Tuscany, Italy

Every Country Is The Friendliest Country In The World

Derek Perspectives 64 Comments

Friendliest Country - Tuscany, Italy

The other day, I met up with fellow travelers/bloggers Johnny and Ian, who happened to be passing through Bucharest. I had met Johnny in 2010 while in Beirut and so this was a great opportunity to catch up with him and learn more about his recent travels along the Trans-Siberian Railway and all over Northern and Eastern Europe.

As we sat at an outdoor cafe in the old city center discussing a variety of topics, at one point, both Johnny and Ian mentioned that upon first impression, the people of Bucharest seemed so very friendly.

I quickly nodded in agreement because that has been my experience as well during the five months I’ve spent on and off in this city. However, even though I have without a doubt encountered an endless string of overly friendly, kind and generous people in this city, and in Romania in general, you won’t hear me claiming this country to be the friendliest on the planet.

But fear not dear Romania. It has nothing to do with you at all.

When it comes to the question “What is the friendliest country on the planet?”, I truly believe that there is only one suitable answer – every country is the friendliest country on the planet.

Friendliest Country - Amritsar, India

Yes, I’m talking about you Nicaragua and Bangladesh and Indonesia and Slovakia and Mexico and France and South Africa and Kuwait, and every other country in between.

How is this possible?

In my travel experience, I’ve learned that the friendliness of a country has far more to do with my own attitude than any other factor. If I cross the border into Croatia, for example, and I walk around the streets of Split with my head down, treating everyone I come across as either a potential scam artist, thief or even just a source of information, chances are I won’t have the most rewarding interactions.

However, if I walk around with my head up, not caring that I’m the silly tourist, always open and interested in meeting new people and remembering at all times that everyone I meet is a fellow human being, while shaking plenty of hands, asking questions and trying to use the few words of Croatian that I’ve hopefully picked up, then I have no doubt that Croatia will seem like one supremely friendly nation.

And the same formula works for every country you visit. It’s worked for me at least, in 76 countries so far.

Friendliest Country

It is common, and quite understandable, for us travelers to be on guard at all times, to constantly worry about our safety and to lack a general trust of those we meet during our adventures. And when this happens, we tend to shy away from interacting with those around us and as a result, everyone seems much less friendly, simply because we aren’t open to meeting as many people.

But a good way to change our mentality is to imagine ourselves sitting on the steps in front of our own house or apartment building back home. There we are, just relaxing outside when suddenly, from around the corner comes a backpack-carrying traveler who clearly appears to be lost.

Some of you might immediately hop up and offer this traveler a hand. However, others might not say a word and just stare at this nervous person, wondering what on earth they are doing on your street.

But if that traveler walked up to you, smiled widely and asked if you could point him or her in the right direction, I’d imagine that most of you would offer a helping hand and make sure that this traveler ended up where they needed to go.

Just think about the difference in this person’s experience. As a result of talking to us, smiling and asking a question, when they go back to their hostel later that night, they will speak of the friendly people they encountered, the people who helped them when lost.

Friendliest Country - Kuta, Bali

Friendliest Country - Brno, Czech Republic

Well, it’s the same when we’re on the road as well. We need to put in an effort to interact and connect with the people who live in the destinations we visit. We can’t walk around with a suspicious eye, tightly grasping our backpack in fear of our stuff being stolen, assuming that everyone is out to get us. And we can’t expect every person in every nation to walk up to us, the strange foreigner, with open arms, to give us a huge hug and a flower lei and treat us to a royal feast just because we’ve chosen to visit their country.

Of course, there’s still no guarantee that a smile, a hand shake or a splattering of highly mangled local words will lead to ideal travel experiences, but so far, in my travels, I have rarely been disappointed. India and Australia, Italy and Iceland, Jordan and Turkey, Barbados and Kiribati…they’ve all been equally friendly to me.

Friendliest Country - Lahore, Pakistan

So, forget about the question of “which is the friendliest country in the world?” Instead, just remember that wherever we travel, we, the traveler, hold the key to unlocking the friendliness of the people around us.

With this attitude, I’m quite confident that you, too, will always feel as if you are in the friendliest country on the planet.


Do you believe there’s a ‘friendliest country in the world’ or do you also think that every country can fit that description?

Photo credit: African Township – Matt Karsten
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Comments 64

  1. Nomad Revelations

    Hey there Earl. great post. I believe that people, in most cases are a mirror of your behavior, state of mind and way to deal with life. “Be kind to unkind people. They need it the most.” most times a big SMILE makes people smile too. big hug from Marrakesh!

  2. Fatima

    I love your views on this. It’s a cliche, but people really and truly are the same everywhere. Most will respond to a smile and friendly attitude, and most will also be turned off by body language that says you don’t want to be disturbed.

    I do however believe that Japan might be the friendliest country ever. Have you ever been there? The Japanese will literally go out of their way for a mile or more to make sure you get to where you want. They are so unbelievably kind and polite, I was blown away when I visited some years ago. I was only there for around 10 days, but I felt as if the whole country was family by the time I left. 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Fatima – I have not been to Japan yet but would love to go soon. You are definitely not the first person to tell me the same thing about the friendliness over there and it has made me curious.

  3. SY

    Really like your attitude, and agree with you. Many times it’s not that people are not friendly, just that we haven’t discover the friendly side of them yet.

  4. A Gecko

    I’ve been to many countries, but I must say that Taiwan is the friendliest place that I have been in the world! Everyone says hello, invites you to tea, gives you free things constantly and helps you navigate their country and culture. People are so respectful and really welcome Westerners here. I don’t know if every traveler to Taiwan has had the same experience, but being an American in Taiwan is such a friendly experience that it almost makes me feel mean! Sometimes I wonder if I would go to the same extent for others!!!

  5. Arianwen

    You are so right. It’s probably also true that you’ll appear more confident and ‘at home’ if you act that way, which would make people with dodgy intentions less likely to choose you as a target. It’s a win-win!

  6. Sabina

    I hear you. Attitude matters a great deal in how people react to you, as does treating people with trust rather than distrust and thinking they’re going to hurt you or rob you or something. I have actually, found, though, that one country stands way far ahead of the pack as far as friendliness, in my experience. I think Egyptians are the friendliest people in the world. They are smily, warm, outgoing, quick to help, and generous to a fault despite their very low incomes. My first visit to Egypt I decided they were the friendliest people on earth, and I’ve both visited Egypt since then as well as lived in the country for five months, and my feelings haven’t changed at all. I’m interested to see if I ever meet people anywhere else that top Egyptians in friendliness. Have you traveled to Egypt?

    1. Earl

      Hey Sabina – I have been to Egypt and while I naturally met plenty of friendly people everywhere I went, it didn’t stand out as significantly friendlier overall than other places I’ve visited. But everyone has their own experiences of course. It really is difficult for me to say which country seemed friendlier than others and I’m not sure it’s possible. As I mentioned in the post, everywhere really has seemed quite friendly to me!

  7. Ozzy

    I couldn’t agree more. Even with just my travels state side I have friends who tell me I have a hitch hiker aura. If I’m lost and asking directions, just calling a cab to take me where I think I need to go, or even actually sticking out my thumb. 9 times out of 10 a random person will come up to me, ask me if I need a ride, and then take me where I need to go. People are generally friendly as long as you seem friendly yourself.

    Ozzy

  8. Osvaldo

    After reading this post, suddenly my mind traveled back to my experience in Cali, Colombia. I got lost like an ass and after half-hour asking how to get to some address to reach my couchsurfer host’s place, I managed to get there safe and sound.

    As always: if you have a good attitude and mindset when traveling , doors will always open for you!

    1. Earl

      Hey Osvaldo – Keeping that positive attitude is so very important while traveling and all it takes is one experience like yours to realize that fact!

  9. Claire

    Nice post – I honestly never thought of it like that. Something made me feel like different cultures brought on different levels of kindness, but thinking back, it really is the friendliness of ourselves that makes a country friendly. If someone is nice to me, I’ll be extra nice back and vice versa. That seems to be the way it is everywhere!

    1. Earl

      Hey Claire – That is how it works in the end and if we can remember that everywhere we go, I’m confident that the positive interactions will always far outweigh the negative!

  10. Chelsea

    Well put. There are friendly people in every country, and non-friendly people. If we speak to enough and maintain a positive attitude, we’re bound to make friends while traveling.

  11. Nico

    That is so right, Earl!

    It all depends on your own attitude towards the place, but I guess sometimes cities less accustomed to tourism have people more eager to meet you and talk to you, while popular tourist destinations have developed a portion of residents who loathe certain stereotypes of tourists, for good reason.

  12. Simon P

    Equally, every country is the least friendly in the world – at least according to that one guy I always seem to meet at every hostel I go to who isn’t having a good time. He might have been robbed, he might be homesick; either way, he hates this country.

    But I’m like you – every country is the friendliest in the world!

    1. Earl

      Hey Simon – Just as there are always going to be unfriendly people in every country, there will always be travelers who have an attitude that turns every situation into a negative one. The good news is that if we keep a positive attitude, those people won’t affect our own experiences!

      And on a different topic, congratulations on your engagement!!

  13. Forest

    I have been saying this on repeat to everyone who asks me where the friendliest place I have been is! I always say ‘people are people and there are good and bad of everyone’. When addressing the fanatics in the Middle East you just have to look at the fanatical edge of every country and the history that has created certain situations but despite all that the average person will always go out of their way to help.

    That being said….. There are elements of custom and culture that change place to place that create different social situations that you may enjoy for different reasons in different places.

    1. Earl

      Hey Forest – Glad to know you’ve been repeating this as well! I always tell people that the average person in every country on the planet simply wants to live a happy, peaceful life and is not interested in crime, hatred or having enemies. And luckily, the overwhelming majority of people in the world are ‘average people’ just like all of us. There are of course bad elements everywhere, but those elements are almost always drowned out by the masses of good people.

  14. Phil

    Excellent post, Earl. I think there are definitely factors that can affect how a country receives visitors. If there is a history of travelers being irresponsible or foreign businessmen or even foreign governments having a negative impact on a country, the reception might not be so warm off the bat. But you are so right in saying that the biggest factor is our attitude and approach. Regardless of the destination, people are open to genuine curiosity, respect and friendship. Great post!

    1. Earl

      Thanks Phil! And that’s a good point about foreigners tainting the image of other foreigners, which can naturally lead to a much different initial reception. But I’m a firm believer that even in such countries, if you’re genuinely interested in learning about the destination and genuinely interested in meeting new people, others will notice that and respond accordingly, no matter what their previous experience with or thoughts about foreigners may have been.

    1. Earl

      Hey Cal – I believe that there are always going to be people who are not friendly and who are living in what you might call the dark side. But I think that’s more of a human thing than an aspect of a particular country.

      1. Cal

        Hey Earl,

        Thanks for the reply.

        I think it might actually boil down to semantics then and what is actually defined as a country…?

        Is a country just the land and it’s geographic attributes?

        Or, is a country the land and it’s people/inhabitants?

        I also believe that one would have to live in a country for a very extended period of time before one would begin to notice or see the ‘dark’ or negative side of a country.

        Living in a country for a year or two is a ‘honeymoon’ period, I believe.

        Once once is fully inducted into society after a couple of years, then one may begin to see this dark side.

        Thanks for reading!

        Cheers.

  15. Wong Kae Chee

    Hi Earl, I love your photos and text.
    Whenever I see a traveller in my home country, I smile and offer friendly help, as I have received much kindness and warmth in my own travels.
    As a woman, I do take extra caution. And for this same reason, I am friendlier to female travelers.

    1. Earl

      Hey Kae Chee – That makes sense about being friendlier to female travelers and it does make sense to be cautious. I’m definitely not saying that we should all smile and walk up to everyone we see…using a little common sense is always a good idea too.

  16. Mikaela

    Very true! One’s attitude means a lot when it comes to what reactions you get and what kind of people you get in contact with 🙂 I have also problems saying what country is the friendliest. A nice “problem” to have 😛

  17. Christine

    I loved this post Earl. I agree that our own perspective and views and attitudes will have a huge impact on ways people see us and treat us. I also think that ‘friendly’ is often in the eye of the beholder and we need to take into consideration cultural differences and try to be aware of them and to show respect in that regard which also helps our interactions as we travel. When you speak of people being scared of being robbed or having something dangerous happen, I agree to an extent. I may have a different perspective as a woman who has traveled alone. I always research the potential dangers and pitfalls and take appropriate precautions. I say don’t be scared, be savvy.

    I encourage women to travel alone, but unfortunately we have some limitations men may not have to worry about. When I was traveling in Vietnam a colleague was there at the same time. He was a 50 year old man and at one point he jumped on a motor bike with a man he met in a bar and went up into the mountains to the gentleman’s village and stayed with his family. This was an amazing experience for him and he was so excited to tell me about it. Just after I heard this story he and I were walking back toward the hotel and, as happened to me several times a day, a motor bike taxi pulled up to offer me a ride. I said I wanted to walk. He insisted he would take me for free and was very persistent. When he finally gave up my colleague said, “You need to be friendlier and you would get to know more locals.” Shocked, I asked him why he didn’t offer to take him for free. “I don’t know,” he answered, “that hasn’t happened to me yet.” I reminded him I am a 30 year old woman and it is a risk for me to hop on a bike with a strange man into the mountains. This suddenly made sense to him and he expressed his frustration on my behalf.

    Though I did take these precautions and felt a need to take certain actions or not take them to be safe, such as not walking home alone after dark in Guatemala for example or not taking tuk-tuks alone as it said there was a high rate of robbery in general and rape for women, I didn’t walk around scared. I wore my backpack on my front at the market and kept my cash in my bra, but I went and I met many friendly people everywhere I went. I loved the people and their hospitality in both Vietnam and Guatemala. If you are that scared I can’t imagine you would enjoy yourself. In my experience traveling in countries that many consider to be ‘dangerous’ such as Guatemala and The Philippines, I was overwhelmed with the kindness, hospitality and how protective locals were and concerned for my safety. I had many experiences of a stranger going out of their way to help me or give me advice on my safety.

    Unfortunately, many Americans are convinced of other places being dangerous, when there are at least as many dangers if not more right here at home. So many are scared of Mexico because of the drug war. Last year there were about 100 violent deaths of expats or tourists in Mexico. There were over 300 violent deaths in Chicago alone. Do that math. After all of my travels on my own where I took precautions and had no bad experiences, I came home to the USA and (without going into details) something horrible happened to me. I was the victim of a violent crime in a place I felt safe, while surrounded by people I trust. Though depending on who you are, and where you are there may be some awareness and precautions to be taken, being scared isn’t going to be a way to experience any place or the people that inhabit these places. Again Earl, I loved this post and I agree that in most cases your experience in a country will be what you make of it and people will react to you based on how you approach them and treat them. Despite my bad experience back in the USA, I still believe in the basic good of humanity regardless of culture or country.

    1. T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries

      @Christine

      You couldn’t be more right 🙂 Your take on Mexico echos the reality. I just wrote a post a couple of weeks ago (Modern Mexico: The Real Story) that delved into that very topic. Washington D.C., the capital of the world’s supposedly safest country in the world, has a murder rate of 31.4 in 100,000. Quintana Roo, which is where I live in Cancun, has a 2 in 100,000 murder rate. Mexico City is an 8 or a 9, which is *exactly* the same as New York City. So these places are FAR safer than the capital of the U.S., which is a very dangerous place in comparison.

      Now, granted, Juarez has a 250 in 100,000 murder rate. It is no doubt a dangerous city. But the thing about both Juarez and Washington D.C. that almost no one ever thinks about…is that neither of these cities define the countries they exist within. Are they both dangerous cities? Absolutely…depending on the circumstances. Especially when compared against places like Cancun or Sofia, Bulgaria (which is a 5 or 6 in 100,000, yet if you read the State Department’s website, Bulgaria is one of the most dangerous places in Eastern Europe filled with mafiosos ready to rape, murder and kidnap Western/American tourists).

      A very refreshing comment here on Earl’s blog 🙂 So nice to see others who get it. Thanks for inspiring others, Earl.

      1. Christine

        Thanks T.W.,

        I appreciate the follow-up with statistics to back my statement. You mention Juarez has a high number, but I am willing to bet they are not tourists, and also I wouldn’t advise people to be hopping along the Mexican/American border, but it bothers me when people make assumptions about the whole country based on the news.

        What many people don’t understand is America is NOT the safest country in the world. We are high on the list of violent crime. Many countries in Europe for example have petty crime that is high, such as pick-pocketing, but very low murder rates or violent crime over all. Years ago I remember having a discussion about Mexico and Columbia being dangerous as the person had fear of kidnapping. When I informed them (at that time) Mexico and Columbia were in the Top 10 for kidnapping statistics, but so was the USA they refused to believe me.

        The USA has high kidnapping and murder rates, and yet we don’t run around scared every day. If people choose to live their life in fear, sadly, statistics and facts are not likely to change that.

        1. T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries

          Yep. As I mentioned in that post on Mexico, the 250/100,000 murder rate in Juarez is the cartel-on-cartel violence. The ONLY way that affects tourists is if they happen to get in the way and thus die as a result of collateral damage. Tourists are NOT singled out by the cartels.

          It’s the same thing in Bulgaria. I was living in Sofia when there was a shooting of a prominent journalist right on the main boulevard and the U.S. media blew it out of proportion as it was a Mafia hit….started going off about how “dangerous” Bulgaria was, and the reality is that as tourist, you will never in a hundred years come into contact with the Mafia. I traveled there for 6 years before I moved there to live, and not once in all that time did I ever once feel threatened. And for the locals living in Sofia, that murder was a blip on the news, that was it…nobody even really noticed that it happened because it was a random, isolated event.

          Statistics are a big part of what I do 🙂

          When I lived in Greeley, Colorado, a little college town north of Denver, I had more run-ins with gangs and violence than I have EVER had while traveling abroad. My vehicles were broken into multiple times over the years, I had drunk gang-bangers pounding on my door with baseball bats one night after I called the cops and two of them got arrested with warrants so their friends came to pay me a visit, I had my Jeep’s soft-top knifed on a jobsite in Denver by guys from a drywall crew who were pissed I “took their parking space”, my truck was keyed….all random acts of violence that happened in Colorado, within the United States, supposedly one of the safest places in the world.

          Petty crime can exist anywhere, though. My girlfriend here in Cancun was mugged 3 times in 2010 when she first moved here (all non-violent muggings, but one of them was with a pistol), and the Oxxo near where she lives gets jacked once a month. No joke…they get robbed every single month like clockwork. But there’s hardly any ever murders that happen in Cancun. I think there were three out of the entire 2011 year. Compare that to L.A. or even Denver, where HUNDREDS are murdered every year in violent crimes.

          That’s the curse of listening to Western propaganda media…people just don’t know any better, not because they are stupid, but because they are ignorant out of a lack of education. Sort of like someone who doesn’t know basic mathematics because they never learned.

    2. Earl

      Hey Christine – Thank you for that well-written comment. And of course, I think that everything you said is very true. There are differences for males and females indeed…although, to be honest, I wouldn’t have jumped on that guy’s motorbike either as there are plenty of instances of robbery and attacks on males in such situations too. But like you said, taking extra precautions can certainly be done without having it severely affect one’s ability to enjoy their travels. Being smart is the key, something that I imagine most of us try to do while at home as well. And when we’re able to do this successfully, then we do end up having such positive experiences in countries that many people believe to be very dangerous.

      And just like you mentioned with the statistics, I’m always showing people the crime stats for most of the countries I visit. When people are worried, just pointing to the crime in the US is enough to show them that where I’m headed really isn’t so dangerous after all.

  18. Andrea

    I agree 100%–your attitude effects everything you do, and how you see the world. My dad always used the example “if you look for VW bugs wherever you go, you’ll start to see them everywhere because you’ve focused your attention on noticing them.” It’s definitely true of friendly/helpful people as well! 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Andrea – It certainly does work for people as well…and once we start finding friendly people, it seems, at least in my experience, to happen more and more often as our views about a particular destination constantly improves!

  19. Earthdrifter

    Great points. It really comes down to attitude, home or away, a smile is contagious. If you’re in a good mood, you attract people. I want to agree with IW ANDERSON about Colombia as I have fond memories of people that I hung out with there. Often I find that the last land I’ve visited is my favorite and possesses the friendliest folks. I’ve just returned from Perú. I found the people to be wonderful. If you’re a foreigner who speaks a reasonable amount of the local tongue, expect extreme warmth anywhere.

    1. Earl

      @Earthdrifter – I like your line about the last land you’ve visited being your favorite and having the friendliest people. If that’s the case, as it should be, then clearly you’re traveling with an attitude that leads to the most positive experiences possible!

  20. mmz

    I’m so glad that you’ve had such positive results from being a tourist-with-a-smile. Having worked in a city that gets a lot of tourists (Washington, DC), both foreign and American, I have to say that it can be hard to be as nice as I might have wanted to be to someone who was standing directly in my path as I rushed to work. You’re definitely right, though – it was a lot easier to be nice to the person who approached and asked for directions with a smile than to the one who scowled and seemed to think it was my fault that they were lost.

  21. Tessa

    Reminding people that experiences are what you make of them is important. I appreciate this post very much because it is a good reminder that as tourists and travelers we need to be open minded and try to make the best of every situation with a positive attitude. 🙂 Great post.

    1. Earl

      Hey Tessa – It has always amazed me how a small change in our attitude can make such a huge difference with the kind of experience we have.

  22. The Queer Nomad

    I felt myself torn between two sides reading this post. Yes, the world reflects how you approach it, but on the other hand – many of these experiences you had happened because you were a man. As a solo woman traveller who smiles at everything and shakes everybodies hands, it’s easy to get into trouble. Anywhere in the world. I’m the last girl that would say it’s dangerous to travel on your own as a woman, but in many cultures, this openness and friendliness that people bring to you is only extended by men to men. ‘Many cultures’ can mean any country here, really. I only had uncomfortable situations with men in developed countries, never in Muslim oder developing countries. If this openess is given to women by men (connecting with women is pretty difficult in many places), there are often – by no means always – second thoughts, so I would not put things quite that bluntly.

    1. Earl

      @The Queer Nomad – That’s an interesting point and I can understand what you’re saying. Of course I can’t speak for women, but I’m trying to think of countries where that friendliness would only be extended from a man to a man. I know that even during my visits to Pakistan or Syria, for example, the female travelers I met there only spoke of how well they were treated and how it was much easier for them to travel in these regions than they would have imagined. I’m sure there are countries where this wouldn’t be the case but of course, I wouldn’t know being a male.

  23. Someday I'll Be There - Mina

    I couldn’t agree more, Earl. Yes, People with a closed heart will always think of people as unfriendly or as them all being potential threats. However, I believe that every human being has the good a friendly side to them (well at least most human beings). If you open your heart and broaden your smile you will definitely meet the nicest people in every country! Even in Egypt! 😛

    1. Earl

      Hey Mina – I usually hear very positive things about the people in Egypt and I had only great experiences during my own visit there as well 🙂

  24. Steve C

    Yes Earl, I agree with you about not picking one country over another. (It’s in the same category as “What’s the best country you’ve ever been to?”)

    However, I do think that what you project is what you’ll get in return.
    I’ve been trying to get more exercise lately and every time I go out on my walk on a nearby bike/walking trail, I try to smile and say hi to passersby also getting their exercise. Most of the time it works and I’ll get a smile back. But, there is the percentage that only glare, than glance away. These are the ones that become a personal project for me. If I see them again, which I usually do, I’ll try again. Most of the time it works.

    I don’t want to single out Americans from the rest of the planet, but we definitely have many people here who are really suspect of others. I’m doing my part to change that.

    Also, I have a theory about friendliness. People in large Cities see too many people everyday to take the time to smile and say hi. People in the countryside don’t see very many people during a typical day and generally have more time to smile and even say hi. But, it’s only a theory and there are always plenty of exceptions.

    1. Steve C

      PS I like the shot above of you with your folks. They are your folks aren’t they? If they aren’t, you sure look alike!

      1. Earl

        Hey Steve – Nope, that’s not my folks 🙂 It’s actually the parents of a friend of mine who are from a small town in Tuscany. During a visit to Italy they took me in, showed me around for a week and proved to be some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met.

    2. Earl

      Hey Steve – It’s true and I definitely don’t think that a smile will lead to a positive interaction in every instance. Of course it won’t and there are plenty of people who will keep their heads down and refuse to offer a helping hand or even a mere ‘hello’. And your theory makes some sense…I also think it might have to do with the fact that Americans don’t travel as much so it becomes harder to put oneself in the shoes of a ‘lost’ traveler.

    1. Earl

      Hey Ellen – Absolutely! And I think sometimes I forget that because I’m always trying to relate things to travel 🙂 But you are right, doing this at home certainly leads to more positive experiences as well.

  25. Roy Marvelous

    Loads of countries are super friendly, especially to friendly backpackers. Having said that, I would have to disagree with you on the “every” part. Well, at least I would exclude Russia from the list!

    (But I do find Couchsurfers from every country super-friendly)

  26. Dyanne@TravelnLass

    So true. We attract what we put out there. Simple as that.

    Reminds me too, of one of my posts from a rainy day back in Seattle (indeed, surprisingly for such a simple tale, one of my all time most popular posts): “Pay It Forward: Helping a Fellow Wanderlust Here at Home” – http://tinyurl.com/7e2ohdy

    What goes around, comes around, yes?

    P.S. btw, sooo glad you included a nod to South Africa there among the friendlies – I backpacked solo for 6 weeks across that amazing land, and it ever annoys me that it perpetually gets a negative “avoid: dangerous” rap.

    1. Earl

      Hey Dyanne – Thanks for sharing that post of yours and I could smile widely after reading it. Just think of the difference you made in that guy’s experience! Helping people when we’re at home is something all travelers should do since it’s so easy for us to understand how someone must feel in such a situation, in a foreign land, with no idea where to go.

  27. Scott

    I so agree with you…we (the travelers) are the best ambassadors, because how we act will influence what locals feel about us and where we are from.
    I have been chased down a street in New York City by a man simply wanting to give me my cellphone back which I had dropped.
    I’ve been followed on the train from the airport in Copenhagen to downtown simply because someone wanted to give me back my passport which I had dropped (apparently I drop a lot). Looking at a map once in Prague, I was stopped by a business man asking me where I wanted to go, and then he took the time to walk me there, and point out a restaurant in the neighborhood that had amazing food.
    However, I have to say Edinburgh was the friendliest….people came up as I waited at a bus stop to make sure I had not missed the last bus. They would stop and ask if I needed help as I sat on a curb just taking a break, and even if you appear lost, they are there to help.
    I remember the woman at the drug store in Budapest insisting I should see a doctor, almost pleading with me after I had fallen down in a street…almost crying out of concern, but I knew I had not broken anything…and just wanted some aspirin…..I, in a lot of pain, felt bad for her.
    I truly believe that people will treat you the way you treat them. People just want to share experiences…
    I truly believe that how you treat others is how they will treat you.

  28. T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries

    I think the potential is there for any country to be the friendiest, if you travel with an open mind and don’t treat everyone like they are a potential pickpocket/thief like so many Western tourists do…constantly peering over their shoulders and thinking that all other countries are inferior.

    In my own personal travels, however, I still mark Colombia as hands-down the friendliest country I’ve visited to-date. The people there are like the perfect public relations committee for their country. After so many years of being hidden behind the veil of drug cartels and Escobar’s violence, with tourists finally starting to come into their country the Colombian people are very, very, VERY eager to cast off that reputation and emerge into the modern era as “the best damn country in South America”. Every one of them you meet wants to prove to you that Colombia is NOT dangerous, is NOT full of cartels and violence, etc.

    EVERY person I met was full of smiles, happiness, etc. I even wrote a post about it, called The Friendliness of Colombians. The little old grandmother at the hospital was by far the most classic example, but there were tons of experiences like that for me when I was living in Bogota.

    So yeah….I think every country has that potential, but some come across more friendly than others depending on personal travel experiences. Bulgarians were always very good to me in my time living there, and I’ve loved Mexico and the Latin people here, but Colombians still take the cake in my book 🙂

    1. Christine

      Hey T.W.,
      Your comment about Columbia’s reputation and dangers vs. the friendliness of the people reminded me of my own similar thoughts on two countries I visited alone. I went to the Phillipines alone to retrace my grandfather’s footsteps as a POW in WWII. There are real dangers to be aware of there, and to be honest it is the one place I’ve been that I know I will return, but never alone again. That said, I have never had so many strangers go out of their way to help me. I was also lectured constantly by Philippinos I met about wht I would be thinking to come there alone. I was there during Christmas and the place was empty for the holiday. Unlike other countries where I had met other travelers, I met none in the Philippines other than other Philippinos. They were my company, my protectors, and my guides, and I am still in touch with them today.

      When I went to study Spanish in Guatemala for 5 months I was also on my own. Though I met many other students and travelers I stuck to my own set of rules for saftey. I didn’t feel scared though. The dangers are real in Guatemala and I heard a story of a fellow student or housemate being robbed at gunpoint almost daily. Even the Spanish teachers had their stories, but again I thought about what a contrast the regular people were to such things. It was another culture where people were so friendly and so happy you were there and wanted to share their culture. My teachers, my host (who called me ‘Mija’ as I was there for so long), and others shared their stories and spoke of the politics in the country from their point of view. I actually remember thinking that perhaps the countries that have the most potential danger have the friendliest people. Whether they want to show you another side to their country (as no country is or should be defined by their crimes or risks), or perhaps one just can’t define the other. There are bad people everwhere and anyone who makes an assumption about a country and their people based on what they read on the State Department web site is going to miss out.

  29. Cindy Thistle

    Well said Earl. That is my experience as well. When I’m happy and open the world is a friendly place but when I’m sweaty, lost, tired and concerned I do usually remember to put on a brave smiling face and someone does come to my rescue quite quickly.

    1. Earl

      Hey Cindy – Sometimes it’s definitely tough to do, but if we can manage to somehow get that smile on our face in the end, we always put ourselves in a much better position and usually end up with a more positive experience.

  30. Will

    Earl,
    Definitely agree that your perspective affects how you see and interact with the world.
    That’s cool you can walk around and interact with locals. Sounds like a lot of friendly people have helped you along the way especially the locals who invite you home and then to stay. I can’t imagine someone in the U.S. doing this though.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Earl

      Hey Will – I’ve actually met a lot of people who have had incredible experiences with hospitality in the US as well. Another blogger actually walked across America last year and he had a never-ending list of positive, inspiring stories of people who helped him out, invited him to their homes and showered him with more hospitality than he ever imagined! But I think it’s quite common for citizens of a particular country to see things different and not feel that friendliness as much as travelers might.

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