For the third year in a row (2016) the country of Myanmar has been honored as the most generous country in the world, by the Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index. What’s so remarkable about this designation is that Myanmar is a newly developing country. Many of its people are still struggling with the aftermath of natural disasters, political changes and just trying to make a living. It’s citizens are financially poor, but obviously rich in generosity.

The Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index determines its ratings by averaging the percentage of the people in a country who have donated money, helped someone they didn’t know or volunteered in some charitable way.

Based on the Foundation’s research, 91% of the people in Myanmar gave money to charity in the preceding year, 55% volunteered in some charitable way and 62% said they helped a stranger in need. The Foundation attributes the generosity of the people of Myanmar to their cultural and religious beliefs; in particular the large percentage of the population who are Theravada Buddhists.

The index does not measure the amount of money people donated. It determines its results proportionately – based on the number of people who donate to charitable causes. The U.S. placed second in both the 2015 and 2016 indexes and tied for first place, with Myanmar, in 2014.

On another front, Vietnam has been named the happiest country in Asia, and the fifth happiest in the world, by the New Economics Foundation, a British think thank.

The results were determined by well-being, life expectancy, levels of inequality and the country’s ecological footprint. Life expectancy in Vietnam is 75.5 years, which is quite good for a developing country. (Life expectancy in the U.S., which ranked as the 108th happiest country, is 78.8 years.)

Vietnam is credited with doing a very good job of reducing poverty. The number of people living below the poverty line is now in the single digits, as opposed to the early 1990s, when over half the population lived below the poverty line.

In determining a country’s ecological footprint, the think tank looked at consumption vs. land area. Vietnam is one of the few countries on earth with an ecological footprint that is considered to be sustainable.

These generosity and happiness reports aren’t just interesting trivia. Visitors to Southeast Asia consistently comment on the high level of service they receive, as well as the helpfulness and genuine interest that they encounter in their travels. Past clients have been invited into the homes of local people and clients who had medical or other emergencies reported that hotel staffs and others went well out of their way to assist. We get wonderful feedback on the guides we use. The locals smile at strangers, initiate conversations and go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome. And, it’s all done from the heart, without any ulterior motives.

Diane Embree
October 29, 2016