Is it possible to call an entire nation cool? Is it fair to say one nation is more cool than another?
Given that most countries have their own share of murderers, tyrants and reality TV stars, the answer is unequivocally — yes.
To help sort the cool from the less fortunate, we’ve compiled this list of the hippest peoples on the planet. No easy task when faced with almost 250 possible candidates.
The main problem is, of course, every nationality in the world believes it is the coolest — with the exception of Canadians, who are far too self-deprecating for that sort of thing.
Ask a man from Kyrgyzstan which people cut the biggest dash and he will say, “the Kyrgyz.” Who knows (seriously, who would know?) he might be right.
Ask a Norwegian and he will carefully finish chewing his mouthful of Thai green curry, take a swig of Thai Singha beer, gaze wistfully across the Thai resort of Phuket at the sunshine that eludes his country for 10 months of the year, then mumble softly, with a semi-suicidal lack of conviction: “Norwegians.”
Equally perplexing is how to define cool. Are Italians cool because some wear tightly fitting designer suits? Are the Russians uncool because some favor outmoded sportswear and pro-wrestling hairstyles?
Are the Swiss too neutral to be cool or uncool?
Before you start punching your computer screen in nationalistic indignation at your own country’s omission from our cool list — or the lazy stereotypes it inevitably falls back on for cheap laughs — remember, if you care that much about being cool then you, valued reader, simply ain’t cool.
Given that their homeland straddles two continents, it should be no surprise that Turkish people have a fairly cool outlook on life, embracing a diverse range of cultures, cuisines and plumbing standards.
Bathroom fittings aside, the Turks display their rich heritage with casual pride — nowhere more so than in the shabby but breathtakingly beautiful city of Istanbul, home to one of the liveliest nightlife scenes either side of the Bosphorus.
Icon of cool: Mahir Cagri. One of the Internet’s first global celebs, Cagri’s broken English overtures to women (particularly his catchphrase “I kiss you”) is believed to have inspired Borat.
Not so cool: The Turkish passion for mustaches gets up some people’s noses.
OK, so it’s small, damp and has a grim rep as a haven for European Union bureaucrats and sex offenders. But a nation that has made art forms of beer, chocolate and, yes, finch warbling can’t be all bad.
In the past three years, Belgium has been hit by a political crisis that has left it without a government for months on end. In most countries, that would trigger anarchy, looting and offshore piracy. Belgians, however, have nonchalantly been getting on with it.
Cool icon: Herman Van Rompuy. Gray hair, gray suit, but great name. The former prime minister-turned E.U. president also has a nifty sideline in poetry, hence the nickname, “Haiku Herman.”
Not so cool: No matter how you look at it, it’s still Belgium.