Special Report

Surprising Things Countries Are No. 1 At

Ziga Plahutar / E+ via Getty Images

Every country touts its best aspects, like a warm climate, affordable cost of living, or speedy internet. Those are great. But countries can also be known for some quirky and surprising things that make them unique.

For instance, did you know South Koreans are avid library goers? Or that Canadians are crazy for doughnuts? On the other hand, some countries may not want to be known for some rather negative achievements. Belgium has Europe’s highest robbery rate, for instance. Andorrans smoke too much, and Bahrain generates the most garbage. (These, on the other hand, are the countries that generate the most plastic waste.)

To compile a list of peculiar things certain countries are the best at, 24/7 Tempo reviewed dozens of articles, studies, and surveys done by research and independent organizations such as Euromonitor, the World Health Organization, the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and the website for the Guinness World Records, and others. What follows is a selection of rankings we considered unconventional.

Click here to see surprising things countries are No. 1 at

In some cases, it’s not surprising the country came in first. Switzerland is routinely noted for its high quality of life and Italy for its historic sites. Brazil is a powerhouse in soccer because it produces the best players. And where did the U.S. rank? Well, let’s just say we have a very large sweet tooth. (If your blood sugar isn’t a concern, consider the best places to get ice cream in America.)

Source: Ziga Plahutar / E+ via Getty Images

Bahrain
> No. 1 in the world at: Waste generation per capita

In a record probably no country wants, Bahrain generates 906.7 kilograms – almost 2,000 pounds – of waste per person each year, according to the D-Waste Association

Source: Natnan Srisuwan / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Belgium
> No. 1 in the world at: Robberies per capita

Belgium led all European countries in the number of robberies and police-related incidents in 2020, with 102.2 offenses per 100,000 residents, according to Eurostat. Next up was Spain at 95.6 offenses per 100,000.

Source: cybrain / Getty Images

Bolivia
> No. 1 in the world at: Official languages

The South American country recognizes 37 official languages in its Constitution. While Spanish is one of them, the rest are languages spoken by the country’s indigenous people, from Aymara to Zamuco.

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Brazil
> No. 1 in the world at: Exporting soccer players

There’s a big reason why Brazil has won five FIFA World Cups, more than any other nation. The country simply produces more world-class soccer players than anywhere else – so many that they’re able to export them and still retain soccer supremacy themselves. More than 1,200 players raised and trained in Brazil currently play for teams across the world, mostly for clubs in Italy and Spain.

Source: SDI Productions / E+ via Getty Images

Bulgaria
> No. 1 in the world at: Longest maternity leave

Looking for a country with a generous maternity leave? In this Eastern European nation, new mothers receive 410 days of maternity leave, 45 of them before delivery. After that period, mothers may choose to stay home with their child until he or she turns two and get paid a full or partial salary, though how much depends on their insurance, work status, and sick days used.

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Source: Courtesy of The Salty Donut via Yelp

Canada
> No. 1 in the world at: Doughnut consumption

No wonder Canadians are so nice. They’re happy eating doughnuts all the time! Although the U.S. produces more doughnuts, Canada actually has more doughnuts shops per capita than any other country. Check out your local Tim Horton’s for its menu of doughnuts to learn why our Northern neighbors love the sweet treat.

Source: gorodenkoff / Getty Images

China
> No. 1 in the world at: Hackers

The U.S. has long been wary of China’s ability to hack into our government and private industry information – for good reason. According to countless sources, it leads the world in hacking activity. In 2019, for instance, it was responsible for 41% of the world’s cyberattacks.

Source: franckreporter / E+ via Getty Images

Czech Republic
> No. 1 in the world at: Beer consumption

Craft beers are all the rage in the U.S., but the Czech Republic has us beat. In 2019, retail beer sales hit 188.6 litres (or nearly 50 gallons) per capita. We only manage about 73 liters.

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Source: RichVintage / E+ via Getty Images

Denmark
> No. 1 in the world at: Education budget

According to Global Data, the percentage of the country’s GDP funneled to education was 8.7% in 2020, representing more than $30 billion. This was an increase of 2.1% from the previous year. However the country’s expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP fell 3.7% between 2010 and 2020.

Source: Sean Gallup / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Egypt
> No. 1 in the world at: Landmines

Conflicts on its soil during World War II and the Egypt-Israel wars of 1956, 1967, and 1973 left behind 23 million landmines and other unexploded ordnance. Although some 10 million mines have been cleared, the explosives have claimed the lives of thousands of Egyptians, who call the minefields “the devil’s garden.”

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Source: Getty Images / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

England
> No. 1 in the world at: Tornadoes

Although Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas were recently hit by deadly tornadoes, the U.S. isn’t first when it comes to tornadoes by total area. England is. Between 1980 and 2012, England was struck by 2.2 tornadoes per year per 10,000 square kilometers (or 3,861 miles). That translates to one per 1,754 miles each year. Meanwhile, the entire U.S. experiences 1.3 tornadoes in roughly the same area, or one per 7,693 square kilometers or 2,970 square miles.

Source: peeterv / Getty Images

Finland
> No. 1 in the world at: Happiness

Want to find happiness? Move to Finland! The U.N.’s annual Happiness Report ranked Finland No.1 in 2018 and 2019. Ranking is based on citizen’s answers regarding well-being and perceptions about corruption, generosity, and freedom.

Source: franckreporter / E+ via Getty Images

France
> No. 1 in the world at: Time zones

While France may be a relatively small country, its reach extends far beyond its metropolitan borders. Five of its départements, officially part of the country (and thus part of the E.U.) are scattered in South America, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean, and it has territories and collectivities” in various parts of the world. This gives it a total of 12 time zones – 13 for part of the year.

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Source: Sean_Warren / E+ via Getty Images

Hungary
> No. 1 in the world at: Sick men

Males in this Eastern European country may be the sickest in the world. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates Hungarian men spend an average of 13.8% of their lives in poor health, well above the world average of 9.8%.

Iceland
> No. 1 in the world at: Peacefulness

According to the 2022 Global Peace Index, which ranks countries based on safety, security, ongoing national and international conflict, and militarism, Iceland is the most peaceful nation in the world.

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Source: KristianBell / iStock via Getty Images

India
> No. 1 in the world at: Fatal snakebites

Between 2000 and 2019, an estimated 1.2 million people in India died of snakebite, according to medical data. That factors out to 58,000 people per year, or about half of all the fatal snakebites annually worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Source: Matthew Horwood / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Indonesia
> No. 1 in the world at: Donating to charity

Based on Gallup’s World View World Poll of 146 countries, Indonesia is the most generous country. About half of Indonesians have helped a stranger and volunteered. Nearly 80% have donated to charity.

Source: ijeab / iStock via Getty Images

Israel
> No. 1 in the world at: Startups per capita

For a country with a relatively small population of 8.7 million, Israel is a startup giant. Every year, the country launches between 1,100 to 1,380 new companies – about one for every 6,300 people.

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Source: Xantana / iStock via Getty Images

Italy
> No. 1 in the world at: World Heritage sites

Italy is known for its food, artand history. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization reports Italy hosts 58 World Heritage sites, ahead of China with 56. Such sites are noted for their historical and cultural significance.

Source: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Laos
> No. 1 in the world at: Bombings suffered

The Vietnam War extended into the nearby country of Laos, where between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. dropped more than 2 million tons of bombs, nearly equally the small country’s population then. That’s more bombs than were dropped on Germany and Japan during World War II.

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Source: BartCo / E+ via Getty Images

Lesotho
> No. 1 in the world at: Altitude

This southern African country doesn’t have the world’s highest mountain peaks, but it boasts the highest base altitude, as measured by its lowest point above sea level – the bed of the Orange (Senqu) river, at 4,530 feet above sea level

Source: VioletaStoimenova / E+ via Getty Images

Mexico
> No. 1 in the world at: Sick women

Mexican women spend an average of 15.3% of their lifetimes feeling poorly, well above the worldwide average of 12%, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Source: Dusan Ladjevic / iStock via Getty Images

Moldova
> No. 1 in the world at: Adult excessive drinking

Moldovans love their cocktails. According to a 2016 survey by the World Health Organization, the latest there is for such data, the average person over 15 in the country drank the equivalent of 15.2 liters, about four gallons, of pure alcohol, topping all other countries.

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Source: Domijan / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Monaco
> No. 1 in the world at: Cars

No wonder this small Mediterranean country hosts the Monaco Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo Rally. It’s crazy for cars. It has only 39,000 residents, but the country’s car ownership rate is 748 per 1,000 people. And most of those cars are luxury vehicles or even custom-made, because many of the principality’s residents are extremely wealthy.

Source: Sean Gallup / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Niger
> No. 1 in the world at: Fertility rate

According to World Bank 2018 statistics, Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world, with an average of 7.3 children born to each woman. Next is Somalia at 6.4 children per woman.

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Source: Juanmonino / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

Nigeria
> No. 1 in the world at: Scrabble champions

Even though Scrabble originated in the U.S., a third of the best 100 players come from Nigeria. It may have something to do with the country rewarding its champions with government salaries.

Source: SelectStock / Vetta via Getty Images

Panama
> No. 1 in the world at: Retirement

Warm ocean breezes and a tropical climate put this Central American country at the top of the World Economic Forum’s Best Country for Retirement list. The country provides a safe living environment with excellent medical care. Even though it boasts two coastlines along the middle Pacific and Caribbean, Panama is spared hurricanes.

Source: Fritz Jorgensen / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Philippines
> No. 1 in the world at: Time spent on social media

Want to know what Filipinos are doing right now? They’re probably on social media. The average person in the Philippines browses Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and other social platforms for three hours and 57 minutes a day, barely ahead of Brazilians at three hours and 39 minutes and much more than Americans at an hour a day.

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Russia
> No. 1 in the world at: Corruption

According to the 2022 Best Country rankings by U.S.News, Russia is seen as the most corrupt country in the world. This ranking is based on a perception-based analysis of some 85 nations taken from a survey of more than 17,000 people in which respondents were asked which countries they most associated with the term “corrupt.” The exact definition of the term was left up to the individuals.

Source: PeopleImages / iStock via Getty Images

Singapore
> No. 1 in the world at: Fastest internet speed

According to Cable, an internet comparison site, Singapore has the fastest internet. To download a 5GB movie takes only 11 minutes at the rate of 60.39 megabits per second. If you think your internet is a bit slow in the U.S., you may be right. The U.S. ranked 20th at 26.86 megabits per second. The global average is 9.1 megabits.

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Source: Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images News via Getty Images

South Korea
> No. 1 in the world at: Active library use

South Koreans love their libraries. The Online Computer Library Center, a global online library cooperative, noted that South Koreans visited their local library 195,571,747 times in 2014, more than any other country for which there is data.

Source: Thomas Cooper / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Sweden
> No. 1 in the world at: Cashless payments

If you’re visiting Sweden, forget the cash, but bring your debit and credit cards. In this country, cashless payments rule, with nearly 85% of retail transactions made with plastic. Nayax, a global provider of cashless payment devices, predicts Sweden will become the first cashless country in the world.

Source: 152930510@N02 / Flickr

Switzerland
> No. 1 in the world at: Quality of life

Numbeo’s Quality of Life Index for 2022 ranks Switzerland tops. The European country scored high marks for cost of living, safety, and healthcare. It also boasts a reasonable ratio of property price to income. And that’s on top of the incredible scenery and recreational activities.

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Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News via Getty Images

United States
> No. 1 in the world at: Sugar consumption

Although Canada beats the U.S. in consumption of doughnuts, America rules for overall sugar intake. The average American consumes 126 grams, or more than four ounces, of sugar a day, mostly from sweetened soda and drinks. That’s well above the global average of 34 grams of sugar a day per person and the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 35 grams for men and 25 grams for women a day. This may also be why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 37.3 million Americans, or 11.3% of the U.S. population, have diabetes.

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