catholic. Colombia has a diverse mix of people with Native South American, European, and African ancestry. It is neither the one of the poorest nor one of the richest countries in the region. Like other countries in the region, it is democratic but tends to have a low degree of rule of law. The least similar country in the region to it is Mauritius, a unique island nation in the Indian Ocean. Of countries in the Western Hemisphere, the Bahamas is the least similar.
Jordan is centrally located within the Middle East region. It is at the confluence between North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant. It is mostly barren desert, since its climate is hot and dry. Like the vast majority of countries in the region, its people natively speak Arabic and are predominately Sunni Muslim. Jordan is a constitutional monarchy, but its king still retains a lot of power. This makes the country in between the absolute monarchies and more democratic states in the region. It is not extremely wealthy like some countries on the Arabian peninsula, but it is not extremely poor either. Afghanistan is the least similar country to Jordan in the region, since it is much poorer and its people do not natively speak an Afro-Asiatic language.
Cameroon is a Sub-Saharan African country that has both French and English as its official languages, the two most common in Africa. Furthermore, most of its people speak languages from the Niger-Congo family, like almost all other countries in the region. The country is mostly Christian, but it is about 20 percent Muslim as well. It southern portion is mostly rainforest, while its northern portion is hot, dry savanna land. Like much of the region, its infrastructure is not well developed and its standard of living is lower than most countries. The least similar country in Sub-Saharan Africa to Cameroon is South Africa. It has better developed infrastructure, as well as a drier and more mountainous geography.
Uzbekistan is located at the heart of Central Asia, so it is no wonder that it is the region’s most average country. Like most countries in this region, it was once part of the Soviet Union, before becoming independent. Most of its people natively speak Turkic languages. While the Latin alphabet is the official script of Uzbek, Cyrillic is also commonly used there. It is predominately Muslim, but its laws tend to be more secular than countries in the Middle East. Furthermore, governments in this region are similar, since they tend to have authoritarian leaders and a lot of censorship. Uzbekistan is also sparsely populated, has a dry climate, and is landlocked, like most Central Asian nations. The least similar country to it in the region is Mongolia, which has greater East Asian characteristics.
India makes up the bulk of the Indian Subcontinent and is quite religiously, linguistically, and geographically diverse. This makes it easily the most average country in South Asia. In fact, two countries in the region, Bangladesh and Pakistan, were once part of India until relatively recently. The majority of people in India speak Indic languages, as is common in the region. These countries tend to not have well developed infrastructure and their technology standards are similar. Most countries in the region drive on the left side of the road, use Indian broad gauge railroad tracks, and have similar electrical outlets. Bhutan is the least similar to India in the South Asia region. Its people have more East Asian ancestry and its people natively speak Sino-Tibetan languages, unlike India.
East Asia is extremely diverse, so no country in the region is especially average. South Korea ended up being the most average, in part since North Korea is such a huge outlier in the region. South Korea at least has the same language and writing as North Korea. They also share the same peninsula. Like many countries in East Asia, South Korea is mountainous and densely populated with many skyscrapers in its large cities. Much of its land is close to the ocean too. Its agriculture is typical for the region as well, since rice is its most common crop. China is the least similar country to South Korea in the region. China’s government is less democratic and its landscape has far more diversity.
Southeast Asia is another highly diverse region, so no country in the region is especially average. Malaysia has the highest regional average. It is located between Thailand and Indonesia. Like Brunei, Indonesia, and Singapore, it has a variety of Malay as one of its official languages. The country is also religiously diverse, like the region. It is mostly Muslim, but around 20% of its people are Buddhist. Like all countries in the region, it has a tropical climate. It borders both the Indian and Pacific Oceans as well. The least similar country in the region to it is Laos. While Malaysia was once a British colony, Laos was part of French Indochina. Its people natively speak a language unrelated to Malay and also do not use the Latin alphabet.
Vanuatu is a group of mountainous tropical islands in the South Pacific Ocean, like most countries in its region. The country was jointly administered by both the United Kingdom and France, the two biggest colonial powers in the region, so it has English and French as its official languages. Its people are mostly Christian and they natively speak Austronesian languages, as is typical for the South Pacific. Furthermore, the country is a democracy, like all other countries in the region. Although all the countries in the region have a high degree of similarity to Vanuatu, Fiji ended up being the least similar country in the region. Due to the large scale immigration of Indians to Fiji, it has a much higher percentage of Hindus and Muslims. The country is also less densely forested, since much of the island is used to farm sugarcane.
Do you agree with these regions of the world?
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