I also hear stories all the time of people getting their belongings back after having forgotten them or misplacing them. For example, a coworker told me that he had accidentally left his Macbook Air on the train. He realized this after getting off of the train and the doors had already closed, so he stood on the platform in the exact same spot and waited for the same train to loop back around. The laptop was right where he had left it.
Aside from that, the service here is so good to the point that I want to tip everyone like 30% but there isn't even a tipping culture here. And the price that you see on the menu is the price you pay. And they often either have pictures of the food on the menu, or wax sculptures of the food out front.
Oh and convenience stores are actually convenient, and clean. I remember walking into 7/11 here and expecting it to be filthy, but it was so clean that it actually hurt my eyes.
Anyway, Japan is a really pleasant place to live and I hope Americans pick up on some of the conveniences that people here have (PS: heated toilet seats all over the place!)
On the other hand, there were scammers trying to take advantage of tourists who couldn't understand the subway system (less popular stations tend to be labeled exclusively in kanji). And the locals can have a very skewed idea of American culture; for example, our hotel breakfast was french fries and hot dogs.
(And yes, the toilets were great. Gotta get that stuff here in the US)
Could you elaborate on the scammers? I can imagine maybe someone asking you where you're going, then saying "oh, it costs 300 yen to go there, let me buy your tickets for you," when it actually only costs 150 and he keeps the change. Was it something like that?
Here's an example. I remember there being a big storm, so big that the subways were shutting down temporarily, and if you didn't catch a ride soon you would be stuck for a bit. Of course this announcement was in Japanese, and I didn't understand the exact words, but I did figure it out from the rain + watching other folks scramble to buy tickets.
There was a guy there who would go up to the tourists and let them know there was a storm coming and that they needed to buy their tickets. He would say this very hurriedly, causing the tourists to become a bit panicked. Then it was
"Where do you live?" "Ah, you should take this route" "Do you have enough for this? How much money do you have?" and at this point the tourists would instinctively pull their yen out of their pockets. Then the guy would clasp their hands over the tourists, lead their hands to the machine, and dump the coins in the machine. The machine would spit out a ticket, he would hand it to them, and then say "oh and I'll take this for helping you" and run off (revealing that he took some of your yen while he was guiding your hands to the machine).
He was actually pretty slick about it, and I imagine it worked on most people because they were accustomed to the locals being very polite. And by reinforcing that he was helping you, I think he avoided people reporting him. I ended up running into him again doing the same thing at a different subway station, so I assume he changed locations often.
My theory on why a lot of these things happen is that the companies or establishments have been burned by foreigners too many times in the past. For example, SoftBank does a background check when you try to open a cell phone plan with them. They don't tell you what they're checking, but if you fail the check, you have to pay for the phone up front instead of paying monthly. I'm guessing a lot of people came here for half a year or a year, opened up the contract, then left the country without paying.
I've also heard that getting an apartment is quite tough as well, but I had no trouble going through an agent and I got my first choice. You have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to move in (guarantor fee, key money, first month's rent, agency fee) but that's not really a foreigner-only thing. If I had known someone in Japan who would have been willing to pay my last month's rent if I flew back home without mentioning anything, then I wouldn't have needed the guarantor service.
The long story is I took a Japanese class a bit randomly in college (my favorite CS professor suggested that we broaden our interests by taking some liberal arts courses). I studied here in 2010, then came for a vacation in 2012, and by then I realized I'd like to live here so I applied to Gengo.
For instance, the availability of quality healthcare is not included in "safe", and how said healthcare is paid for not included in "cheap". When I grow old and my health starts to fail, I'd rather be in some of those unfriendly, expensive and unsafe countries...
Another example: some of these top 15 countries are definitely neither safe nor friendly if you're openly gay.
This is a list op countries that are nice to visit for a few weeks if you're well-off, healthy and not planning to do anything even mildly risky.
If you want to actually live your life somewhere, you're better off in some of the bottom 15 than any of the top 15.
#15 Portugal on the other hand? If you can work remotely and can get a visa, I'd put it at the top. Amazing country, affordable, fantastic people and the language isn't complicated to pick up if you have any Romance knowledge.
1) Estonia has euro (currency), Latvia will have euro next year;
2) Estonia prepared for crisis Latvia had to use helping hand of IMF.
3) Average salary is slightly larger in Estonia than in Latvia. Estonia - 865 euros, Latvia 676 euros, Lithuania 630 euros (data 2011 4th quarter).
I can think only about one cultural difference:
Baltic states do not like Russian people very much because of historical reason. It is not as bad as Northern Ireland or Basques but citizen of Baltic state can refuse to speak Russian in some situations while many older people can speak Russian without problems (younger generation does not speak Russian, e.g. I will not speak Russian because my Russian is terrible). Latvians require some tests to be passed in order person could get Latvian citizenship - so in result Latvia has quite high population of Russians that do not speak Latvian and do not have citizenship. More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-citizens_(Latvia)
Returning to theme those differences are minor as in Baltic states:
1) if you know English you have big opportunities;
2) Education level is quite high in all Baltic states;
3) Freedom of press is quite high in all the countries (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Press_Freedom_Index). Internet is cheap and fast.
4) Prices are lower than compared to many other EU countries. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index....
5) Crime levels are quite similar in all Baltic states (http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index....) and are comparable to USA.
My point is that Estonia is not cheaper, safer and friendlier place to live than Latvia. While Latvia has this problem with Russian people but this problem exists in all Baltic states. If you are stubborn not to speak language of the country you are living in you will have problem in any country - the only exception USA as they don't have official language. Still I doubt that you will have luck speaking with officer in other language than in English in USA.
Have you been to Thailand or Ethiopia, in positions 9 and 10?
It is very common to kidnap alone female tourists on broad daylight, since they "do not belong to anyone".
Is the suggestion that Latvians hate all foreigners more than any other nationality in the world? Or that Venezuelans are on average less friendly than people from Argentina?
Conversely, will Macedonians (the most highly ranked destination) be very friendly and welcoming to visiting Albanians? I have reservations!
Then again, if you get your Bolivares on the black market you can have a super cheap holiday. I was there in May and would go there again over Macedonia. Venezuela is beautiful.
That said, most Venezuelans are in fact friendly people :)
Some of you may giggle at it, but I am wary to tell my friends and family that I make around $3k/month, working remotely as a Software Engineer, fresh out of college. For many here, it may not sound a lot, but it is the most I could find, doing what I love (C programming on Linux/Open Source project.)
In a country where the minimum wages are $180/month, such salaries could be made by senior execs in large companies. At the age of 22, I don't know what to do with that much of money, except helping my parents and investing in housing (a sure bet here.)
When I was there on a short visit, in central Vienna, I asked about five different people, in English, where a certain museum was. I was just ignored as if I did not even exist.
The sixth person did direct me to the museum, but they happened to be an American living in Vienna.
On top of that all this is moot because it's highly dependand on what country you yourself come from. Are you black? Well, sucks to be you if you want to visit eastern Europe. Are you not Japanese? Better be prepared for some unexpected racism in Japan that will make you question what century you're living in.
Do you come from a country just next door who happen to have had some history together well before you were born? That's probably the worst. Look at the comments section of that article for an entertaining explanation of why people tend to vacation on the other side of the planet rather than with their neighbours.
Since the purpose of the comparison is to find nice places to go to you should compare reports based on tourist trips. Crime that happened to tourists, prices paid by tourists and service received by tourists. That kind on comparison would be a better basis for which country is best to visit.
Add a teaspoon of sewage to a barrel of wine: you get a barrel of sewage.
Which is to say that some factors kind of overshadow all the others, quite disproportionately. For me, this usually shows up with Australia's wildlife: people are afraid to visit because of silly little things like the wide variety of poisonous snakes, spiders, dropbears, etc. They don't bother me... but I don't walk through long grass without boots on.
However I can personally vouch for the cheapness, safeness and friendliness of Georgia (I'd stick Armenia on that list too, to be honest). Very lovely place, I'd be very tempted to set up there if I had the opportunity, same goes for Armenia and Montenegro.
Most people there are quite poor by Western standards, to the extent that they might not be able to afford much food. However if they meet you (a relative stranger) they will insist that they must offer you hospitality and literally offer you the last bit of food they own, meaning they go hungry.
I don't think it gets more friendly than that.
However, there are not many tech startups.
Especially as a student living in the most expensive city, in the most expensive country in the world (Oslo, Norway).
I do appreciate living in a country with free healthcare and University education. But it does have its side effects on society and the economy.
As a tourist, one of the most important things for me is how tasty, accessible and diverse the local food is.
Probably quite tricky to rank though.
And within the major cities (especially Sydney and Melbourne) it's a remarkably tolerant environment especially considering the diversity of cultures. I'm often amazed looking around at people in the streets and see so many countries represented!
Then perhaps I'm biased. I'm a white male born and raised in Melbourne which is probably the most cosmopolitan city in Australia.
[I agree about the cost of living though; housing in particular is exorbitant!]
There are some disgusting people here, I'd like to think they are the minority.
But the overall top is not so bad.
But of course I'd say that, as a dane