The Most Honest Cities Around the World

I came across an interesting experiment in Reader’s Digest, in which reporters prepared 192 wallets with a name, cellphone number, family photo, coupons, and business cards, along with the equivalent of $50 in local currency.  Sixteen cities were selected and twelve wallets were dropped in each city:  on sidewalks, near malls, and in parks.  Then the reporters waited to see how many wallets were returned.

Obviously this is more of a fascinating experiment than a scientific study, but all the same, the results are amusing.  Here’s how the top 16 cities ranked, along with the number of wallets returned in each:

Helsinki, Finland—11 out of 12 wallets returned

Mumbai, India—9 out of 12 wallets returned

Budapest, Hungary—8 out of 12 wallets returned

New York City, USA—8 out of 12 wallets returned

Moscow, Russia—7 out of 12 wallets returned

Amsterdam, Netherlands—7 out of 12 wallets returned

Berlin, Germany—6 out of 12 wallets returned

Ljubljana, Slovenia—6 out of 12 wallets returned

London, England—5 out of 12 wallets returned

Warsaw, Poland—5 out of 12 wallets returned

Bucharest, Romania—4 out of 12 wallets returned

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil—4 out of 12 wallets returned

Zurich, Switzerland—4 out of 12 wallets returned

Prague, Czech Republic—3 out of 12 wallets returned

Madrid, Spain—2 out of 12 wallets returned

Lisbon, Portugal—1 out of 12 wallets returned (by a couple from Holland, visiting Lisbon)

Read the full Reader’s Digest experiment here.

Given the reputation of Canadians for being “nice,” it would have been good to see a Canadian city on the list.  The reporters observed some people put the wallets in their purse or backpack and make no effort to call but many people responded favorably.  Reader’s Digest also asked the people who were kind enough to return the wallets whether they were tempted to keep them.  Their answers are interesting and reassuring.  Jeanette Baum, a music teacher in Zurich, Switzerland said: “I know what it’s like to lose something…the ‘not knowing’ afterwards is terrible. That’s why I responded as fast as I could.”

In a world where media so often focuses on the dark side of humanity, it’s refreshing to know that there are still a lot of good and honest people around the world.

What would you do?  Would you make the effort to return a wallet to the owner?  What do you think of the global results?  Do you have ideas as to how we can create honest cities?

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173 comments

Karen K.
Karen K2 years ago

Very interesting. It would be interesting to know if the areas they were left in the countries were fairly equivalent in terms of crime and need.

holly masih
h masih3 years ago

NYC? SERIOUSLY

heather g.
heather g3 years ago

I'm from Canada and have never lost my purse, but have had it stolen from the office. The person who reported it - minus the money, came from the poor, crime-ridden part of Vancouver where it had been dumped. I've also had money stolen from my purse - in another office in Vancouver (I had been advised to place my handbag 'in a safe place' beforehand).

The 'nice' Canadians have also damaged my cars on a regular basis since I moved here 17 years ago. I've had theft from my Apt in West Vancouver - by someone gaining access climbing from a balcony alongside... I've regularly had items stolen or broken during moves. Five new expensive umbrellas were either been stolen or broken, having been left in Reception areas. Also a distressing loss, was an expensive diamond cluster earring that disappeared from a recreation centre, after it had become loose during exercise class and dropped off.

My most expensive theft was that of a diamond ring which had been left to me by my mother, who had passed away in my home country. That really was an emotional loss and a deep shock as it was worth C$9,000! My new insurance plan didn't cover it..

I confess, I've reacted to the author's claim that Canadians are 'nice'. When one has experienced so much theft and loss, it's not possible to agree with this claim of niceness.

Eva Adgrim
Eva Adgrm3 years ago

Thank you very interesting.

Edgar Zuim
Edgar Zuim3 years ago

Good to know. But the ideal would be that all the wallets returned to the owner.

Lily B.
Lily B3 years ago

No wonder Paris, France, is not making it into the list at all.....shame on us....
:O(

Carol P.
Carol P3 years ago

Very glad to see a U.S. city was closer to the top of the list. I'll admit that I'm a little surprised that Spain and Portugal were at the bottom but I haven't visited either to be familiar with their cultures ... and perhaps never will now that I have read this.

Roxana Cortijo
Roxana Cortijo3 years ago

Interesting, thanks.

Patricia H.
Patricia H.3 years ago

interesting

Nimue Pendragon

I think this was a waste of your talent, Michelle :)