Similar Countries with Extremely Different Governments

For the most part, similar countries tend to have governments that have many of the same characteristics. Still, there are some unique pairs of countries that are fairly similar, except for the fact that their politics and laws are far different. A list of these countries was developed by analyzing the data from the Country Similarity Index, which weighs equally five major aspects of countries: their demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. The following six pairs of countries were found to have a biggest difference between their government and their other aspects, including demographics, culture, politics, and infrastructure.


Cuba and the Dominican Republic are both Spanish speaking countries that are mostly Catholic. They are both located on islands in the Caribbean Sea, so they have a tropical climate as well. Furthermore, most people in these countries have a mix of European and African ancestry. Both countries drive on the right and use standard gauge railroad tracks. They also have Type A, B electrical outlets, like the United States. Moreover, the people in both countries especially enjoy playing baseball. According to the Lewis Model, their people also tend to be extremely outgoing.

However, Cuba is not a democracy like the Dominican Republic, since it is a one party state that is run by the country’s Communist Party. As a result, there is far more censorship in Cuba. While Cuba has a unicameral legislature, the Dominican Republic has a bicameral legislature. They also have some contrasting laws. Abortion is legal in Cuba, whereas Dominican Republic has some of the strictest laws against abortion in the world. Cuba also has far stricter gun control laws. Military service is obligatory for males in Cuba, but it is only voluntary in the Dominican Republic.


Jordan and Saudi Arabia are both countries were most people speak Arabic. In addition, they both have a predominately Sunni Muslim population. These countries both border the Red Sea. They also have hot, dry climates, so a majority of their land is barren desert. Most of their municipal water comes from wells, not surface water. Both countries drive on the right and use standard gauge railroad tracks as well. These countries also use Type G electrical outlets, like the British. They also rely on oil and natural gas to create electricity.

While Saudi Arabia is still an absolute monarchy, Jordan is transitioning to a constitutional monarchy and already has an elected house of representatives. Saudi Arabia also censors the internet and journalists more. It also has more conservative laws. Saudi Arabia has banned the production and sale of alcohol. In contrast, drinking alcohol is legal in Jordan. While Saudi Arabia follows Sharia Law, Jordan’s legal system follows Civil Law. Saudi Arabia’s gun control laws are also less strict. Saudi Arabia’s entitlements to its citizens are also more generous. It has a single payer healthcare system and tuition free college, unlike Jordan.


China and Taiwan were part of the same country, until civil war broke out between communists and capitalists. 95% of the people in both countries are ethnically Han Chinese. Both countries use Mandarin as their official language. Their people tend to follow both Buddhism and traditional Chinese religions. These countries are also densely populated and their large cities often have many skyscrapers. They also have many factories and a large percentage of their people work in industry. In addition, these countries have well developed networks of high speed trains.

China is not a democracy like Taiwan, since it is a one party state that is run by the country’s Communist Party. There is far more censorship of the internet and journalism in China. Furthermore, the country has less rule of law. While Taiwan and the United States are political allies, China had a friendly relationship with the Soviet Union, due to their shared political beliefs. Another difference is that Taiwan legalized same sex marriage. Furthermore, Taiwan has a single payer healthcare system, while healthcare is not free or universal in China.


Brunei and Malaysia are both countries that border the South China Sea. As a result, they both have a tropical climate and are heavily forested. Their demographics are also similar. Most of their people have ancestry originating in East Asia. Their people are predominately Muslim. Furthermore, the majority of their population natively speaks the Malay language. A high percentage of people in both countries work in industry. These countries are relatively well developed. Both countries drive on the left and have Type G electrical outlets like Great Britain.

However, Malaysia is a democracy, whereas Brunei is an absolute monarchy. Malaysia has a bicameral legislature and many different political parties. In contrast, the representatives in Brunei’s unicameral legislature are appointed by the monarch. Brunei also has stricter laws than Malaysia. It does not allow any form of prostitution. It also does not allow the sale of alcohol and tobacco in the country. Brunei also has more entitlements for its citizens. It has a single payer healthcare system and tuition free college. It also provides generous pensions for its senior citizens.


Syria and Tunisia are both Arabic-speaking countries that are predominately Muslim. They were both once colonized by France as well. In addition, these countries border the Mediterranean Sea and have hot, dry climates. A significant portion of both countries is sparsely populated desert. Their infrastructure is similar as well. They both use Type C electrical outlets and drive on the right side of the road.

However, Tunisia is a democracy, whereas Syria is an authoritarian dictatorship. Syria is allies with Russia and Iran, while Tunisia has much friendly relations with the United States. Unlike most Muslim countries, polygamy is criminalized in Tunisia. Furthermore, some areas of Tunisia allow prostitution, while Syria forbids it. Another difference is that Tunisia allows abortion, while Syria has extremely strict laws prohibiting it.


Before 1950, North Korea and South Korea were one country, until civil war broke out between communists and capitalists. Their people are ethnically Korean and speak the same language. They both share the same peninsula and border the Pacific Ocean. As a result, they have a temperate climate as well as similar flora and fauna. Their terrain is also fairly mountainous and both countries have a lot of coastline. They have similar technology standards as well. They both drive on the right, use standard gauge railroad tracks, and have Type C, F electrical outlets.

While South Korea is a democracy, North Korea is a one party socialist state that is run by the Kim family. There is an extreme amount of censorship in North Korea. Furthermore, the country has a much higher incarceration rate than South Korea. There is also far less rule of law there. While South Korea and the United States are political allies, North Korea had a friendly relationship with the Soviet Union, due to their shared political beliefs. North Korea is quite isolated politically and is not even part of the World Trade Organization. All visitors to it must apply for a visa to it in advance.


CUBA DOMINICAN REPUBLIC16.516.49.415.816.316.25-6.85
COSTA RICA CUBA16.7169.514.31515.50-6.00
CUBA PANAMA16.516.29.714.61515.58-5.88
CUBA JAMAICA11.510.37.513.915.512.80-5.30
CUBA URUGUAY16.9168.813.89.113.95-5.15
JORDAN SAUDI ARABIA17.21711.615.516.916.65-5.05
CHINA TAIWAN17.116.99.913.911.214.78-4.88
BRUNEI MALAYSIA18.116.51216.116.816.88-4.88
IRAQ SAUDI ARABIA16.115.510.714.116.615.58-4.88
COLOMBIA CUBA16.216.11014.312.814.85-4.85
COLOMBIA VENEZUELA1817.912.616.417.217.38-4.78
PANAMA VENEZUELA1817.711.615.214.216.28-4.68
IRAQ JORDAN17.716.612.216.216.616.78-4.58
SYRIA TUNISIA1715.611.415.116.215.98-4.58
COSTA RICA VENEZUELA18.317.311.51513.616.05-4.55
CUBA NICARAGUA15.516.310.814.415.115.33-4.53
LIBYA TUNISIA18.416.611.713.716.216.23-4.53
NORTH KOREA SOUTH KOREA14.314.79.310.21613.80-4.50

(Minimum 63% Similarity)

Do you agree with this list? Any other pairs of countries that you would add?
Please leave any thoughts in the comments section.

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