Opinion

Is your geography knowledge just Nepaling?

Do you know your Accras from your Elbas? Of course, these are not countries, but I couldn't resist the temptation

When it comes to the countries of origins of our favourite foods, shows and people, we’re experts. But, how good is our geographical knowledge of these places?

Interested in putting our geography skills to the test, TheKnowledgeAcademy.com quizzed 6,550 people’s knowledge to see which countries we struggle to place on a map the most.

Coming in at the top of the list is Indonesia with 83% of participants failing to correctly map it. Despite Bali, Jakarta and Lombok being among the most popular tourist attractions, TheKnowledgeAcademy.com found many only took good memories back with them.

Following is Vietnam with only 19% of people correctly placing it on the map and 81% failing to do so. The Vietnam war may have been something many were taught in their history lessons (not me, it was current when I was at school) but clearly, not enough emphasis was put on where it was located.

Similarly, in the south of Asia is Bangladesh. Known for its rivers, people, ruins, and interest from Beatle George Harrison, but this doesn’t seem to be enough as 78% were unable to pick the right country on the map.

Ukraine comes in fourth place with 73% of people unable to identify it on the map. Despite being the second biggest country in Eastern Europe after Russia, it seems their giant neighbour has overshadowed them.

I’m not great at geography though I got an ‘A’ for it at O-Level. I trust you are suitably impressed (not!). But, when I was studying, Russia was the main state in the USSR and USSR was synonymous with Russia. Indeed, the Balkan states were still known as Yugoslavia. Dates me a bit, I know. I, too, would struggle to identify the Ukraine though I would expect to fare better identifying Asia countries given that I lived in Thailand for more than a decade.

There are 12 countries in South America and of them, TheKnowledgeAcademy.com found Peru is the one that seems to leave people the most confused – 69% couldn’t pinpoint it on a map. I could pick out Brazil and Argentina but those countries to the very north leading up to Panama (easy the pick as it has the thin bit where the canal goes through) would have me lost too.

Completing the top 10 countries people struggle with are:

6th: Uzbekistan 68% failed to place it

7th: Japan62% failed to place it

8th: Saudi Arabia61% failed to place it

9th: Morocco 57% failed to place it

10th: Canada 53% failed to place it (really?)

Of the countries we’re more familiar with, Germany is in 20th place with 71% of people being able to point it out on a map compared with 29% that couldn’t. Known for its rich history, beer and bread, it’s no wonder so many could find this European powerhouse.

When it comes to Africa, it’s clear to see that Ghana (capital Accra – see sub-deck to headline) is one of the more known countries with only 31% failing to find where it is on the map. Unlike its neighbours in the south, Angola (52%) and Madagascar (50%), as well as Morocco in the north-west (57%) which are less well-known.

I took an interest in Morocco thanks to the Crosby, Stills and Nash song Marrakesh Express; and movies such as the Road to Morocco starring Bob Hope (Eltham lad) and Bing Crosby and Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman (both made in 1942 – a decade before my time). Today, there is a Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca that features a Pleyel piano similar to that shown in the film. Just need the lottery to stop messing around and I’ll be off there to request the pianist play As Time Goes By.

But, I digress, also among the more widely recognised countries in Europe is France, with one-in-three failing to recognise it in comparison to Ukraine (73%) and Poland (43%).

Interested in knowing just how much people have interacted with the countries presented to them, TheKnowledgeAcademy.com surveyed participants to find out whether they had been to any of the countries listed which 57% had.

In the hopes of delving further and seeing why our map knowledge lacks in places, participants were asked whether they were taught about countries in school to which 32% replied yes, 16% couldn’t recall and 52% answered no. Participants were then asked whether they believe more could be done to cover this subject which 76% agreed to and 24% disagreed with.

Methodology: Using Worldometers.info, TheKnowledgeAcademy.com gathered all countries with a population of 20 million or more, to decrease the chances of obviously less known countries affecting the results. Each of the 6,550 participants was then presented with a random selection of 20 countries and told to select where they are located to the best of their knowledge on an interactive map. The top 20 countries which people failed to identify were then taken from the list to make the final results.This was completed between the start of the year and January 25.

No one actually mouthed the words, Play it again Sam in Casablanca


David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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