Why you should care
Because you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
To all our nomads, jet-setters and quarter-life-crisis adventurers: Some countries are less hospitable to foreign tourists than others. If you’ve been bitten by the wanderlust bug, you should learn where the locals are friendliest to foreigners and which snooty citizens will give you the death stare the moment your plane kisses the runway. Willkommen and sayonara?
For expats, Taiwan is the friendliest country — and Kuwait is the rudest.
According to InterNations’ Expat Insider 2016 Index, you’ll likely be welcomed with open arms in Taiwan, Uganda and Costa Rica, which took the top three spots for the world’s friendliest countries, followed by Mexico and Colombia. On the other hand, locals may just give you the cold shoulder in Norway, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. (Oddly enough, Canada, the poster child for being nauseatingly friendly, didn’t even break the top 10.)
InterNations, one of the world’s largest expat networks, surveyed more than 14,000 respondents from 67 countries and found that countries in the Southern Hemisphere are generally perceived as friendlier and more open than those up north. “The weather certainly plays a role. [If you’re] living under constant cold and freezing rain, you are probably going to be less outgoing,” says InterNations CEO Malte Zeeck.
The surprising part? Taiwan ended up cinching first place for the friendliest country and best expat destination in the world. Some 90 percent of expats in Taiwan gave local residents high marks for hospitality, compared to a combined average of 65 percent in the rest of the surveyed countries. And more than one-third of expats even considered staying on the tiny Pacific island forever, according to polls. “It’s in our culture; we avoid having conflict. We treat our guests with kindness,” says Linda Lin, a director at the Taiwan Tourism Bureau in San Francisco. “If you travel to Taiwan and open your map, people will immediately offer to walk you to your destination.” On the contrary, Kuwait fared poorly in categories like “ease of settling in,” “feeling welcome” and “finding friends,” according to InterNation’s data.
Granted, attitudes toward expats tend to vary according to where the expats are from. Americans, often labeled as the world’s most obnoxious tourists, aren’t always embraced everywhere they go. Meanwhile, Japanese people are frequently ranked as the world’s most polite and well-behaved tourists. These stereotypes, real or not, can affect how locals perceive foreigners. Moreover, impressions of friendliness, like beauty, can differ widely. So what appears as amicable to one individual may seem like bootlicking to another person, “based on subjective views,” adds Zeeck.
Yet as Taiwan has cleverly caught on, you can catch far more flies with honey than with vinegar. Of course, having a gorgeous, green island getaway doesn’t hurt either.