How many countries can non-Americans name on a blank map?

We have probably all heard of the Americans who cannot name more than ten countries on a blank world map or cannot accurately point out even big nations on a map, but do non-Americans usually have 4-fold or 8-fold better geographic literacy?

If given a blank outline map of Europe, would the average European be able to write in every European nation, or an African every nation in Africa?

National Geographic did a survey in 2002 - the report is here.

Doesn’t quite answer the breadth of your question - no Africans polled for example, but many other interesting facets explored. Cant readily find a more recent update.

The highlights in the executive summary for your infojyment.

"Overall, knowledge of geography among young adults in the U.S. continues to trail that of young adults in most other countries surveyed, and there is little to no improvement since the 1988 survey. However, young Americans are not alone. Some of their peers outside the U.S. also struggled with basic geography facts, most notably young adults in Mexico, and to a lesser degree those in Canada and Great Britain.

Answering about 70% of questions correctly, young adults in Sweden, Germany and Italy ranked the highest of the nine countries surveyed. They were followed by the French (61%) and Japanese (55%). Respondents in Great Britain answered 50% correctly. Their peers in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico answered fewer than half the questions correctly.

Young adults in America are fairly knowledgeable about geographic issues closer to home that impact their lives — for example, the origin of most immigrants to the U.S. today — but young adults worldwide have a stronger grasp of some issues that are beyond their own borders compared with Americans. Out of 56 questions that were asked across all countries surveyed, on average, young Americans answer 23 questions correctly, Even on those questions where American young adults answered correctly, they still were ranked in the bottom third or below the half-way mark."

When I watch quiz programmes I am often appalled at the geographical ignorance of the younger people in the UK. Typical questions like “Which of three countries is landlocked?” and, closer to home, “Which of these thee UK cities at furthest North?” are frequently given wrong answers.

When I was a truck driver, my fellow driver’s knowledge of geography was frequently lacking and with the advent of satnavs, I suspect that this will only get worse.

A young relative was recently telling me about her holiday in Spain but had no idea of whether it was North or South of the UK.

I wonder how well American kids do at locating States on a blank map - Many UK kids would find it hard going to locate the four counties that make up the UK.

Missed the edit: "locate the four counties" should have read locate the four countries

Ah. now if we were doing county boundaries in the UK, I think most of us would be stumped. Off the top of my head, I think I’d be OK with Greater London (obvs) and most of the east coast, but the rest would just be blobs.

Just out of interest, do US TV news references to foreign countries include a graphic map? I suspect that’s how most of us here get any familiarity with the outlines of country borders.

Typical Londoner - anything North of Watford doesn’t exist. How about the London boroughs? Could you find Walthamstow or Ealing on an outline map?

Living in the rural area near a midsize city I’ve found most of the people that were raised in town have little concept of what exists until you get to the next midsize city.

Is there even a map with the boundaries of English counties? Boundaries that have all been fixed for the last one hundred years with no significant change? If so, I’d like to see it.

I’ve had conversations with co-workers in the UK where I’ve had to explain that Belgium wasn’t part of France, Indonesia wasn’t part of India and Cumbria was not a foreign country. The only one of my co-workers who could tell me what country Java was in when I worked in an airport coffee shop was Czech (I was going there on holiday, and wondered if the coffee connection would mean they’d know where it was).

There are plenty of spectacularly poor geographers in the UK.

Yet one more thing for which we United Statesians owe you a debt of gratitude! :smiley:

The ones around the large cities have changed significantly, but quite a few of these are still good.


I’m in Canada. I assure the the answer will vary wildly. I could get 120+ easily, because I’m a map nerd (I am not good at much else.) I know educated people who couldn’t get a dozen.

Some people just get maps, and some don’t. It’s just one of those things. I am really not convinced it has much to do with intelligence.

Have fun here…

My Fermi guess for the Whole Wide World is about 100. It’s certainly more than 10; obviously less than 1.000, so there’s it.

I can name every state and every province on a blank map. I can name every country in western Europe, but was recently surprised at how far north the Czech Republic is. Still I can pretty well with northeastern Europe, not so good on the former Yugoslavia. Obviously, I can find Russia, China, Japan and India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have been in news so much I can find them. I am fairly solid on North Africa and middle east, but terrible on the rest of Africa. Oh and I can find Australia and NZ.

I did the Sporcle thing right after replying and got 130 before boredom defeated me. I’d have gotten 150 if I tried.

However, Sporcle’s test has the country borders on it. That makes it much, much easier, when you’re prompted by the border shapes. Made it a hell of a lot easier for me, probably worth 2 dozen countries.

I’ve seen this item a lot, and it seems a bit biased.

Lots of those countries in Europe & Asia are tiny! Smaller than US states, yet they’re considered a ‘country’ and we’re supposed to locate them. My home state is bigger than all but the largest 12 European countries. We have a single park that is larger than the dozen smallest of them.

Ask Europeans to identify all 50 US states on a map, and you’d probably see an equivalent level of ‘geographic illiteracy’.
Most people only know a lot about their specific vicinity, and then vague generalities about countries that are in the news a lot. And even then, maps aren’t usually a big part of the news.

It may be influenced by your home country’s relative importance and size. Living in a small country at the end of the earth, I know that I could identify most countries in Europe easily, most in Asia and many in Africa and South America. Central America is a bit harder but I’d ace North America. Most Pacific nations I’d manage, but they would be the easiest to confuse with each other.

As a Canadian and a bit of a map nerd, I could identify most countries except for the more recent ones…I think I know Yugoslavia. I can make a rough guess with some of the old SSR’s in central Asia (sorry, Borat). And the clump of small countries in the bight of Africa, I don’t know my Sierra Leone from Gambia off hand, as Captain Hook would say… Certainly I know some Pacific Islands but the majority I’m not familiar with - I bet I can tell Iwo Jima from Guam, but wouldn’t bet the farm. But countries in the news, of decent land mass, I know. I would guess most Canadians know the main countries of Europe, could find Russia and China and Japan, Australia and (I hope) New Zealand. It depends whether they pay attention to the TV news, as usually the news will feature a map.

I could get the vast majority of countries in the right “area” but I, too, wouldn’t “bet the farm”… however, I will say this… I had to explain to an american…that New York was indeed a part of the United States… and that Africa was not a country…