Difference between revisions of "850: World According to Americans"

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m (corrected spelling of 'geography'.)
(Eliminated oddly-written and superfluous sentence in "Brazil....")
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| Brazil (Portugese-speaking)
| Brazil (Portugese-speaking)
Rest of South America (Spanish-speaking)
Rest of South America (Spanish-speaking)
| Since the separation of the world by the {{w|Treaty of Tordesillas}} between the {{w|Portuguese Empire}} and the {{w|Spanish Empire}} in 1494 the region now considered as {{w|Brazil}} (at least its eastern part) was part of Portugal, while the rest was part of Spain. That's the main reason of why is spoken Portug'''u'''ese in Brazil and Spanish in the rest (besides of those three mentioned above).
| Since the separation of the world by the {{w|Treaty of Tordesillas}} between the {{w|Portuguese Empire}} and the {{w|Spanish Empire}} in 1494 the region now considered as {{w|Brazil}} (at least its eastern part) was part of Portugal, while the rest was part of Spain.
| Greenland (Still too big!)
| Greenland (Still too big!)

Revision as of 20:53, 3 August 2015

World According to Americans
It's not our fault we caught a group on their way home from a geography bee. And they taught us that Uzbekistan is one of the world's two doubly-landlocked countries!
Title text: It's not our fault we caught a group on their way home from a geography bee. And they taught us that Uzbekistan is one of the world's two doubly-landlocked countries!


See a larger version at http://xkcd.com/850_large/.

There's a somewhat well-circulated image on the internet entitled "The World According to Americans" which plays on the stereotype of the ignorant American. In it, the entirety of Eastern Europe and most of Asia are entitled "commies" and the Middle-East as "evil-doers," and so on. Later, other people created similar maps to re-do the concept. It later spread to other cultures. This comic is an anti-joke playing on that idea. You expect to see something which plays on the stereotypes that exist in American culture of various parts of the world. However, instead, the map is remarkably well-informed. The title text expands on the joke.

A few notes about things written inside the map:

Annotation Further details
Hey so what projection should we use? I’ll aim for “Robinson”. Any flat map projection of a sphere must have inaccuracies. Mercator projection displays shapes well at the expense of size. For example, Mercator's Greenland appears larger than South America, but is actually one eighth the size. Gall-Peters projection does the opposite, showing accurate surface area with distorted ("awful") shapes. Robinson projection compromises between shape & size for aesthetics; hence Greenland is "still too big".
Did you know Maine is actually the US state closest to Africa? The distance ist about 5076 km (~3754 mi). Measurement points are Sail Rock (Maine), the most eastern point of the USA, and a point which seems to be the most southern (and as such western) point of el-Beddouza Beach, Morocco. It's not the most western point of Morocco (or Africa), though.
Do we have to label all the Virgin Islands? Which are 9 larger and about 100 smaller islands - surely a lot of labels.
French, and I think Dutch and English The three separated areas are (from west to east) Guyana (former British colony), Suriname (former Dutch colony) and French Guiana (still officially part of France). The former two often switched between French, Dutch and British colonial rule. The latter was French most times except of a short Portuguese episode.
Brazil (Portugese-speaking)

Rest of South America (Spanish-speaking)

Since the separation of the world by the Treaty of Tordesillas between the Portuguese Empire and the Spanish Empire in 1494 the region now considered as Brazil (at least its eastern part) was part of Portugal, while the rest was part of Spain.
Greenland (Still too big!)

Yeah, but the Peters map is awful

Relating back to the choice of map projection, the apparent size of Greenland is one of the most commonly known projection based inaccuracies. The Gall-Peters projection shows accurate surface area, but with distorted ("awful") shapes.
British Isles


Although Ireland belongs to the British Isles geographically, it does not belong to the British Islands politically. That may be the reason why Ireland is labelled additionally - to show it's known that Ireland does not belong to the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland does, though.
Rainforest DRC The area shown is actually not completely the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but since Randall said he doesn't know the African map very well (see statement below), it's fairly accurate.
So this is one of those things where you point out our ignorance and stereotypes?

Yeah – I mean I freely admit I don’t know the African map very well, which speaks volumes in itself.

The African portion of the map is perhaps the most poorly labelled, which lends weight to the stereotype of the 'Ignorant American'. Although it has to be mentioned, that the geography of Africa is in general not well known - at least within the Western world. So that's not really an American thing, here. The few countries which are labelled here mostly are well known because of their unstable political situation or because of their remarkable location. The labelled locations (and the presumably reasons of their "publicity") are west to east, north to south: Morocco (Arab Spring, location), Algeria (Arab Spring, Civil War), Sahara Desert (largest hot desert of the world), Sudan (Civil war, Arab Spring), West Africa (Lots of Civil wars and thus bad humanitary situation, Blood diamonds), Somalia (Civil war, pirates), Lake Victoria (largest lake of Africa, quite remarkable even at large scale maps (as here)), Mozambique (Civil war), Angola (Civil War) and Madagascar (large island at the east coast - quite remarkable).
Cape Horn Cape Horn is the southern tip of South America, not Africa. The southern tip of Africa is called Cape of Good Hope.
Should we include Antarctica?

Let’s not – these guys are looking impatient

This is probably a joke on the lack of labels that would be required for Antarctica. Drawing Antarctica and labelling it would probably take less time than having the discussion about whether to include it, and then writing that discussion on the map.
Aral Sea (Gone) Former one of the largest fresh-water lakes of the world, now actually not completely gone, but almost.
Various former soviet states Which are (west to east) Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was dissolved in 1991 and thus the Cold War had ended.
Boxing Day quake

Wait, “Boxing day”? There’s no way you’re American. I read BBC News, OK?

On December 26, 2004, a huge earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, causing severe tsunamis. December 26, the day after Christmas Day, is celebrated as Boxing Day in the UK, Canada, Australia, and some other English-speaking countries, but not the US. As such, the earthquake became known as the Boxing Day Quake.

One of the group picks up on the use of 'Boxing Day' as something no American would say. Even an American reader of BBC News (part of the British Broadcasting Corporation) may start to use the phrase "Boxing Day."

India -> Mostly Muslim

India -> Mostly Hindu

In general India is separated in two religious groups. Muslims in the north-west, Hindus in the rest.
Tibet (contested) The area was annexed by the People's Republic of China in the 1950's. Since then there are struggles to gain independence, again. The marked area is fairly inaccurate, though. The Tibet Autonomous Region is roughly the southern half of the marked area extended a bit to the south-east.
Kamchatka Peninsula, but I admit I only know this one from Risk Risk is a board game played on a map of the world, where players own territories and battle each other for world domination. The person in the comic admits to knowing Kamchatka Peninsula only from the territory "Kamchatka" in the game.
Koreas The two Koreas are the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
Japan, duh. Well... Japan.
Taiwan (actually called “The Republic of China” – it’s complicated. This is a reference to the complicated political history of Taiwan. After WWII, the Nationalists fled China for Taiwan and set up a government in exile there, vowing to return. In the intervening 70 years or so, Taiwan eventually began to transform into a democracy, but hasn't shed the name, or the animosity with China. There is also a missing end-paren here, which is either a typo or a reference to 859. The tag 'it's complicated' is one of the options for relationship statuses on Facebook, and denotes two people whose relationship defies the usual labels. In this case it is the relationship between the countries which is complicated.
Paupa New Guinea A typo of Papua New Guinea.
Phillipines A typo of the Philippines.

The title text jokes that in fact the only reason that the map is fairly well annotated is that the group of people labelling it were actually on the way back from a geography bee (competition). This would call into question that surely a competitor in a geography competition should be able to do better than the map shown, which would thus reinforce the 'Ignorant American' stereotype, as this is an American expert.

A landlocked country is a country that does not border any major bodies of water. Furthering the concept, a doubly-landlocked country is a country that not only has no connection to water, but is only bordered by other landlocked countries. As the title text states, there are only two such countries in the world as of 2012: Uzbekistan and Liechtenstein. This is the type of fact that may be stereotypically expected of a geography bee competitor.


According to a Group of
who turned out to be unexpectedly good at geography, derailing our attempt to illustrate their country's attitude toward the rest of the world.
[Left to right, up to down.]
[North of Canada.] Hey so what projection should we use?
I'll aim for "Robinson."
[North America.] Alaska; Canada; Hudson Bay; Québec; United States
Did you know Maine is actually the US state closest to Africa?; Bermuda (British!)
[Central America.] Baja California (Mexico); Mexico; Central America; Panama Canal; Gulf of Mexico; Cuba; Hispañola; POR.; Jamaica
Do we have to label all the Virgin Islands?
[South America.] Rest of South America (spanish-speaking); Brazil (portugese-speaking); French, and I think Dutch and English; Tierra del Fuego
[Greenland.] Greenland (still too big!); Yeah but the Peters map is awful; Iceland
[Europe.] British Isles; Ireland; Gibralter; Scandanavia; Western Europe; Eastern Europe; Black sea; Middle East
[Africa.] Morocco; Algera; Sahara Desert; West Africa; Sudan; Rainforest DRC; Lake Victoria; Somalia; Angola; Mozambique; South Africa; Cape Horn; Madagascar
[West of DRC.] So this is one of those things where you point out our ignorance and stereotypes?
Yeah – I mean, I freely admit I don't know the African map very well, which speaks volumes in itself.
[West Asia.] Russia; Aral sea (Gone); Various former Soviet states; Afghanistan & Pakistan; India; Mostly Muslim; Mostly Hindu
[Indian Ocea.] Sri Lanka; Boxing Day Quake
Wait, "Boxing day"? There's no way you're American.
I read BBC News, OK?
[East Asia.] Mongolia; Tibet (contested); China; Southeast Asia
[Pacific Ocean.] Kamchatka Pennisula, but I admit I only know this one from Risk.
Koreas; Japan, duh.; Taiwan (actually called "The Republic of China." – it's complicated.); Phillipines; Malaysia; Indonesia; Sulawest; Paupa New Guinea; Australia; Tasmania; New Zealand
[South of Africa.] Should we include Antarctica?
Let's not – these guys are looking impatient.

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NB: Paupa (sic!) New Guinea Leob (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2012 (UTC)

You're right, there's a typo in the comic! Good catch ;) --Waldir (talk) 17:10, 27 November 2012 (UTC)
The group did come from the geography bee, not the spelling bee. --Tepples (talk) 15:22, 9 September 2017 (UTC)

98% of American's would only be able to locate about 4 countries so this is way too generous ~JFreund

"American's" Beanie (talk) 12:12, 28 April 2021 (UTC)

Made a typo with Phillipines. It's Philippines. @JFreund No stereotyping, please. I can list 51 or 52 countries and I'm not even in middle school. Add a bit more thinking and I've got to 58.Randomperson4000 (talk) 01:59, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

@JFreund: That's not true... I'm a seventh grader who can't stand geography for the life of me, yet I can name a good twenty or so. And as a very very simplified example, most fifth graders can easily name America (duh), Mexico, Canada, Russia, and England. That is rather, for lack of a better term, racist of you. ~jazz14456

@jazz14456 Well for comparison I'm an seventh grader from europe(We call it year eight there) and I can name 64 off the top of my head, that's 320% more. Therefore the point of the comic and @JFreund 's point still stand. ~Samarthwiz

Your brand of negativism, as well as the additional above, does nothing to advance any sort of constructive dialogue. Please check your misconceptions, generalizations, and inaccuracies about entire populations at the door. They're not welcome in communities of thinking people. Orazor (talk) 12:25, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
While the petty point scoring is of no value, it is worth noting that Europeans have an advantage when it comes to the trite 'How many countries can you name' or 'How many countries have you visited' competitions. You can quite easily spend a day driving through Europe and visit (drive through) 5 countries. As an example: England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany. The fact that an American can do this across different states, or may be able to name all 50 states in addition to however many countries, or have travelled far and wide within the states doesn't seem to carry any weight. --Pudder (talk) 14:03, 18 November 2014 (UTC)
I wholeheartedly agree. They are regions with their own flags and laws and geography too only one slight criticism is that most of them call it America. So they want to be classed as an whole continent or two, a country that is more correctly called the USA and they want credit for knowing where Delaware or Rhode Island is. I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 18:48, 24 January 2015 (UTC)
I think it's sad that I'm an American in eighth grade and the only reason that I can name 87 (88 if you count Vatican City as its own country) is because I play Call of War and Conflict of Nations-- 20:54, 18 February 2018 (UTC)
There really is no need to be smug just cause you're European. Only 64? I had known at least 80 when I was in eighth grade, as well as the climates, geography, religions, capitals, international organizations they were in, and a little bit of the economy of said country. And you're being smug just because you can name more countries than others? And let's not forget the individual states, many of which could pass as a country on their own... so add 50 to that total. You think you're so smart? Try me. Herobrine (talk) 13:27, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

BTW, the Robinson drawing in the comic is much too accurate to be pure freehand. He probably used tracing or grid point marks. -- Frankie (talk) 21:46, 25 March 2014 (UTC)

  • Randall considers this to be 'good at geography'?! They only named, like, 30 or so countries... There's 197!*

It's probably sarcasm too that "Tibet" is incorrectly labelled on Xinjiang. 01:20, 26 March 2014 (UTC)

"Aral sea (??Toane" is probably "Aral sea (gone)" (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

This is a wiki. Edit it in yourself next time (done it for you this time). 05:32, 1 August 2014 (UTC)

I added some comments/explanations. The distance between Afrcia and USA was measured by google maps. I tried out several spots. If someone finds a shorter distance, fell free to correct :) Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 08:01, 18 November 2014 (UTC)

The annotation regarding the poor labelling of Africa needs more/better explaining, especially what it means by it 'speaking volumes'. Although I've put that it lends weight to the 'Ignorant American' viewpoint, my feeling is that there is actually a more widespread ignorance amongst the rest of the world towards Africa (in general, not just geographically). While I could probably name a few more countries in Africa, I wouldn't be able to place them within the continent. I have an average knowledge of world geography, but the big hole in my knowledge would definately be Africa, and I suspect that the majority of people I know would say the same. I could come up with all sorts of theories as to why it is Africa I know so little about, but this comment is already too long! --Pudder (talk) 13:49, 18 November 2014 (UTC)

Done, I think. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 17:47, 18 November 2014 (UTC)

I'm not sure if it's necessary to include all the other not yet mentioned/explained areas, such as Western/Eastern Europe and others. We could make lists of which countries belong to that regions similar to the "Various former soviet states"-area, but that would simply result in a list of all nations of the world. If you agree, we could remove the incomplete-tag, I think. If not... well... there are a lot of countries ;) On the other hand, I'm not quite sure, if the colors may have a special meaning... But I think most likely not. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 17:47, 18 November 2014 (UTC)

I've added a bit more detail on the title text. Personally I don't think we need to add all the labels, unless there is something specific on this comic which can be explained about that label. Like you say, it would turn into a list of countries with no relevant additional information. As far as colours go, I can't see any obvious pattern behind their assignment. I vote we remove the incomplete tag, in my view any other additions serve to enhance the article rather than to complete it. --Pudder (talk) 09:23, 19 November 2014 (UTC)

The opening paragraph is inaccurate; the comic satirises portrayals of American geographical ignorance (X% of Americans can't locate Y on a map!) rather than jokey maps about cultural stereotypes. 09:56, 13 October 2015 (UTC)

Please improve the explanation for India. It is not clear, and the mostly Hindu/Muslim regions seem to be referring to the countries India and Pakistan. I tried editing, but someone reverted it claiming that it was not Pakistan. {{ 08:48, 19 April 2017 (UTC)}}

That was me. Pakistan is obviously included in the part labeled as "Afghanistan & Pakistan". If you compare the red area of India in the comic's map with an actual map of India (e.g. this one https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Political_map_of_India_EN.svg) you'll see that the red area actually _is_ India. Ofc, the border drawn in this comic is not 100% accurate, but that is true for almost all borders. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 12:18, 14 July 2017 (UTC)

Well, as a neutral outsider I can point out that people from the USA are consistently showing their ignorance here of the difference between a continent and a country. "America" is a continent, the USA is a country. Same goes for Africa, it's not a country, it's a continent. The only continent that is also a country is Australia.