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10 Countries With Bizarrely Specific Downsides

Morris M.

Most of us are aware that our home country isn’t perfect; even smug teacher’s pets like Canada and Denmark have areas where they could improve. But it’s one thing to be living in a country suffering everyday problems like a spiraling murder rate or myriad human rights abuses, and quite another to be living in one with a specific (usually embarrassing) complaint.

10Venezuela Is Running Out Of Toilet Paper

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When Hugo Chavez finally trotted off to dictator heaven earlier this year, he left a Venezuela marred by human rights abuses, teetering on the edge of an economic collapse, and virtually starved of a vital necessity: toilet roll.

You read that right: Since early 2013, Venezuela’s government has been fighting a losing battle against the nation’s dwindling wiping material stocks. And I mean fighting. In May, the National Assembly tabled emergency legislation to allow the immediate importation of 39 million extra rolls. In June, the government began raiding supermarket warehouses in the hopes of confiscating the stuff. Fast-forward to September and the army went one further, seizing control of several toilet paper factories and turning production over to the National Guard. Yet the shortage continues to plague restroom visits for millions of Venezuelans, who’ve taken to simply bribing supermarket and warehouse workers to smuggle a few rolls out for them. It’s like the whole country is now running a prison economy, except cigarettes have been replaced with one-ply.

9Mexico Is Running Out Of Dentists

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They might not be as revered as heart surgeons or brain specialists, but dentists are pretty darn important in a healthy, functioning society. That’s why people make jokes about British teeth—with only 42 dentists per 100,000 Brits, they’re one of the least orally hygienic nations on the planet. But even Britain has nothing on Mexico, which averages an impossibly paltry 10 dentists for every 100,000 citizens.

To be clear, this is an absolutely laughable amount. The US averages six times that, while Greece has 12 times more dentists per capita. Even the country with the second-lowest concentration of tooth doctors—Turkey—still has twice the number of dentists as Mexico. For whatever reason, Mexican kids apparently have no desire to grow up and stick their fingers into strangers’ mouths—a decision which sounds almost sensible until you get an abscess and have to trek across half the country to get it fixed.

8No One In Japan Is Having Sex

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If you’re one of the trillion or so people on the Internet who dreams of growing up and moving to Japan, I’ve got some news that may make you reconsider. According to The Guardian, young Japanese people have almost completely given up on sex.

It’s a phenomenon known as sekkusu shinai shokogun, and it’s been doing the rounds in the Japanese media for a couple of years. It’s a wave of celibacy that seems partly fueled by apathy, partly by economic alienation, and partly by disgust: A recent official survey found 45 percent of Japanese women and 25 percent of men are severely turned off by the idea of sexual contact. Even more incredibly, the Ministry of Health found that over a third of men aged 16–19 felt the same way—a figure which flies in the face of every horny adolescent stereotype ever put to paper. The result is that more and more young Japanese people are turning to celibate pastimes and platonic relationships; a fact that has doubtless left at least 20 percent of our readers feeling slightly disappointed.

7Turkmenistan Only Has One Book

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There are quite a few reasons not to live in Turkmenistan, from human rights abuses to nobody knowing where the heck it is; but perhaps no reason is quite as crazy as the fact that—until recently—the country only permitted a single book.

Literally, just one. Until his death in 2006, the country’s despotic leader Saparmurat Niyazov gave official approval only to the Ruhnama, a book he just happened to have written himself. Thanks to Turkmenistan being completely insane, that approval translated to a world where libraries and bookstores effectively self-purged all other reading material from their shelves in an attempt to curry favor with the president. The aftermath was a country devoid of any literature that wasn’t the Ruhnama. The “sacred book” was placed in schools, in universities, its verses written on mosque walls, and even blasted into space. At one point, a giant statue of it was erected in the capital, with sensors that allowed it to open every day at sundown and sing its passages to local residents. Luckily, things have changed since Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov came to power. Thanks to his love of the written word, it’s now entirely possible to buy at least two books in Turkmenistan: the Ruhnama and one Berdimuhamedov himself wrote on breeding horses.

6Uzbekistan Is Run By Grinches

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Uzbekistan is another despotic Central Asian state that few people in their right mind would visit. It’s empty, landlocked, and its citizens subject to the capricious whims of a morally bankrupt madman who routinely forces thousands of children into slavery. If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s also a country where Christmas is officially banned.

Now, Uzbekistan isn’t the first country in the world to place a blanket ban on Santa’s birthday; both North Korea and Saudi Arabia frown on celebrations involving decorated trees and ghosts of Christmas Past. But what makes Uzbekistan different is that Christmas is a traditional holiday there, rather than something imported or celebrated by a minority. See, although a Muslim nation, Uzbekistan was ruled by the Soviets for decades. And all that cultural dominance managed to rub off: Today, Christmas is as ingrained in Uzbek life as totalitarianism and visits from the secret police.

Or at least it was. In 2012, the government quietly ordered all references to Santa, Christmas, or “New Year’s trees” removed from broadcasts and set about stifling celebrations. To demonstrate exactly how Scrooge-like this was, here’s a CNN report on Christmas celebrations in Iran. That’s right: Even hard-line Islamic Iran is filled with enough Christmas cheer to just let people get on and celebrate.

5Parts Of Mali Have Literally No Music

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Rounding off our trilogy of “places you wouldn’t want to live anyway,” Mali is a country suffering plenty of real problems. Islamist fighters have turned the northern regions into a war zone, UN and French forces patrol towns and villages, and poverty is some of the worst on the planet. Oh, and in some places music is completely and utterly forbidden.

Yeah, you can thank those fun-loving militants for that one. In the towns they’ve managed to seize in the north, the rebels have issued blanket bans on music—burning recording equipment, smashing guitars, and ironically acting like The Who at the end of a particularly intense set. Less amusingly, they’ve also attacked and tortured musicians and forced others into exile for the heinous crime of owning a stereo. This isn’t just some religious backlash against “Western” or “suggestive” tunes either: All forms of music—from choir singing to advertising jingles to elevator muzak—come under the ban, which is enforced with machine guns and explosives. So yeah, as if life under Islamist militants wasn’t hard enough already, you can also get totally murdered for humming.

4The Faroe Islands Are Running Out Of Women

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If you head north from Scotland and keep going basically forever, you’ll eventually hit the Faroe Islands. Tiny, lost in the bleak, howling emptiness of the North Atlantic, and lazily administered by Denmark, this microscopic community has almost nothing worth mentioning about it. And therein lies the problem: Thanks to a major exodus of bored, talented local women, the men of the islands have had to start importing brides.

According to Danish figures, there are roughly 2,000 more men than women on the island, a major problem when you live on a remote island in the middle of nowhere. Since neither celibacy nor emigration appears to be an option, these lonely men have begun importing women from Thailand and the Philippines. Since 2006, 200 men have sourced their wives this way, doubtless leaving the remaining 1,800 lonely guys feeling kinda jealous.

3Bulgaria Is Utterly Miserable

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If someone were to ask you to name the happiest place on Earth, literally none of you would instantly cry “Bulgaria!” The EU’s poorest state, Bulgaria is hopelessly corrupt, economically inefficient, and a total backwater. So saying its people are unhappy isn’t really all that interesting. What is surprising, though, is the true extent of their misery. According to the United Nations World Happiness Report, Bulgarians are some of the least happy people in the world.

That’s not “in Europe” or “in the West” but “in the world.” Out of 156 possible countries, the UN ranked Bulgaria 144th in terms of national happiness. That’s less happy than Afghanistan (143rd), Yemen (142nd), Ethiopia (119th), or even war-torn Iraq (105th). Even places like Zimbabwe and Honduras did better, despite boasting crippling hyper-inflation and the worst murder rate on Earth, respectively. The closest other EU member state is Hungary, which ranked 110th, a full 34 places ahead. Simply put, you’d be more miserable living in this functioning Western democracy than you would in half the war zones on the planet.

2Belarus Is Infested With Psychotic Beavers

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You might remember that story a few months back about the fisherman who was killed by a beaver. It was featured in a ton of those “weird news” sections broadcasters stick on when they’ve finished with the real news but still have three minutes’ airtime to kill. Almost everyone treated the incident as a strange anomaly—a one-off that was as shocking as it was ridiculous. So you could be forgiven for missing the most terrifying fact of all: This was simply the latest in a long line of savage beaver attacks.

According to reports, Belarus is now infested with around 80,000 beavers, a large number of which have begun moving into urban areas. The result is a mass-beaver epidemic, with these adorable psychopaths biting children, terrorizing the elderly, and attempting to murder any human that crosses their path. Apparently things have gotten so bad that fire crews have been sent to kill the critters with high-pressure water hoses—a task you can bet wasn’t in the Belorussian fire service job description.

1One In 10 Pitcairn Islanders Are Convicted Pedophiles

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Pitcairn Island is a tiny hunk of rock lost in the immense vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Its primary claim to fame is that it’s the place where the Bounty mutineers went ashore to start a new life. Oh, and over 10 percent of its population are convicted child molesters.

In 2004, a police inquiry revealed that several of the islanders had been serially molesting young girls in ritual abuse stretching back decades. Seven men were charged and six ultimately convicted, with the British judiciary having to fly out construction workers and guards to build and then patrol a prison on the previously crime-free island. Now, six criminals may not sound like much, but at the time Pitcairn had a population of around 50. In other words, over 10 percent of the population—including pillars of the local community—were involved in the abuse, with even more knowing about it. Nearly the entire island was committing, covering up, or ignoring child abuse on a shocking scale. And, thanks to the passage of time, all six men are now free. So if you ever find yourself alone in a room with 10 Pitcairn Islanders, you should know that (statistically speaking) at least one of them deserves an immediate flying kick to the nuts.

+The British Are Staggeringly Ugly

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OK, before my inbox gets bombarded with a load of eloquent hate-mail, let me just say that this isn’t simply my opinion. Instead, it’s the opinion of the guys who run BeautifulPeople.com, a website that only allows pretty airheads to join, who claim that they’ve been forced to turn away more people from the UK than anywhere else.

See, since their website is off-limits to all but the most objectively beautiful people on Earth, the site owners get to tally up all the rejections each time they open in a new country. And then they use that data to either praise or mock the entire nation. When the site opened in Britain, over 260,000 applicants were rejected—from a pool of less than 300,000. With only one in eight men being accepted, and three in 20 women, this apparently makes the UK the ugliest country these judgmental douches have ever come across. The numbers were so bad that UK paper The Telegraph even ran a story headlined “British People Among World’s Ugliest,” presumably written in between lengthy crying jags and protracted pangs of self-loathing.

Morris M.

Morris is a freelance writer and newly-qualified teacher, still naively hoping to make a difference in his students' lives. You can send your helpful and less-than-helpful comments to his email, or visit some of the other websites that inexplicably hire him.

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