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These are the World’s Friendliest Countries

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For many travelers, the warmth of the welcome they receive in a foreign country can make or break their trip. After all, who wants to travel halfway around the world only to be met with hostility? Feeling appreciated by the people of your destination can help you forget long flights, stomach complaints and all of the other horrors of journeying abroad.

But how to find friendly people?

Enter a survey released by InterNations, a global network for people who live and work abroad. The organization polled its membership, hailing from over 180 countries, to find out which countries are the most welcoming to expats — and, by extension, to travelers as well.

What’s most interesting about this list of the 10 friendliest countries is how unexpected it is. Popular travel destinations like the United States (36th), France (55th) and the United Kingdom (56th) are nowhere near the top; instead you’ll find quite a few hidden gems ideal for those seeking a warm welcome from the locals.

 

Canada

Why wouldn't you go to such a famously friendly country, eh?

81 percent of expats say the country has a friendly attitude towards out-of-towners
43 percent say it’s easy to make local friends
45 percent say it’s likely they’ll stay forever

No surprise here: The United States’ famously courteous northern neighbor is particularly welcoming to outsiders. As one French expat noted in the survey, Canadians are “open-minded, tolerant and benevolent.”

There are hundreds of worthwhile destinations to explore in this large country, from Vancouver’s mix of urban and nature in the West to Prince Edward Island’s beaches and charming lighthouses in the East. A pinch of British and French cultures throughout only adds to the charm.

Canada’s populace is so friendly and polite that it’s become a long-standing joke — but isn’t it nice to know that a civil welcome awaits you?

Vietnam

In Vietnam, buy fresh produce from kind locals.

83 percent of expats say the country has a friendly attitude towards out-of-towners
56 percent say it’s easy to make local friends
16 percent say it’s likely they’ll stay forever

A trip to Vietnam is fraught for many Americans, who recall or have learned about the Vietnam War. But the country has largely recovered from that time period, and the people there are used to welcoming Americans. Expats from the U.S. and elsewhere praise the country’s “friendly vibe” and “nice and gentle” locals.

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) are modern destinations with a warm feel. This is a particularly safe country as well, making it a good choice for solo travelers.

Colombia

87 percent of expats say the country has a friendly attitude towards out-of-towners
62 percent say it’s easy to make local friends
33 percent say it’s likely they’ll stay forever

Visit Colombia's coffee region for extraordinary brews and mingling with the locals.

The idea of visiting Colombia may give you pause, but significant portions of the country are perfectly safe to travel within. Those regions include the city of Cartagena and its surroundings, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the country’s convivial coffee region.

Travelers who love music should consider a trip here, where folk music is a strong tradition; Colombians enjoy sharing their musical heritage. Plus, they’re all-around good people — survey respondents called locals “open, warm and friendly” and said they “are always willing to help.”

Oman

86 percent of expats say the country has a friendly attitude towards out-of-towners
60 percent say it’s easy to make local friends
12 percent say it’s likely they’ll stay forever

Oman's vibrant culture is shared by welcoming locals.

Perhaps the most surprising entry on our list is Oman, a relatively little-known country on the Arabian Peninsula. Oman splits its attractions between cities, where ancient and stunning mosques invite tourists to visit, and the Wahiba Sands area, a sand dunes region.

Tourism from the West is increasing in Oman, which made significant efforts to modernize in the first decade of this century. Travelers can expect a modern, bustling destination and people who will go out of their way to embrace outsiders. Indeed, 73 percent of expats describe the locals specifically as “welcoming.”

Costa Rica

87 percent of expats say the country has a friendly attitude towards out-of-towners
78 percent say it’s easy to make local friends
48 percent say it’s likely they’ll stay forever

It doesn't take long to feel right at home in Costa Rica.

Bahrain

86 percent of expats say the country has a friendly attitude towards out-of-towners
55 percent say it’s easy to make local friends
11 percent say it’s likely they’ll stay forever

Citizens of this Arabian Gulf country are warm to visitors.

Cambodia

92 percent of expats say the country has a friendly attitude towards out-of-towners
59 percent say it’s easy to make local friends
23 percent say it’s likely they’ll stay forever

Cambodians in gorgeous national dress invite visitors to celebrate the country's artistic spirit.

Another country which may be hard to place, Cambodia is a Southeast Asian nation west of Vietnam. The ruined temple complex of Angor Wat, in the northwestern part of the country, is a must-see for any world traveler, but getting there takes time and patience. Luckily, the Cambodian people are happy to help. Locals particularly appreciate tourists who are interested in their strong tradition of artistic expression and creation.

Fun fact: 39 percent of respondents felt at home in Cambodia nearly right away, the highest share of all the surveyed countries and more than twice the global average.

Mexico

87 percent of expats say the country has a friendly attitude towards out-of-towners
73 percent say it’s easy to make local friends
39 percent say it’s likely they’ll stay forever

There are myriad reasons to visit Mexico; friendly locals is one of them.

 Taiwan

86 percent of expats say the country has a friendly attitude towards out-of-towners
61 percent say it’s easy to make local friends
30 percent say it’s likely they’ll stay forever

Service is superb in amiable Taiwan.

Many travelers have heard of Taiwan, but aren’t quite sure where it is. The answer? It’s an island off the Eastern coast of China…and it has a complicated history. While China claims it as a part of the country, Taiwan considers itself independent.

Visiting Taiwan almost surely means a trip to its capital city, Taipei. Many Taiwanese are proud of their openness to foreign visitors, seeing it as a difference between their country and China. From skyscrapers to temples, Taiwan offers many similar sites to China, but in a smaller, particularly open environment.

One U.S.-expat survey respondent put it succinctly: “The people are wonderfully friendly and welcoming to foreigners.”

Portugal

94 percent of expats say the country has a friendly attitude towards out-of-towners
58 percent say it’s easy to make local friends
47 percent say it’s likely they’ll stay forever

Dancers in local costumes demonstrate a folk dance in Portugal, the world's friendliest country.

Surprise: The only European country to crack the Top 10 is also No. 1 on the list.

Portugal famously borders on Spain, a better-known destination that lands at number 17 on the list of friendliest countries. The destination offers distinctive cuisine, historic culture, stunning islands and coastal destinations, and thriving cities.

Add to that strong a tradition of neighborliness — “people look after each other here,” noted one survey respondent — and you’d be foolish not to visit.

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