Here at Rickshaw Travel, we offer a unique selection of trips to destinations all over the world – as our travellers will know first-hand. From Asia to Central America, we traverse the globe, and each country we visit is intrinsically different from the last – which is what makes this big, beautiful world of ours so wonderful! Every country has its own history and culture which impacts on everything – from the food to the music, to the architecture.
What’s even more fascinating is that, more often than not, each country’s identity is created from a blend of the many diverse communities, beliefs and backgrounds that belong to it. Canada, for example, is very much a blend of both its North American and French influences, while Cuba is a colourful mix of Caribbean, Latin American and Spanish culture.
In our shiny, new Global Diversity Index we have taken an eagle-eyed look into which countries around the world are the most diverse – weighing up everything from religious beliefs and multilingual communities, to freedom for diversity. Want to find out more? Read on below to find out the results of our research and more about how we carried out our study.
Results of our research
Coming out as the most culturally diverse country in the world is Benin, a small, French-speaking country in West Africa, known as the birthplace of the voodoo religion. While the main language spoken in Benin is French, the country is actually home to 56 different languages – pretty impressive! Benin also came out on top as one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the whole world, based on a Harvard University study which looked at the number of different ethnic groups in each country.
In Benin, there are around 42 different African ethnic groups which call the country home, each of which settled in the country at different times. Benin is also home to a melting pot of religious beliefs, ranking 10th in a Pew Research report into religious diversity. Following on from Benin, the 9 other top-ranking countries which made up the top 10 are:
- Cote d’Ivoire
- South Africa
Belgium is ranked in second place, and anyone who has ever visited will see why! The country is very closely aligned with France in many ways – with a large portion of the country, including the capital of Brussels, speaking French as their main language. There’s also an overlap between Belgium and France in the cuisine of choice in each country – such as the popular moules et frites, which is often associated with France but is actually a Belgian speciality. And let’s not even get into the French fries debate!
Elsewhere in Belgium however, the Flemish language (which is a variation of Dutch) is spoken, while German is also an official language in the country and is spoken as a first language by just 1% of the population. As well as combining lots of different European inspirations, Belgium also has one of the higher rates of immigration – meaning that as more and more people move to Belgium from other parts of the world, they’ll be putting their own stamp on the country’s identity.
Our study not only focused on cultural and religious diversity but also looked at the safety and freedom for personal identity and expression in each country. This took into account factors such as a democratic political system and protection from religious, sexual and any other discrimination. In this area, Belgium ranked particularly high for freedom of diversity thanks to liberal views and protection for sexual, religious and personal freedom.
Coming in at 4th place in our study is our popular destination of Brazil. The South American country ranked as one of the higher countries for ethnical diversity. Originally, the population of Brazil largely comprised of Portuguese and African as well as the indigenous Amerindians. This grew as part of the ‘Great Immigration’ when people from Italy, Spain, Germany, Japan and the Middle East also moved to the country. Now, that is quite a mix!
The Portuguese background of the country remains evident in the main language spoken and the common religion of Roman Catholicism. However, the culture has also been hugely influenced by the indigenous Amerindian people and the African population, as well as the other European countries which have emigrated to Brazil – which you’ll see in the country’s food, dance and music.
The diversity and vibrancy of Brazil has also contributed to the development of its world-famous festivals, including the colourful Brazilian Carnival which drives travellers to the country every year.
Also ranking high in our findings is another of our much-loved destinations – Canada!
Canada is already well-known for its French community, however, it is actually one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world and is home to an astounding 195 different languages- woah! Canada has a large indigenous population, particularly south of the Arctic Circle. The indigenous community of Canada, also referred to as the First Nations, are largely comprised of the Inuit population who live in the Arctic are, and the Métis whose roots stem back to the first relations between the First Nations and Europeans.
As well as our final results, our research also turned up some interesting insights across each of the different elements which we looked into. Being based in Europe ourselves, we noticed that many European countries ranked as some of the least ethnically diverse, including the UK, France and Italy. At the other end of the scale, there was a large portion of African countries topping the list for ethnic diversity, including Benin, Chad and Kenya.
Elsewhere, we discovered that the UAE is home to the highest immigrant population, followed by its nearby neighbour Qatar. The UAE’s immigrant population comprises a large majority of its total population – 83.7% to be exact, while Qatar isn’t far off at 73.8%. This is in large part because there is a growing number of young people from around the world moving to these locations for work, as the Middle Eastern countries become a hotspot of opportunities for exciting career opportunities and active social lives.
In comparison, the UK has an immigrant population of just 13.2% while the US’ immigrant population is only 14.3%.
Singapore came out on top as the country with the highest level of religious diversity, based on a study by Pew Research. In fact, 50% of the top 12 most religiously diverse countries in the world are located in Asia. No wonder the continent is one of the best places in the world for cultural travel! An important part of our research was looking at the freedom for diversity in different countries – meaning restrictions were not placed on people’s religious beliefs, sexual identity, and other personal identifiers.
Canada scored full marks across the board for religious, sexual and personal freedom, and topped the charts for overall personal freedom. New Zealand, Luxembourg and Iceland also ranked highly across all freedom for diversity categories, as did Ireland thanks to progressions in the country’s equality laws in recent years.
How we did the maths
Ok, now it’s time for the nitty-gritty. Want to know how we crunched the numbers? Keep reading on for the full breakdown. To compile our index, we examined the following factors:
- The level of ethnic diversity
- The number of immigrants
- Number of languages spoken
- Number of religious beliefs
- Number of political parties
- Level of religious freedom
- LGBT rights and freedoms
- Level of personal freedom
We divided each of these elements into four overarching categories – cultural diversity, religious diversity, political diversity, and freedom for diversity. We then scored every country (out of 5) across each of the sub-categories, found a total score for the overarching category (out of 5), and then added up the 4 overarching scores for each country to get their final score (out of 20), which we used to rank the countries.
If we had a tie in the total score, we used the personal freedom score as the determining ranking fact.
Curious to know more? The full dataset is available by getting in touch!
Please note: we had to remove some countries from our study as the relevant data was not available for these countries.