Having met so many wonderful, giving people during my travels (I’ve even been offered a bride) I take the liberty of sharing my favoritism towards the friendliest cultures. Here is my top ten list of friendliest destinations.
Emerald Isle, diamond people – without question, it’s the warmth of the Irish people that stays with you long after you return. Total strangers treat you as close friends and the ‘craic’ – party spirit – of the Irish pubs is legendary. Maybe it’s the magical properties of a pint of Guinness?
The most gentle people on the planet. The Thai Buddhist culture underpins their genuine desire to please travellers. They naturally offer up their cultural heritage and make it easy for visitors to experience. I was once picked up on the streets of Bangkok by a local who took me to his family temple and then to his home to meet his family – all without a word in common.
What makes people who live on a rock so friendly? Could be their Celtic heritage, their self-reliance or their remoteness from stressful big cities. Whatever the cause, their spirit is irresistible. If you survive being ‘screeched-in’ and kissing the cod, you are ready for anything.
4. New Zealanders
I probably relate so easily to The Kiwis (or they to me?) because they are the closest people in spirit to Canadians: they, too, have a beautiful homeland, a big brother neighbour, and they take great delight in showing off their home to travellers…but always, as befits a kindred Canadian attitude, in an understated way.
The best way to describe the overwhelming friendliness of Tahitians is with this example: my wife and I were travelling with our ten week old baby and treated ourselves to an upscale dinner in Papeete,Tahiti’s capital. Just as our meal arrived, baby Pip started to cry. Without hesitation, our Tahitian server scooped Pip up in one arm and served meals with the other until we had finished our dinner…much to Pip’s delight.
Nature has provided Barbados with many attractions, and the people of this Caribbean island complete the package. I have run the Barbados Marathon twice, and the enthusiastic support of the Bajans lining the route is what carried me both times. The amazing part is that they clearly thought we runners were crazy, but they cheered nonetheless.
Have you ever tried to visit a Greek home and not end up eating with your host? It’s impossible! They are possibly the most hospitable people in the world – in Greece or wherever in the world they have settled. And, yes, I have actively participated in a crazy, plate-smashing dinner party at a Taverna on the island of Kos that I will never forget.
8. Bolivian Aymara and Quechua Indians
I once spent many weeks trekking around Lake Titicaca high on the Bolivian and Peruvian altiplano. I had no tent, nor were there any hotels to speak of. I simply staggered into a village at the end of each day and the wonderful locals shared their homes and their food with me.
Years ago, a small group of us were camped out near the Turkish/Iranian border. A band of armed Kurds surrounded us and invited us to join them at their camp, where we were feted until dawn. Their spirited hospitality was overwhelming.
In the Himalayan valleys of Nepal live a self-reliant people unlike any others I have encountered. They help Westerners who come in search of high altitude adventure to feel welcome. They seem to rise above hardship. Their quiet nobility literally embraces travellers who journey there. When I trekked in the Helambu region north of Kathmandu, their hospitality was simple, gracious and oh so appreciated.
By Chris Robinson
Chris hosts Canada’s top rated radio travel show – the Chris Robinson Travel Shows on Newstalk 1010 CFRB in Ontario and CJAD 8000 Montreal in Quebec. www.chrisrobinsontravelshow.ca
Photo Credits: Chris Robinson