When we're looking to travel abroad to a new country, we want to know if the location is safe. Sure, some sights must be seen as we work through a “bucket list,” but what about the local population? We have taken a look at the friendliest countries worldwide and used several different criteria, including whether ex-pats were made to feel at home.
Straight in at number one in Canada, with a significant 23% of the country made up of immigrants, according to the 2021 census. Those living here permanently may not travel for the weather, but a strong economy and a generally safe environment exist. In 2023, a writer for an English newspaper looked into the science behind Canada's ranking and found that this was a country that took a genuine interest in its visitors.
Before the global events of 2020, Thailand was welcoming some 40 million tourists a year. The situation is recovering and, once again, the country is a popular location for temporary and permanent visitors. It's a diverse land, but part of its appeal lies in the friendly nature of locals, an attitude that places Thailand in second place on the survey.
The key to Australia's high rating is its laid-back attitude. It's also host to around 7.6 million migrants. My personal experience is that all Aussies are friendly, except on those rare occasions when my England cricket team has the upper hand in the Ashes series.
A previous survey rated by Forbes also ranks the Philippines as one of the friendliest countries in the world. 2019 saw 8.3 million visitors enter the country, while it's also a popular ultimate destination for ex-pats.
15% of Spain's population emigrated there, so it's an excellent location for ex-pats. The country scores highly with that ease of movement and residency and an all-round welcoming attitude. As a possible downside, when on holiday in Spain, I'd rather experience local food and drink and avoid the many English-style pubs that appear in some parts of the country.
Another popular tourist attraction, Portugal, ranks highly in the survey. It's a country that can accommodate all types of visitors with its glorious beaches, world-class golf courses, and historic sites. I have visited Portugal twice. I picked up food poisoning on both occasions, but I wouldn't hold that against the local population, who were exceptionally friendly.
Mexico heads into seventh place, based on what the survey calls “its strong sense of community.” There is also a willingness to involve travelers in local customs and culture. Earlier in 2023, additional research showed that this North American country is also the easiest to settle in legally. All of this adds up to Mexico landing at the top of the list.
Over 30 million tourists visit Greece annually, and the vast majority are greeted with a friendly welcome. Along with the mainland, there are many islands to choose from, including popular hotspots such as Rhodes, Crete, and Corfu. I've visited Greece many times and, apart from an unnerving incident with a rogue, unlicensed taxi driver, I'd agree that the country deserves its place in the top ten.
9. Costa Rica
This country is keen to involve tourists in its traditions and culture. In another survey by InterNations, a network for ex-pats, it's claimed that this Central American location is the sixth most welcoming to overseas visitors. While there are small differences in the rankings, both studies show Costa Rica in a positive light.
10. Dominican Republic
We're at the edge of the top 10 now with the Dominican Republic. For many years, it's earned a reputation for being the most cost-effective way to travel to the Caribbean, and there's lots to see and experience here. Locals are marked highly for their friendly attitude to visitors, and they know that tourism accounts for a significant portion of the country's revenue.
Suppose you're stopped by a local in Taiwan who engages you in conversation. In that case, it's more likely that they will be looking to improve their understanding of English or other foreign languages. That's the view of the survey, which ranks this as the 11th friendliest country on Earth.
12. United Arab Emirates
The UAE is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the world. As a sports fan, I'm also grateful to the country for stepping in and providing hosting for games where tensions in other nations have led to a search for neutral grounds. That's a strong endorsement of the UAE's friendly and welcoming nature.
More than 50 million people visited Turkey in 2022, and the majority of them were met with a positive experience. It ranks as the 13th friendliest country in the world, based on recent studies, although other reports indicate that locals like to ask more personal questions. Your age and your annual income may be subjects of great interest.
Findings from US News contradicted the most recent survey, putting Italy as high as fifth in the global friendly stakes. They slip down to 14th here, but the nation should be happy with both results. On trips to Venice and the Italian Lakes, I've found locals to be friendly and exceptionally helpful with providing directions in those days when none of us carried personal Sat Navs.
Malaysia is listed as one of the most tolerant countries on Earth. Residents from many original nationalities live in peace here, and the nation is happy to welcome more tourists and immigrants. Malaysia is home to many with Chinese, Indian, and Malay backgrounds.
The survey found that Croatians were more likely to tolerate overseas visitors who didn't speak their language. Rather than simply indulging travelers by speaking in English, they were happy to teach basic Croatian phrases to help out. This is also a beautiful and diverse country with stunning coastal resorts and a rich Roman history.
It's wrongly felt that Brazil is the kidnapping capital of the world, but other research shows that this just isn't true. In contrast, the country scored highly in the studies on friendly nations. In research undertaken by Expat Insider, the Ease of Settling in Index puts Brazil in second place.
Morocco is one of the most accessible countries in Africa, and it welcomed around 3.7 million tourists in 2022. The survey describes locals as warm and kind, while other travelers report that Moroccans love to share their culture and traditions with overseas visitors.
The United States is a popular destination for overseas nationals looking to retire. It's also packed with some of the most important tourist attractions in the world, and it is the most visited country for foreign travelers. The survey found the U.S. to be a friendly nation, too. Findings from earlier research by the Pew Center showed that 59% of respondents had found Americans to be a welcoming bunch.
20. United Kingdom
I'm English and surprised to see us placed so high on the list. I think it depends on the part of the country that you visit. In the north, they may be more likely to say “good morning” as your paths cross, while in the south of the UK, they'll rush past, head down, and avoid making eye contact. This comedy sketch from The Mash Report explains everything.
Based in West Asia, Bahrain is noted for being welcoming and inclusive. This is a wealthy country where many locals send their children to international schools. Bahrain nationals grow up with an understanding of other cultures while they are fiercely proud of their history and traditions.
It appears that immigration is the key factor here. In Jordan, overseas visitors and migrants are openly welcome, and permanent immigrants account for 33.9% of the population. Jordan is also focused on hospitality and welcoming travelers from all over the world.
23. New Zealand
In 23rd place is New Zealand, while this island nation also ranks 14th as the safest place in the world for ex-pats. I was lucky to visit New Zealand in 1997 and found it a beautiful country, while the “Kiwis” were the friendliest locals I'd personally encountered.
24. Saudi Arabia
This might be a surprise inclusion on the list, and it seems to be based on the makeup of the local population. When the survey was completed in October 2023, 38.6% of Saudi Arabia were immigrants. With rules on immigration continuing to be relaxed, the Saudis are included.
The French have a reputation for being reserved and unapproachable, but the survey suggests this isn't fair. Because of their findings, France slots into 25th place on this list. From personal experience, I've found French people to be warm and friendly in most parts of the country. The minor exceptions are based in the country's north, who seem weary of UK visitors coming across for cheap alcohol.