The Laziest Countries in the World

With the word’s best athletes competing in Vancouver, The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to determine the most slothful nations on the planet. Welcome to the Couch Potato Olympics.

Steve Cole / Getty Images,Steve Cole

Steve Cole / Getty Images

#1, United States of America

Calories per Day: 1st out of 24 (Gold) 
Television Viewing: 1st out of 24 (Gold) 
Sports Aversion: 3rd out of 24 (Bronze) 
Internet Usage: 3rd out of 24 (Bronze) 


 
 Word from the Couch: U-S-A! U-S-A! U.S. sports four medals in The Daily Beast's Couch Potato Olympics, easily nabbing the top spot on our podium. Just like in the real Olympics, where America is jockeying to hold on to the medal lead, America always goes big, or doesn't go at all. From the Wing Bowl in Philadelphia, to New York City's historic Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest to countless county fairs across the nation featuring fried everything, gluttony is as American as an entire apple pie, and apparently all that downtime in front of televisions and computers translates into lots of sports viewing, not much sports playing.  

#2, Canada

Calories per Day:
Television Viewing:
Sports Aversion: 12 
Internet Usage: 1 (Gold) 



 Word from the Couch: Must be the snow. And the cold. Canada may not have the world's best Internet infrastructure, and there's plenty of hockey and skiing, but even the most die-hard winter sports enthusiast has to go inside sometime—and look up the score of the Canucks game on ESPN.com. And when it snows so much that Olympic skiing events are canceled, there's nothing better for Canadians than snuggling up with a cup of hot chocolate and a warm computer. Canadians on average spent nearly 43 hours online in December, according to ComScore. 

#3, Belgium

Calories per Day: 2 (Silver) 
Television Viewing:
Sports Aversion:
Internet Usage: 13 


 
 Word from the Couch: Cultural influences from France and Germany collide to produce a high average daily caloric intake in Belgium. Belgians wash down their waffles, mussels, and mayo-slathered pomme frittes with a cold Duvel or one of the hundreds of other ales produced in the country. Numerous festivals celebrate Belgian beer, including the Belgian Beer Weekend, and food is usually served in sizable portions. Belgians give Americans a run for their money when it comes to big eating, and they're nearly as averse to playing sports in their free time, but at least Belgians get out from behind the computer once in a while. 

Peter Adams / Getty Images

#4, Turkey 

Calories per Day: 15 
Television Viewing:
Sports Aversion: 1 (Gold) 
Internet Usage:


 
 Word from the Couch: Football (using the non-American definition) is a big deal in Turkey. Maybe not as big as it is in other European countries, but professional Turkish football teams routinely draw tens of thousands of fans to their games. What do Turks do away from the pitch? We know what they don't do: oddly, they tend to eschew playing sports with their free time. Instead, the Turkish spend more leisure time than any other country in this ranking visiting or entertaining friends. Visiting friends is fun, but it won't score bonus points with the Couch Potato judges. 
 

#5, Great Britain 

Calories per Day: 11 
Television Viewing: 13 
Sports Aversion: 2 (Silver) 
Internet Usage:


 
 Word from the Couch: Britain is nearly as averse as Turkey in terms of playing sports, but there's one sport, or sport-like activity, that the OECD probably didn't include in its statistics: the annual Cheese Roll in Gloucestershire. Contestants race down a steep hill after a wheel of cheese, some suffering semi-serious injury. This event might not be worthy of mention in a ranking of the biggest Couch Potatoes in the world, except that the winner of each race gets to keep (and eat) the cheese. Double whammy: A OnePoll survey found English men to be among the worst lovers in the world because they're "too lazy." 

Getty Images

#6, Poland 

Calories per Day: 14 
Television Viewing: 3 (Bronze) 
Sports Aversion:
Internet Usage: N/A 


 
 Word from the Couch: In Poland, call them Couch Pierogies. The stars of the annual Pierogi Festival are the little potato-stuffed dumplings, which are the most famous player in Polish cuisine. The festival is no joke: Hundreds of thousands of pierogies are eaten every year at the event, many served with a dollop of sour cream on the side. After eating, Couch Pierogies plop in front of the tube and live up to their name. 

#7, Mexico 

Calories per Day: 17 
Television Viewing: 2 (Silver) 
Sports Aversion:
Internet Usage: 12 


 
 Word from the Couch:  TV broadcasts started in Mexico in 1950 under a public television model similar to that in Britain, according to the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Since then Mexican television has opened up to market influences, and is dominated by the publicly traded Televisa, which operates Univision for Spanish speakers in the United States. With myriad viewing options, from telenovelas to soccer games, it's no surprise Mexicans love their television almost as much as their neighbors to the north. 

Irina Bort

#8, France 

Calories per Day:
Television Viewing: 11 
Sports Aversion: 13 
Internet Usage:


 
 Word from the Couch:  France is a historically prim-and-proper country, but it is also home to La Pourcailhade, literally the Festival of the Pig. Hog-loving participants of this longstanding French tradition enjoy piglet races, pork sausage-eating contests, and a challenge to see which Frenchman can best imitate a pig. Because this swine-obsessed nation is still the fashion capital of the world, there is even a competition for best-dressed pig. Miss Piggy would be proud.  
 

Miguel Villagran / Getty Images

#9, Germany 

Calories per Day:
Television Viewing: 12 
Sports Aversion: 10 
Internet Usage: 14 


 
 Word from the Couch: Germany annually holds the grandaddy of all get-sloppy-drunkathons: Oktoberfest. Apparently years of chewing on Bratwurst and downing litres of Hefeweizen, combined with a 21st-century workplace, are getting to Germans. "People are more idle than 40 years ago—they are desk-bound and lazy," Marianne Eisinger-Watzl of the Federal Research Institute for Food and Nutrition told Reuters. "Food is more energy-dense and snacking is on the up." And that’s why Germans rank in the top 10 for daily calories consumed. 

#10. Portugal

Calories per Day:
Television Viewing: 10 
Sports Aversion: N/A 
Internet Usage: 18 


 
 Word from the Couch: Portugal is a sleepy country—maybe it's not the laziest in the Couch Potato Olympics, but The International Journal of Epidemiology once found the Portuguese the most idle of all Europeans, with almost 88 percent of people reporting little exercise and lots of time spent sitting. "Our numbers tell us the same thing," government spokesperson Tiago Craveiro told the BBC. "The government is starting a program this summer to raise public awareness about the problem." No word yet whether making the public aware yielded any substantial increase in activity among the Portuguese. 

#11, Denmark

Calories per Day: 13
Television Viewing: 4
Sports Aversion: N/A
Internet Usage: 19

Word from the Couch: The Danes are known most for churning out clogs and excellent furniture designers. Yet Denmark places a surprising 4th for television watching. Turns out the Danes take their TV pretty seriously. There may be only a few dozen channels, but every year 650 television professionals converge for the annual Danish TV Festival to come up with new ideas, and to learn from producers working in countries around the world.

Denis Doyle / Getty Images

#12, Spain

Calories per Day: 16
Television Viewing: 6
Sports Aversion: 18
Internet Usage: 11

Word from the Couch: It makes sense that a country with a relatively low daily caloric ranking relies on a nutritious fruit for its messiest national event. August in Spain means it's time for a giant salsa-making fest La Tomatina in which goggle-wearing participants pelt each other with large, red tomatoes. The annual summer tradition, which dates back to the mid-20th century, celebrates a staple ingredient in Spanish food and entices Spaniards to take advantage of tomato season. Despite all the tomato hurling and siestas, Spain still places only in the middle of the road on our list.

#13, Netherlands

Calories per Day: 18
Television Viewing: 15
Sports Aversion: N/A
Internet Usage: 6

Word from the Couch: The Netherlands boasts the highest broadband Internet-access rate among OECD countries, but access does not necessarily equal many hours spent online. The Dutch also perform relatively modestly in calories consumed per day, largely because their cuisine is based on seafood and vegetables. Still, they lose points because of weighty items like Gouda cheese and the stroopwafel, a sweet made of two pieces of baked batter with a layer of syrup in the middle.

Julien Behal / AP Photo

#14, Ireland

Calories per Day: 3 (Bronze)
Television Viewing: 16
Sports Aversion: N/A
Internet Usage: 21

Word from the Couch: The days of the potato famine are long gone in Ireland. Starchy vegetables and fatty meats make for high calorie meals, including the traditional Irish breakfast, which usually includes eggs, black pudding, sausage, potatoes, bacon, and bread. Top that off with a cool Guinness or Smithwick's, and there's one meal alone worth more than a thousand calories.

Paul Souders / Getty Images

#15, South Korea

Calories per Day: 23
Television Viewing: 17
Sports Aversion: 11
Internet Usage: 2 (Silver)

Word from the Couch: It makes complete sense that South Koreans rank second for most number of hours devoted to surfing the Web—they have one of the best high-speed connections in the world, especially compared to Americans. The demand in South Korea for video-streaming and online gaming and shopping is partly responsible for the government's priority to advance digital technology. "I think there are a quite a few lessons," Taylor Reynolds, an International Telecommunications Union analyst, told CNET. "Most of the growth is tied to effective competition, which you don't see in a lot of places in the United States."

#16, Italy

Calories per Day: 4
Television Viewing: 18
Sports Aversion: 14
Internet Usage: 20

Word from the Couch: Much like their Spanish brethren, Italians take pride in nationwide food fights. At the Battle of the Oranges, more than 3,000 participants in the small town of Ivrea chuck oranges at each other in a tradition that traces back to an uprising of villagers against an evil ruler. Considering the Italians' rank as the country with the fourth highest daily caloric intake, they might want to consider throwing spaghetti and eating the fruit instead.

#17, Japan

Calories per Day: 24
Television Viewing: 7
Sports Aversion: 8
Internet Usage: 17

Word from the Couch: Japan ranked seventh for television watching—those wacky gameshows are uncommonly seductive—but every February, they get off the couch and move to the freezing waters. During the country's annual Mud Slinging Festival, participants waddle around half-naked and battle shrinkage by swinging their "samurai swords" at each other. Ironically, the sado-masochistic ritual is meant to bring good luck for the upcoming year's harvest—and a respite from the long hours in front of the TV.

Thomas Pickard

#18, Norway

Calories per Day: 10
Television Viewing: 23
Sports Aversion: 17
Internet Usage: 9

Word from the Couch: Norway sneaks into the top 10 ranking for countries with the highest daily caloric intake, and it could be because of the country's willingness to experiment with rather interesting food. Consider the Norwegian delicacy Smalahove, or sheep head, which is popularly served with cabbage stew, potatoes and beer.

Mark Higgins

#19, Australia

Calories per Day: 22
Television Viewing: 14
Sports Aversion: 9
Internet Usage: 16

Word from the Couch: Australia's best sport involves neither ball nor net, but a giant tuna fish that weighs 22 pounds. At Australia's annual Tunarama, competitors from around the world travel to a small Australian town to see who can fling a massive fish the greatest distance. The grueling competition makes us think that if the country's leading athletes would focus their energies on throwing more tunas and fewer balls, Australia would become less averse to playing sports.

#20, Finland

Calories per Day: 20
Television Viewing: 20
Sports Aversion: 15
Internet Usage: 10

Word from the Couch: In Finland, locals engage in plenty of lounging, only they do it in a sauna. The country hosts the annual Sauna Heinola, in which contestants sit in a heated sauna for as long as possible. Talk about endurance. Still, it's somewhat ironic that a country that prides itself on its ability to sit still for a long period of time doesn't even make it into the top 10 for greatest number of hours spent in front of the television. Maybe they need better programming.

#21, Austria

Calories per Day: 5
Television Viewing: 22
Sports Aversion: N/A
Internet Usage: 23

Word from the Couch: When Austrians aren't indoors gorging on Wienerschnitzel they can be found on the slopes contributing to the billion-dollar ski industry. Global warming is projected to have a devastating impact on European winter sports—with less snow and ice to slip and slide on, those low scores in television viewership and Internet usage may turn around. This is one forecast with a high likelihood of future Austrian couch potatoes.

Vallarie Enriquez

#22, New Zealand

Calories per Day: 19
Television Viewing: 19
Sports Aversion: 6
Internet Usage: 22

Word from the Couch: Don't let their relatively low caloric intake fool you—people from New Zealand know how to eat. Well, that depends on what you consider food. At the annual Hokitika Wildfoods Festival, participants try to outdo each other with the most disgusting-sounding dishes imaginable. We're talking wasp larvae-flavored ice cream and worm truffles. Come to think of it, it makes complete sense that locals have relatively small appetites.

Getty Images

#23, Sweden

Calories per Day: 21
Television Viewing: 21
Sports Aversion: 16
Internet Usage: 8

Word from the Couch: If there were a ranking for the smelliest nationwide activity, Sweden would likely rank first due to its Herring Festival (known as the Surströmming), which pays tribute to the country's delicacy of pickled fish. Twelve hundred or so revelers take their pick from an overwhelming selection of herrings, chopped potatoes and onions and a variety of Swedish Schnapps and beers. The slothiest part is the unbearable stench that lingers long after the snacks are digested.

Gabriela Schaufelberger

#24, Switzerland

Calories per Day: 12
Television Viewing: 24
Sports Aversion: N/A
Internet Usage: 15

Word from the Couch: Welcome to the least lazy country in the world! The Swiss have a long history of remaining neutral and understated, but they should be dancing in the streets today. Moderate food consumption, moderate Internet usage and the least time spent in front of the tube—no wonder they're doing so well in Vancouver.