Who are the Most Hospitable People in the World?

Here I am in the pink suit given to me for the wedding.

Who are the most hospitable people in the world?

No one can answer this question definitively but if asked to put forth a nomination, I’d suggest Indians.

I could support this with many stories but here I will offer three.

“Come to my brother’s wedding.”

Before leaving for India, I met Jackie, the owner of India Village Restaurant in Ancaster, Ontario. As I was finishing my dinner with a friend she came to join us at our table. It wasn’t long into our conversation about my upcoming trip that she stopped everything and asked me to join her on her trip home to her brother’s wedding. I accepted the invitation immediately. What an opportunity and what hospitality.

We flew into Delhi. After a three hour drive to Jackie’s home town of Amedgahr, we arrived in the middle of a pre-wedding party. The back lane to their house had been transformed into a disco, dance floor, loud Indian music and all. I was grabbed by the young girls to dance with them. Next I was taken upstairs so that Jackie and her sisters could decide what I would wear to the wedding the next day. I was given a beautiful pink suit. But more, then I had to have my arms hennaed for the wedding. Sleep was possible only around 2am and we were up for 6 to be ready to leave for 8am.

The wedding was a full day affair and deserving of a post itself (to come). For the next four days I enjoyed hospitality at every turn. I was treated like royalty and could not lift a finger to help. I met neighbors and relatives. I celebrated with them and enjoyed the banter and cajoling of the family without understanding a word.

After telling this story to others, I have learned that it is not uncommon at all to be invited to an Indian wedding despite not knowing the family. Everyone is welcome. That’s hospitality.

"But you are our guest!

“But you are our guest!”

“But you are our guest” is a statement that I heard frequently in India where hospitality is shown in many ways.

On the train between Pushkar and Udaipur I was traveling with a woman from the UK. Our seats were separated by one row so, as is common in India, I moved into the single seat beside her knowing that the single person who was assigned it would be just as happy with the one assigned to me. And he was.

However, when he went to claim my seat a woman was sitting there who refused to move. I’m sure he would have been happy to sit in her seat except that it was on another car so he could not get to it. I stood up to help but the young man refused. “You are our guest. Please sit down. I will take care of this”, he said.

Well, despite getting the conductor involved, the woman did not move. I am sure that if I was the one out of my seat the conductor would have made arrangements for both of use but the young man would not allow me to get involved.  The result, the young man stood between the cars for the entire trip.

I fell into the arms of angels. (Madhu is on the right.)

Adopted on an Overnight Train

Like bookends to my trip, my final 24 hours in India featured hospitality similar to my first 24. I was leaving Rathambore on the overnight train to Delhi. On the platform, waiting for the train at the exact location where my car would arrive (see 32 tips for traveling India) I met Madhu and Harpreet, sister-in-laws who had enjoyed a weekend getaway together.

After chatting and exchanging our stories, the train arrived. By that time, I was adopted. They helped me find my berth, made sure that I got all the linens and even made my bed for me.I texted a friend back home that “I had landed in the arms of angels.”

In the morning, our train pulled into Delhi at 5 and, because I had had no Internet access for 6 days, I didn’t have any arrangements for my arrival. My backup plan was simply to stick it out in the train station until a reasonable hour for exploring the city — but that was unnecessary. I went with them and their driver to the home of Madhu, I was given tea and a bed was made for me to have a nap. At 9am, they woke me for breakfast. We enjoyed chatting and learning about each other. Then they found a driver for me for the day. I went out and saw Delhi before going to the airport that night.

Such extraordinary hospitality.

Who do you think are the most hospitable people in the world?

I am sure that there are other places in the world as hospitable as India but I have not yet found them. Certainly, no western place is as welcoming – hmm, with the possible exception of Newfoundland.

Who do you think are the most hospitable people in the world?

  • nisa

    Thank you for the mention of Malaysia! I’m from Malaysia :)
    Do come again anytime in the future!

  • Sohail

    You are taking one step into the awesome wilderness that was always waiting for you. Nice to see a solo adventurer from same country. Go Solo Gain Experiences. Good luck.

  • Karishma Karamchandani

    Hi Janice. It’s so lovely to read such stories about hospitality in India. I’m Karishma and I live in India.
    I’m aspiring to be a solo traveller too. Just trying to save up enough money before I begin travelling. This blog is amazing and really helpful for people like me! :)

  • L. Backer

    I’d say Irish folks are very welcoming and helpful too. :-) Every part of the Country I visited, and in every pub, they are gregarious and witty new friends to be made!

  • Helgab

    The most hospitable people I met on my travels are the inhabitants from the Indian State of Gujarat (similar to the story above) and the Pakistani (Karimabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan, …). I was ‘their guest’ everywhere, and they almost did not allow me to pay.

    In Ahmedabad my train happened to be cancelled, so I went back into town and entered a photo shop to buy a film role. The shop keeper was curious and asked me if I was visiting the city. I explained I had been in Gujarat for several weeks (one of the greatest unique places I ever went to and came across no other tourists!), and that I was now trying to go elsewhere, but that my train was cancelled and that the next one was due in 10 hours or so. He felt so sorry for me and inquired if I had been here and there – interesting locations in and around the city. I said no by lack of time. He picked up the phone and started talking in the Gujarati language. Then he faced me again and said he had just arranged a sightseeing tour for me with a rikshaw driver to all the locations I hadn’t been to yet. After that the driver would drop me at the train station in time for my train. And he himself was to pay for everything. Meanwhile he had also sent a boy out to buy some snacks to take with me! He wanted to compensate for the cancelled train… I said I could not accept this, but he would have been offended if I didn’t.

    This is just one example of the kindness I experienced. Sometimes memories of those happenings still move me to tears. E.g. when shortly after, a heavy earthquake destroyed a village where I had made many friends. I wondered what had become of them (did they survive?); I will never know. One tricycle driver had offered me two sweets that cost more that I was to pay for the ride itself, and it was hard labour pushing a westerner around…

    As for the Pakistani, they wanted to convince me that they were not bad nor terrorists, and appreciated so much that I came to their country. I should spread the message back home they said. They regretted that a minority had spoiled it for everyone. When I went to buy a few sweets at a sweet shop, the shop keeper gave me a full box… for free, and made me promise that I would go and say hello to his brother who had a restaurant who offered me a free lunch… I can also remember a few people – obviously poor – who came to shake my hand in the street, and handed me a photograph of their family for me to keep. I felt I did not deserve it (who was I but a traveller), but not taking it would have made them unhappy (and I still have that photo!). Moreover I could hardly communicate with them, since they only spoke Urdu (and I did very little).

    The least hospitable (of all places) are the Ethiopians (for a single female traveller; single men were not hassled so much; women are helas an easier target for beggars and con artists; I was even thrown at with stones; and also got almost robbed on a very crowded bus but I caught the thief in the act – instead of giving him over to the police everyone just stared and laughed at me…). When I inquired why I had to pay 10 times more for a plate of bland ‘cold’ spaghetti than the locals, I was told that I was rich and that if I did not want to pay much money, I should better not have come to Ethiopia. The typical words I heard a hundred times a day (almost non-stop) were: ‘you you ferengi (= foreigner), give me give me!!’ (from a baby that could speak his first words to a very old woman, they all shouted the same all over the country except for eastern part and Harar where people are muslim and not Orthodox Christian as is the case in the rest of the country; I loved Harar). I would have understood if they were ‘starving’ but they weren’t. They were well-clad, often carrying a sandwich or ice cream in their hands, while at the same time begging. The govt even provided free schooling.

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  • Terence Francis

    Croatia, New Zealand, US small towns esp. in the deep south & mid-west.

  • Dona Jean

    The Canadians that looked after 35,000 extra people on one day on 9/11, when the USA air space was closed and all airlines flying to the USA were diverted to CANADA, without any prior notice, the Canadian’s stop their lives in mid stream and fed, housed, and looked after all the needs for all those 35,000 strangers. The Canadian air traffic controllers who directed all those planes to land safely in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, etc on that day. They are still the unsung heros. See the documentary “STRANDED YANKS.”

  • Jenell

    Newfoundland is definitely a very welcoming place. Everyone loves to talk; more often thatn not, they would say “hi” to you on the streets. And they love to share what they have, invite you to their homes for Jiggs Dinner. I grew up in St. John’s, the capital city of NL and I miss it there!!! If you never been there, make sure to visit – enjoy the famous George Street and Signal Hill, even take a a 4 hour road trip to Argentia and catch a short ferry ride to the islands of French-territory St. Pierre et Miquelon.

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  • Giorgios

    i went to Malaysia last year!
    They were so kind to me. Always ready to help when you asking for their help.
    oh, and they are a little bit shy people..lol..
    Anyway, i had have a nice experience there,,,

  • Jo

    I have to also go with Indians. I so recognise that call of, ‘you are our guests, you can’t do that’, or ‘or you have to eat first’. i found Indian people always ready to offer what they have with such generosity.

  • liyapilly.com

    people from Jordan. felt like they wanted us to be part of the family! what a great experience it sounds like you had!

  • bill

    This post about hospitality in India was simply delightful to read. I felt almost as though I was along for the journey, and enjoying the hospitality with the writer! I have experienced something similar to that, often in the least expected circumstances. Once in my twenties, and hiking through France, I was really tired and stuck out my thumb for a lift. A beautiful black Citroen DS drew up beside me and the driver insisted that he place my rucksack on the fine upholstery on the back seat of his lovely car! I wanted , of course, to put it in the boot and not ruin his lovely upholstery. As we talked in French, he asked me where I was from, and we were soon deep in discussion on various topics. He said he had a business meeting in the next village, but if I pottered around in the village for an hour, he promsed he would come back, pick me up, take me for lunch, and then on to my destination! I was really in two minds about whether or not he would return. What were the chances of that? I decided to stay – and there was no sign of him – confirming my doubts. But just as I was about to head out onto the main road, I saw the sleek black DS sliding up to my side of the street. “Jump in!” he said. Come on then! I’m starving! Let’s go for lunch!” We entered an innocuous looking restaurant – but once inside, I shrank at the feeling of my hiking boots sinking deep into the cushion of a luxuriant red carpet! I shrank further, as a waiter politely relieved me of my 55 lb rucksack (with a pair of rather dirty boots dangling from it), could hardly breathe as I was courteously escorted to my place at an immaculately set table and seated opposite my host and graciously offered a menu. Desperately, I scanned the menu, looking for the cheapest possible dishes, trying not to reveal my horror as the prices leered back at me, turning my insides into instant cold porridge…
    All such anxiety may just as well have been cast to the winds, since my gracious host, contemplating me with genuine delight, whispered to the waiter: “Veuillez lui servir tout ce qui se trouve sur le menu!” (Please serve him everything on the menu!). As the heat slowly dissipated from my burning cheeks, he set me completely at ease with his charming discussion and searching questions. He was astounded at my French. Said I looked nordic to him, (tall, with a red ski cap on my head) and guessed every country but the one I was from. We dined from noon until after 3 pm, finishing with Roquefort cheese (we were in Roquefort country!) and coffee, and I do not recall how much quality wine… I staggered out into the daylight, inwardly wishing for nothing better than to fall down on somebody’s lawn and just go to sleep…. but, no, that was not to be – he whisked me to his car, and we were soon on the road to Pau and beyond to Montauban – where my hostel was. He drove me the whole way, gave me his card, and insisted we stay in touch. Sadly, I missplaced it some where, and regret never regaining contact with him. Oh for the days of email and the internet! But, as you can see, that wonderful memory remains deeply imprinted on my very being.

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Hi Florine, I’m writing to you from Denver Colorado. I can’t believe how friendly the people are here. Yes, there are great people all over the world.

  • http://www.knok.com/fr/knoleskine/ Florine

    I love these stories! I haven’t been to India yet but from my experience people from Taiwan and South Korea are a perfect example of kindness !

  • MaryAnn

    When I travelled to Peru, I flew into Lima.  Kizzy, the niece of a Peruvian friend here at home (whom I had never met) took time off from her job to meet me at the gate of the airport to make sure that I got my bags and made my transfer to the plane to Cusco.  Then, when I returned to Lima 10 days later, she met me again, and drove me to my hostel, which, by the way, she had arranged for me.  Now she’s my friend.  Everywhere I went in Peru, the people were so kind, I was sometimes moved to tears.  If I wrote a book about my travels there, I would call it “Kindness of strangers…”

  • Lolnut

    Turkish people and Arabs are the most hospitable and friendly people I’ve ever met! 

  • http://www.worldinhabit.com/ Nick Smith

    Some lovely tales there!

    I LOL’ed at ‘Adopted on an overnight train’!

  • solotraveler

    I love this. I think arguing who is the best is wonderful. It suggests that so many people are truly hospitable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Max-Bondarenko/1032320763 Max Bondarenko

    Finnish people are definitely the most hospitable people I’ve ever seen

  • Baron

    A heart warming story

  • http://besttbilisihotels.com/ Mary

    Oh, if you want to meet hospitable people like indians I want to invaite you to Georgia, Tbilisi :))

  • http://breathedreamgo.com Mariellen Ward

    Now you know why I have spent so much time traveling solo in India. It’s the people. Great post Janice!!

  • http://www.authenticseacoast.com/ Authentic Seacoast Resorts

    iStopOver Magazine said the Authentic Seacoast was “Nova Scotia’s Friendliest Harbour” http://www.planeteyetraveler.com/2010/08/27/nova-scotias-friendliest-harbour-the-authentic-seacoast We hope you’ll visit to discover more great hospitality on Canada’s East Coast!

  • Abby

    I was going to say Newfoundland, too! Glad you brought it up. If there’s any western place where you’d be invited to a stranger’s wedding, Newfoundland would be it. :) Labrador’s pretty friendly, too, but a lot harder to get to and travel around.

  • T

    My best friend and I were full on adopted by a Berber family in Morocco. Their son met us in Essaouria and invited us to meet his family in the rural countryside. They didn’t speak English or French, but fed us lunch, snacks, tea, and introduced us to the entire village and even staged an impromptu house concert. We were amazed by their hospitality too. Malians can be very hospitable too. Once in Djenné, a man hosted my friends and I for rooftop tea under the stars while listening to Céline Dion on tape. In the end all he wanted was to be pen pals and we had an amazing night. These moments are why I travel.

  • wiki erickson

    I’ve traveled solo to 27 countries, 19 island nations and 49 states and while I have met some of the most wonderful people everywhere, if I had to choose one, it would have to be the Peruvians followed by the Uruguayans! (Third would be the Portuguese).

  • http://www.JoeiCarlton.Com Joei Carlton Hossack

    Absolutely no question about it….the most hospitable people in the world are in Turkey. I was there for 4 months the first time and 7 weeks the second time……loved it…..loved it……loved it.
    Some friends and I had rented a taxi and driver to spend the day touring and had to be taken to the bus depot at 10:00 that night. When we arrived back in the city at 7:00 P.M. he took us home with him. His wife fed us, we were allowed to shower and at 10:00 he drove us to the airport. I repeat – Turkey.

  • steven schwartz

    I have travelled to over 80 counties and now every continent. I love the hospitality in the Philippines, Uruguay and India. I visited these places and left with a new family each time. But I feel if you travel with a open and friendly disposition any place will be warm and inviting in their own unique way.

  • http://ishg.wordpress.com Ish

    If you asked me 5 years ago, I would have said Filipinos without skipping a beat (my mother would offer everything, even the kitchen sink, if you really need it), but that changed when I went to Cambodian. Hands down, the friendliest and most resilient of people. Despite the horrors that they faced under the Khmer Rouge not too long ago, they have a gentle manner about them and their smiles quickly win you over.

  • http://canadianculinarytravel.blogspot.ca Murissa

    This is a tough question. I have never been invited to a wedding on the spur of the moment but I wish I could be by Italians, mainly for the food.
    However, I think the most hospitable, that I have encountered (although I have not been to Egypt, India or Jordan) I’d say Canadians. Always helpful to give advice, although I don’t know about being invited to a wedding…in which case Indians win. But travel bloggers are a special breed as well always willing to help give publicity.

    The Wanderfull Traveler

  • http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com Spinster

    In my limited experience thus far, my experience with Ugandans is somewhat similar to your experience with Indians.

  • Louise

    The Egyptians by far!!I spent 2 months over there, which were the two best months of my life… Im going back in September simply because i love it so much and i love the way i get treated!!

  • solotraveler

    Ah, you are right. They are very hospitable as well.

  • http://www.landlopers.com Matt

    Without a question, the Jordanians are the most hospitable people in the world.

  • solotraveler

    Thanks Jenny. I like it as well. Let’s promote all the wonderful, hospitable people of the world.

  • http://www.gearupandplay.com/ Jennifer Choban

    Okay- I haven’t been to India (yet!), but I would nominate the Egyptians. I was also invited to a wedding, repeatedly invited into people’s homes and always asked to join people for tea. How wonderful that there’s so much competition for this title.