Countries All People SHOULD be able to point out on a Map.

Inspired by the “What are typical American Traits thread” I´ve twice found two Americans, admitedly poor and lacking education, that did not know Spain even existed :smack:

I´d like to know what are countries that almost all people in the world should be able to point out.

My “must” list would include:

The U.S
South Africa

My “should” list would also include:

New Zealand
Antartica (the location of it, although no country really “owns it”)
What countries “MUST” all people be able to point out on a map?

Define “all people” as people who have seen a map a few times.
What countries “SHOULD” all people be able to point out on a map?

Define should as people who have done some MINIMUM study of geography.

What would your lists include?

I’d agree with everything on your lists. I’d add to the “should” list:

United Kingdom

Good list, but heck, I’d start with being able to find your own city on a map. When I was in college (granted, it was community college, but still…), a fellow student was looking at a map of Illinois, and wanted to know where we were on that map. We were in a suburb of Chicago, and she didn’t know where that was on a map of Illinois. I was wondering if she even knew that it was a map of Illinois, but I didn’t know how to ask that without sounding like a bitch.

I would also vote for being able to identify all the continents, and have a general idea of what countries are found there, even if they can’t identify the exact spot.

I’d be happy if they could just point to the general area and have the continent right. Truthfully, I know Spain and Portugal are close to each other, but I’m not 100% certain I would distinguish them on an unmarked map. But I could point to their “neighborhood”.

I’d add countries like Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan to the “should” list because they’re in the news so often and so many of the world’s problems arise there.

The “huge” countries should be easy for everyone, places like:



There’s the economic power houses, which should be easily identified:



There’s the major former empires that I’d say should be pretty easy:



Major flashpoints/warzones/aggressors/victims of the twentieth century, as well:


Britons should also be able to name major possessions of the former empire, as well as most countries in Western and Northern Europe.

Does anyone else play the game “Ubi”? It’s a spin-off of Trivial Pursuit in which all the questions work out to ‘Where is…’, and the only answers given are the co-ordinates on an unlabeled map. I really enjoy playing for money against people who can’t find Spain on a map.

Seriously, I think you should know the location of every country you talk about or hear in conversation, and if you don’t know it, you should look it up. I say that not to mock or belittle anybody, but just to encourage people to expand their horizons.

Wait, there are other countries besides America?

(Sorry, I just love the ridiculous sound of deliberate ignorance.)

Everything listed so far. I would also include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and New Zealand.

Just curious, can you give a justification or two from some of the countries on your list? Argentina? Sure, it’s in the news a lot at the moment – are you expecting people to have gone to the map to look it up? Some seem easy (e.g., Australia) so I get the expectation, but how did you come up with your “must” list? Why no Asian countries (e.g., Brazil but not Japan)?

Same for the “should” list. China and India, the two most populous countries and important economic entities, but New Zealand? Other than Xena watchers, why do you think people should know where that is? Is Canada and Mexico on the two lists to make sure people know where the US starts and stops (not that certain presidents know that)?

Basically, while I think knowing where things are is important, and have plenty of Warm Fuzzies for each and every country (yes, Portugal, you are important!), I can’t see any pattern to your lists.

My lists? I can’t say exactly, but how about this: Take twenty years of the top ten newspapers from the person’s home country, count country references weighted by coverage (full story, mentioned in another story) and placement (front page, rear section), and select the top twenty percent for “must” and top forty percent for “should”. Do the same with a selection of history textbooks used in that country, and combine the two lists for completeness.
Oh, please don’t take this as criticism of your choices – I’m honestly curious as to your thinking!

I agree–I would put China and India ahead of Brazil and Argentina.

The one country everyone should be able to point out is, of course, the one they are in at the moment.

Unless they’ve been extraordinarily rendered :eek:

I’d bet $100s that a significant chunk of the people getting on planes in Dublin airport for sun holidays couldn’t point out the country they’re flying to on the map.

Monstrous sized countries on a map should always be findable, their name is always visible, and is the most important data point there. Unless it’s a trick map, because even the most detailed topographical map has the obvious:

Canada, United States, Russia (USSR in my day), Brazil, China, and some others, really depending on the size of the map. Also orientation, so maybe, you miss Argentina, cause you have to tilt your head, likewise Chile – yeah, it’s long enough, but the text is squashed.

IMHO, European countries, that haven’t changed their names and borders significantly since, I dunno, the Middle ages should be recognizable – England, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal. Oh yeah, and that suspiciously boot-shaped country, stuck in the middle of a body of water, yeah, that’s called Italy, nothing else fits that description. Now, I do concede that the absolute borders for many of these have been in flux for quite a while, but historically, the general center of the nation hasn’t moved.

When I was in high school, we had to memorize the names and locations of each African nation. That was work. And I’d assume, keeping track of post cold war satellite nations is what’s stymieing high-schoolers these days.

But I remember in grammar school, the kids couldn’t find any nation, on a displayed map. As I try to rationalize it, the info seemed to overwhelming to them, hovering around the East coast of the US, taking a step towards the center, then going back, when asked to find California. And when I said, “Go west, young man,” he walked towards Europe. It’s just a different type of literacy that some people, just don’t catch on.

Sure, it’s an honest question, and I forgot to mention the point that much of what you know depends on where you are born.

My justifications are based a bit on bias, I must admit. Aside from taking granted that most people know that there are 7 continents, I think that most should know those mentioned in my list.

Assuming you know that Latin America exists, Brazil stands out due to the size, and Argentina has a peculiar shape that should draw attention to those who have seen a map.

I think the US should go without an explenation at the moment to be honest.

I’d justify Mexico for its curious location in relationship to the US. Plus, Mexican food is quite common. I find sometimes that certain nuances can cause people to know where a country is located.

In my expirience, those less educated may be aware of a Canada existing, but it simply isn’t mentioned enough to cause people to know where it is.

Some peple may think Canada is just “up there”.

I mention Spain because Europe is, probably the most “popular” and certainly the most important of all continents (in combination with Africa, of course) in determining modern civilizations. Spain is the first big land-mass you see when moving your eyes towards europe.

It’s very distinguishable. Portugal is smaller, hence I think it isn’t as “essential” for people to know where it is. (No offense meant to anyone)

Russia has played an important part in history and is just too damn big to be missed, plus it gets mentioned often enough.

Australia is a given, I think, its a country and a continent that is relatively isolated.

Italy is porbably the single most uniquely shaped country in Europe, no to mention the history behind this country.

France is very important too, and most people that know where Spain is, will know where France is too.

South Africa is a given because of its name.

The “shoulds” are harder to justify. I’m not denying that people do not know where these countries are, but they just do not exactly where they are located.

Greenland is barely mentioned and sometimes is marginalized in maps, despite its size.

Same with New Zealand, though it is curious to see these big islands in the middle of nowhere.

India may be confused in location with other areas near it, in my expirience.

Antartica is just weird to many people not familiar with global warming.

Portugal is the first coastal European country, but is “kinda” small. Still people who do minor studying should know where it is.

So there you have my reasons. They may not make sense, but its the best I can come up with.

Why New Zealand? No offense to any Kiwis reading but it’s not a very prominent player on the world stage and though I can point to it readily, I know of no reason why some random non-Oceanic person **should **be able to.

Yeah, but if they’re anything like those people at Glasgow airport, they aren’t really going anywhere at all. They’re just staying home with sun and an excuse to drink all day.

Some places are distinctive because of their shape (e.g., Japan and New Zealand). That, it seems to me, is why Italy is on the original list rather than Germany, which is both larger and more important economically. Swap the names of Poland and Germany on a map, and a lot of people would not notice, even though both countries are pretty large and pretty important.

I’m particularly fond of thisonline game (the Traveller IQ Challenge) for illustrating the point that most people aren’t nearly as geography savvy as they think they are.

It tends to be a slice of humble pie because you usuall walk in thinking it’s going to be ridiculously easy, only to realise that you really have no clue once your usual points of reference (like names of neighbouring countries, big cities, etc) are stripped off the map. I’d like to think I’m pretty aware of the world, and yet I still get my butt kicked on semi-obvious countries like Austria.

BTW, if the target audience in the OP is American, I would expect Canada and Mexico to be in the Must list. For any other country, I’d replace them with the countries that immediately border their own nation instead. Seems to me it’s most important of all to know who your neighbours are and where they’re to be found, no?