Ireland tops list of most friendly countries

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Ireland is the world's friendliest country and is seen as an optimistic land where anything seems possible, according to the new edition of Lonely Planet Bluelist 2008.

The book, which is now in its third year, recommends the best in travel for the coming year.

It says that Ireland is the world's friendliest nation because of its ability to find fun in the best and worst of times.

"Centuries of turmoil, conquest and famine - and subsequently immigration - have certainly taken their toll on the Irish," the book states. "It has left them with a deliciously dark sense of humour and a welcoming attitude towards strangers."

It says that the "famous ability of the Irish to find craic (fun times with convivial company) in boom or bust times means you are always in for a treat.

"These days, after the end of the Troubles, a cautious optimism reigns supreme, infecting the land once again with the sense that anything's possible".

The list was drawn up by Lonely Planetstaff and writers. Its travel information manager Tom Hall said that when people mentioned friendly destinations, "Ireland seemed to win by quite some distance".

He said that people travelled to Ireland expecting to meet friendly people, so perhaps tourists were more open to interaction with local people.

"And a lot of travel in Ireland is about getting into rural areas and seeing things off the beaten track," he said. This meant that tourists were meeting people who did not see many tourists and were more likely to be interested in them.

Mr Hall said he had heard Irish people saying that Ireland had lost some of its welcome because people were too busy "chasing the euro" and had more hurried lives.

"All of that is relative," he said. "Perhaps 50 years ago Ireland was a more friendly place but there were far less tourists going there and not as many reporters writing about it so we don't know."

The Lonely Planetfindings support the outcome of Fáilte Ireland's most recent visitor attitudes' survey. When asked what separated Ireland from other destinations, most tourists (39 per cent) who came here last year said "Irish people".

Mr Hall said the list was about confirming perceptions in the case of Ireland, but also overturning preconceptions, as in the case of the US.

It was ranked the world's second most friendly country, which might surprise some people, he said.

The guide says the US is "blamed for the coming of World War III, the Anti-Christ, Bon Jovi, Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson", but Americans "just take it all in their stride".

It says that Americans will invariably welcome you and help you get the best out of the US "and all they'll ask in return is for you to leave your shoe bomb at home".

Malawi is ranked third friendliest, followed by countries such as Fiji, Indonesia and Scotland.

Ireland also makes it into the top 10 list of "best brews" but Guinness aficionados will be disappointed to see that the manufacturers of the black stuff are not ranked in the top three breweries.

It says that "the syrupy black nectar is so good the Guinness executives are almost forgiven for touting a brewery tour that doesn't actually let you in to where Guinness is brewed.

"The action takes place in the Storehouse, an architect's wet dream that features a gigantic pint glass, which, if it were filled to the brim, would hold a modest 14.3 million pints of the back stuff. Delicious".

Cascade, Australia's oldest brewery, tops the list as the world's finest beer headquarters, followed by a Germany brewery, Weihenstephaner.

The guide also recommends 30 up- and-coming destinations including Eritrea, Montenegro, Damascus and Fez.

Friendliest  countries: top 10

1 Ireland

2 USA

3 Malawi

4 Fiji

5 Indonesia

6 Vietnam

7 Samoa

8 Thailand

9 Scotland

10 Turkey

• Source: Lonely Planet Bluelist 2008 published yesterday

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