The World's Most and Least Honest Cities Revealed

You drop your wallet on a crowded city street. Does it get returned? Depends on which city you're in, according to a new report from Reader's Digest. The magazine sent out reporters to "accidentally" drop their wallets in cities around the world. What they found was that, overall, people are pretty damn decent. But citizens of some cities might be much more honest than others.

The reporters "lost" 12 wallets per city, in busy places such as shopping malls, parks and crowded sidewalks. Each wallet contained the equivalent of $50 in local currency, along with a family photo, a few business cards, some coupons and a name with a cellphone number. In total, almost half (47 percent) of the wallets were returned. But returns rates varied wildly from city to city.

In Helinski, Finland, all but one wallet was returned. "Finns are naturally honest," said Lasse Luomakoski, a 27-year-old Finnish businessman who found and returned one of the dropped wallets. "We are a small, quiet, closely-knit community. We have little corruption, and we don't even run red lights."

Lisbon, however, must be full of red-lighting-running thieves. In the Portuguese capitol, only one wallet made its way back.

"The most surprising discovery for the team at Reader's Digest is that honesty is not a relative," Raimo Moysa, editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest International Magazines, told CNN. "For all the people who returned wallets, it was the only way to act in such a situation."

The single American city on the list was New York City, which isn't exactly known for its wholesomeness or honesty. But in NYC, eight out of 12 wallets were returned. Surprised? I kind of am, but I guess I shouldn't be. This past spring, I accidentally left my car door not only unlocked but slightly ajar on a street in Bushwick, Brooklyn. My trunk and backseat were full of stuff—clothes, boxes, shoes, books, a box containing my Social Security card and passport (yes, I'm an idiot sometimes). When I discovered my faux pas a full day later, I also discovered that nothing had been touched. Maybe New Yorkers are much more honest than we tend to think.

Here's the full list of cities Readers Digest put to the test, along with how many wallets were returned in each:

  1. Helsinki, Finland - 11
  2. Mumbai, India - 9
  3. Budapest, Hungary - 8
  4. New York City, USA - 8
  5. Moscow, Russia - 8
  6. Amsterdam, Netherlands - 7
  7. Berlin, Germany - 6
  8. Ljubljana, Slovenia - 6
  9. London, England - 5
  10. Warsaw, Poland - 5
  11. Bucharest, Romania - 4
  12. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 4
  13. Zurich, Switzerland - 4
  14. Prague, Czech Republic - 3
  15. Madrid, Spain - 2
  16. Lisbon, Portugal - 1

Does this experiment really tell us much about how "honest" citizens of various cities are? Probably not. But it does tell you where to be extra careful with your wallet and purse!