OK, in our defense, Europe is really complicated.
February 14, 2014 1:58 AM   Subscribe


 
I've got to admit I'd do a pretty poor job, especially once I get east of Germany and Italy...but how is it possible not to know that the big huge massive space that's bigger than anything else ever is Russia?
posted by Jimbob at 2:06 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


My eight year old nephew could fill this out, including san marino and Andorra.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:11 AM on February 14, 2014


I think all we can glean from this is that a worrying number of people on both sides of the pond have no idea where anything is outside of their immediate locality.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:16 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


These were obviously not completed by me.
posted by ZaneJ. at 2:26 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


What's most amusing/interesting is seeing what parts of the continent the other side of the Atlantic actually care about. I bet if you asked random East Asian/Russian/Indian Subcontinent/African/whatever people the same questions, you'd get slightly different answers.
posted by Punkey at 2:26 AM on February 14, 2014


Yo! A shout out to all my Moomins. Yeah. You know where you are..DJ Mtroll..yeah, Sniffysniff.. Sssssnorkaay, lemme see ya twark that thang!!
posted by bird internet at 2:28 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I knew all those hours that I sunk into CK2 would come back and be useful someday.

The left half is the Aztec Empire and the right half is the Golden Horde, duh.
posted by kagredon at 2:29 AM on February 14, 2014 [22 favorites]


Whatever the US state is that is labelled "Middleshire" should change its name to "Middleshire."

Well I know where England is, and thats all that matters really. Anything East of Anglia or West of Wales may as well not exist. In fact, I'm not sure that they actually do exist.
posted by marienbad at 2:43 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


One of these entries has handwriting so eerily identical to mine (an immature all-caps style cultivated by years of pen ignorance) that I'm feeling a little bit unsettled. Have I forgotten a country survey I recently did, or is there another person out there in this world with the same ham-fisted penmanship? I must meet them.
posted by sektah at 2:43 AM on February 14, 2014


Awesome things on these maps (Europe edition).

1. The map with TRANSYLVANIA does actually circle Romania in the area where Transylvania is. However, "DRACULA" is actually Moldova. And a bunch of people think Romania is Moldova.
2. I'm guessing it's a Risk player who wrote "KAMCHATKA!" on Ukraine.
3. Seriously, Ukraine gets to be "land," Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Turkey, Russia, Poland, BORAT, "Former Communists" and "Something that Used to Be USSR." They don't know what it is but it's too big to not name.
4. Croatia as an alligator/dragon eating Bosnia-Herzegovina.
5. Somebody tried to show off their non-European geography by writing "Azerbaijan." Unfortunately they wrote it in Georgia.
posted by graymouser at 2:46 AM on February 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Disappointed not to see any "Here Be Dragons," or, alternatively, “here dog-headed beings are born.”
posted by taz at 2:59 AM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Americans Try To Place European Countries On A Map, Brits have similar results attempting to place US States on a map.

Similar results, maybe, but the problems aren't really similar. Everybody should know where places like France and Spain and Russia are. But the 50 states of the USA? As if anyone living outside of the North-Eastern US should know where Delaware is? That's a bit like asking Americans to name and locate the counties of England.
posted by pracowity at 3:08 AM on February 14, 2014 [36 favorites]


I'm really impressed that someone got Wales right. Only two people remembered that it existed, and one of those had it in the wrong place, but still. The UK/Britain/England thing is confusing, and other than having the world's best flag* there's no reason I can think of why many Americans will have heard of us.

I have an amazingly bad visual/spatial memory, to the extent that I'd seriously struggle to draw you a map of the 20 minute walk to work I've been making for two years. I'd definitely be at the "pitiful" end of labelling the US states, probably not getting anything right apart from California and Texas (funny shapes), Hawaii and Alaska (islands and sawn-off peninsula), and Massachusetts (where my SO lives). I would definitely misspell Massachusetts.

For Europe, I would get embarrassingly vague as soon as I got east of, say, the Czech republic. Anything I got right would be the result of a "well, I know X borders Y and Z..." logic puzzle.

*You may think that this is patriotism, but it's not. Dragons are objectively cool.
posted by metaBugs at 3:12 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


No prob on the European map except the Balkans have Balkanized a lot since I studied European geography.
posted by telstar at 3:17 AM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Now what would be interesting would be asking Americans to fill in the states and Europeans to try their hand at filling out Europe, to see how the ignorance compares.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:22 AM on February 14, 2014 [34 favorites]


That's a bit like asking Americans to name and locate the counties of England.

More like knowing England/Scoltland/Wales/Northern Ireland, maybe? The states have a range of cultures and their own governments, after all, and are in the same league as European countries in terms of size, GDP and population. Admittedly, I'm more used to hearing the news talk about America as an entity than talking about the contrasts and interactions between individual states.
posted by metaBugs at 3:23 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


That's a bit like asking Americans to name and locate the counties of England.

For an encore, try to guess the relative positions of Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna, Auvergne and Picardy, or Rheinland-Pfalz and Thuringia.
posted by sukeban at 3:27 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


All bets are off when you Americans:

- treat Kentucky as part of the deep south and Oklahoma as part of the midwest

- place three states beginning with "I" next to one another; more to the point: also how the hell are we supposed to remember the difference between Idaho, Ohio and Iowa?

- don't put Kansas and Arkansas next to one another

- call a place Kansas City but have it as the biggest city in another state

- have a state called Washington nowhere near your capital city called Washington, which isn't even in a state because it's in a mispelt district named after a country in Latin America.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:27 AM on February 14, 2014 [38 favorites]


Actually, I'm really impressed. Unless this is a test paper for people who have just studied the geography of Europe/ the USA, I think this is pretty good for your non-professional average person who does not happen to be avidly following the news and/ or have a sort of geek-level interest in geography.

What I find really interesting is what this shows about how memory works. For example, in several of the Europe maps, groups of two or three mis-placed countries are mis-placed together, (like the Ukraine and Poland, or the Baltic countries, or Romania and Hungary, or Norway, Sweden and Finland) or how proximity between countries that are remembered as adjacent is preserved, but, whilst one of them is placed correctly, the other one is off (like in the "Transylvania - the place where Borat is from" map which has Slovakia sitting in Austria), or how some of the countries are placed one over from their actual place, or even how some places are remembered not by name, but by their association (like "High Standard of living", "Fjords", "Mozart", "Sangria", "Farms" etc), even Liechtenstein in Luxemburg sort of makes sense as "Small country beginning with an 'L' and that is somewhere around Germany', especially since Liechtenstein itself does not appear on the map (or at least I can't see it).

I think quite a few Europeans would not do much better on Europe than the US testees, especially people who learned this stuff before the USSR and Yugoslavia broke apart. And I'm positive that you'd get less than 5 in a hundred Europeans to name all, or even mot US states (I'd by one of the 95). Even though, to be fair, the "states of the US" thing is more like asking people from the US to name the ceremonial counties of England.
posted by miorita at 3:28 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


U.S states to European countries isn't really fair as a test of geographical knowledge. I'm pretty sure I could get all of the countries in North America, which means I win. Lets see some of you Americans try to name the counties of the U.K though, and then we'll see who's laughing.
posted by Ned G at 3:49 AM on February 14, 2014


I don't think it's any accident that people remember the big jutting out states/countries by the coast better than the small crammed together ones in-land. I look at maps quite a lot because I have a terrible memory for this stuff, and I don't think I'll ever be able to remember the exact position of each of the Balkan countries.
posted by Summer at 3:49 AM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Similar results, maybe, but the problems aren't really similar. Everybody should know where places like France and Spain and Russia are. But the 50 states of the USA? As if anyone living outside of the North-Eastern US should know where Delaware is? That's a bit like asking Americans to name and locate the counties of England."

Naming Delaware would be more analogous to asking Americans where Moldova is, outside of the context of Eurovision, or even better where Lichtenstein is - both being tiny places that mostly exist to support elaborate tax evasion schemes. It was amazing to me how many could not name California (considered as a country the ninth largest economy in the world), or New York (with one of the world's two most important cities), or Washington DC (which for better or worse dictates global policy). In an absolute sense, putting New York in Virginia or Chicago in the Rockies is a lot more ignorant than being a little confused about how far north Scotland is exactly or keeping track of the how the Balkans are divided this decade.

US States have a hell of a lot more global cultural, political, and economic relevance than all but a couple of the ceremonial counties in England
posted by Blasdelb at 3:49 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


also how the hell are we supposed to remember the difference between Idaho, Ohio and Iowa?

Oh, that's easy. Iowa: corn, subsidies & primaries; Ohio: battleground state (of diminishing electoral importance) and the last, best hope of the GOP; Idaho: looks like a gun.

I wasn't expecting 2/3 to know where Greece is.
posted by ersatz at 3:59 AM on February 14, 2014


European here; until recently thought Malibu was in the Caribbean because it had palm tress on the bottle. Take that USA geography idiots, we're catching up!
posted by ominous_paws at 4:01 AM on February 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


It's not?
Oh....

Yeah, I wouldn't do all that well with this.

Also, I suspect both cohorts would fare badly here
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:13 AM on February 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


In the advanced version for multilingual Europeans you have to position Latvia, Lettonia and Lettland correctly.
posted by dhoe at 4:21 AM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


US States have a hell of a lot more global cultural, political, and economic relevance than all but a couple of the ceremonial counties in England

Well, maybe. On the other hand, just off the top of my head:

Lancashire: birthplace of the industrial revolution
Cambridgeshire: birthplace of Association Football (i.e.: football); and discovery of DNA
Gloucestershire: birthplace of smallpox vaccine
Cumbria: birthplace of the pencil
Durham: birthplace of railway
Warwickshire: birthplace of bicycle, also: Shakespeare
Cornwall: birthplace of the pasty
posted by MuffinMan at 4:26 AM on February 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


These things do amuse me, but at the same time it's like... the measure of sociopolitical literacy is not the ability to do amazingly well on Sporcle quizzes. I used to be able to do all the UN member nations, but what did that mean? Where was it going to get me?

So, like, if you can't find Croatia or you pick the wrong spot for Delaware, I don't think that's mock-worthy.

On the other hand, the person with a Master's who didn't know where Russia was. But most of them, really, far better than I expected.
posted by Sequence at 4:28 AM on February 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yorkshire: All that is good in the world
posted by vbfg at 4:31 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Needs more Prussia.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:32 AM on February 14, 2014


I'm English, have been to a few places in Europe, north Africa and lived in New York for a while. I saw a few states while in the USA. I have a degree and reasonably literate in English, Maths and Science.

Yet honestly I wouldn't do much better at the Europe or United States maps. And I'd wager 90% of people in the UK would have the same problem.

Maybe my European friends would fare better, as they go to other countries on the fast trains in a way I struggle to comprehend.

Honestly, how much better would you do?
posted by 13twelve at 4:35 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


At the end of the American map, there is that bit "And while we’re offending entire continents, here’s a brief rundown of what Brits know about Thanksgiving. SPOILER: It’s not a lot."

When I lived in New York and Thanksgiving would come along I was asked a whole bunch of times when Britain had its Thanksgiving; which suggested to me that the average American didn't know much about it either.
posted by 13twelve at 4:41 AM on February 14, 2014 [24 favorites]


I guess saying the Moomins were next to the USSR isn't too inaccurate, given the books are from Finland and from around that time period. They're just placed a bit too far south. I do like the varying levels of confusion that the UK's country made up of four countries gives people though.
posted by eykal at 4:43 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


. Lets see some of you Americans try to name the counties of the U.K though,

And bonus points for naming both people that live in some of them.
posted by jpe at 4:44 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Thinking some more about this; I think I have been to every county in England. And I certainly couldn't reliably place them all on a map. Though if you dropped me in one, I'd be able to drive home.
posted by 13twelve at 4:44 AM on February 14, 2014


Depends what height we dropped you from...
posted by MuffinMan at 4:48 AM on February 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


And the suspension.
posted by pracowity at 4:50 AM on February 14, 2014


This map is out of date. Montenegro is still shown as part of Serbia, which hasn't been true since 2006. Jesus, if you're going to make people fill in a map of a politically complicated area like the Balkans and then call them stupid for getting it wrong, it has to at least be an accurate map.
posted by deathpanels at 4:50 AM on February 14, 2014 [17 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I could get all of the countries in North America, which means I win.

Oh really? This is how those conversations usually go:

"You've got Canada, the United States and Mexico. There! Done!"

"Keep going south until you hit Colombia, kid."

"Umm..."

"And all of the island nations in the Caribbean."

"Wow, I don't think I can pick all those out..."

"Also Denmark and the UK and France and the Netherlands are in North America."

"Oh, come ON! Those are in Europe..."

"Greenland, Bermuda, St. Pierre et Miquelon and Sint Eustatius are in North America, so those countries are both European and North American. Also..."

"No, no, stop, can I try to guess Asian capitals written in their native writing system now? It's got to be easier."
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:50 AM on February 14, 2014 [15 favorites]


My 9th grade history teacher had us fill in a blank map of the world with country names and capitals first thing every Monday morning. I don't think I ever got the entire thing right (nor did most students) but I did get really good at Africa. This really should be standard classroom material.
posted by miyabo at 4:55 AM on February 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


When I tell some folks on the East Coast I'm from Oregon, there's this pause as they search themselves for a reference point, and then they happily shout something like, 'By California?"

Which is funny in a way, because for a long time folks would be doin' shit on the Oregon/Cali border with the sign that said, "Welcome to Oregon," like hanging placards beneath the sign that said, "Now go home."

To be fair, I never could remember, growing up, where Maryland is.

Also, WTF with all the Europeans knowing all the states except for the midwest. Why would they know these things. Makes me a bit suspicious, frankly, these people knowing things.
posted by angrycat at 4:56 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]




I was impressed by that American who not only located Andorra, Luxembourg, and Monaco, but also identified the Kaliningrad Oblast as part of Russia. Unfortunate that they blew it in the Balkans: maybe would have done better with an updated map. But perhaps Blasdelb is right in suggesting that political boundaries outside of the USA have little cultural, political, and economic relevance anyway.
posted by fredludd at 5:03 AM on February 14, 2014


What Fits Into Russia
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:07 AM on February 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


[Yay for SCTV!]
posted by pracowity at 5:13 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


These are by no means as terrible as I expected, especially since I suspect that not everyone was taking the exercise completely seriously...
posted by Segundus at 5:20 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Of what practical use is it to know exactly where any foreign country is located?
posted by orme at 5:21 AM on February 14, 2014


- place three states beginning with "I" next to one another; more to the point: also how the hell are we supposed to remember the difference between Idaho, Ohio and Iowa?

Obligatory.
posted by amy lecteur at 5:22 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Of what practical use is it to know exactly where any foreign country is located?

Guess why this meme.
posted by sukeban at 5:23 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd bet many Americans would do just as poorly with the U.S. map.
posted by candyland at 5:27 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Of what practical use is it to know exactly where any foreign country is located?

Guess why this meme.


Those mugs lie.
posted by frimble at 5:32 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Does all knowledge have to be practical for it to be valuable?
posted by erlking at 5:41 AM on February 14, 2014


I'm impressed that 4 people were able to place Vermont. I know frequently back in the US I have conversations like this:

nOOb: So where are you from?

Me: Vermont.

nOOb: What State is that in?

Me: Uhhhh it is a State up near Canada, inbetween New York and New Hampshire
posted by koolkat at 5:42 AM on February 14, 2014


I told my dad about this, who is a history buff and Russiaphile. He said, "Yeah, after a while I would just start writing 'Estonia, Estonia . . . Estonia' on everything." Not just a current generation issue!
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:48 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I tell some folks on the East Coast I'm from Oregon, there's this pause as they search themselves for a reference point, and then they happily shout something like, 'By California?"

I once sat next to a woman on a plane, an American who had lived overseas for decades, who was trying to label all the states on the map in the in-flight magazine. Her map was terrible, but the best bit was that she had Oregon labelled "Puerto Rico." It's hard to be wronger than that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:04 AM on February 14, 2014 [10 favorites]


"US States have a hell of a lot more global cultural, political, and economic relevance than all but a couple of the ceremonial counties in England"

"Well, maybe. On the other hand, just off the top of my head:

Lancashire: birthplace of the industrial revolution
Cambridgeshire: birthplace of Association Football (i.e.: football); and discovery of DNA
Gloucestershire: birthplace of smallpox vaccine
Cumbria: birthplace of the pencil
Durham: birthplace of railway
Warwickshire: birthplace of bicycle, also: Shakespeare
Cornwall: birthplace of the pasty
"
Iowa: named correctly on only two maps, gave birth to and educated Norman Borlaug who started the Green Revolution that saved a billion people from starvation.
Tennessee: the wobbly in the 'wibbly wobbly border worder' produced the atomic bomb.
North Carolina: the worder in the 'wibbly wobbly border worder' was where the first ever heavier than air flight happened.
Wisconsin: correctly labeled in only one map, is where Niacin was first discovered, forever providing a trivial cure for pellegra.
Missouri: Labeled correctly on only one map with a question mark, gave the world sliced bread, also Mark Twain
Ohio: has sent three people to the moon and every four years functionally decides the leader of the free world.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:10 AM on February 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


I was feeling all self congratulatory about how I would be able to do this perfectly, as a Canadian who used to live in Europe, but then I tried actually doing it and it was a bit of a rude shock. Draw a line down the middle of the map bisecting Austria. Everything to the left of that line I am basically 100% confident in. To the east, I basically have Greece, Turkey, and Russia labeled and then I can generate a list of country names equal to the number of blank spots, but have no idea which goes where.

Similarly with the States, I'm afraid. Last time I tried to name all 50 states, I came up with 49 of them (sorry Nebraska), and I could place all the ones around the outside of the map, then I just have to sort of toss the rest in the middle and hope they find their way home.
posted by 256 at 6:11 AM on February 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yup, I'd be pretty bad at either version of this. That said, despite not knowing the physical location of much of the US, I know a (reasonable) amount about its politics, which is something that might actually affect me. I'm not saying its useless to be able to correctly place the nations of world, just that its maybe a lower priority for me, hence my massive ignorance.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:14 AM on February 14, 2014


US States have a hell of a lot more global cultural, political, and economic relevance than all but a couple of the ceremonial counties in England

Blasdelb - I'm not arguing that minor states in the US aren't important. You're arguing that only two counties in England have a greater global relevance than any US state. I like sliced bread as much as the next man, but I've always felt the industrial revolution was more important.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:25 AM on February 14, 2014 [12 favorites]


I'm more used to hearing the news talk about America as an entity than talking about the contrasts and interactions between individual states.

Which is odd, because America is a land of contrasts.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:25 AM on February 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


Actually, I'm really impressed. Unless this is a test paper for people who have just studied the geography of Europe/ the USA, I think this is pretty good for your non-professional average person who does not happen to be avidly following the news and/ or have a sort of geek-level interest in geography.

I am with miorita on this one. I have remarked on the blue more than once that I look at maps for fun and think about maps more than I need to but I -- neither an American nor a European -- would still be a bit hazy on the Balkans or the deep Midwest.

That being said, though, I have worked most of my adult life in travel and tourism and even people who do this for a living seem astonishingly vague on Where Things Are. One co-worker from Montreal -- this one, in fact -- once sighed that she would love to visit Europe, but she was afraid to fly across the Pacific Ocean. It was all I could do to restrain myself from saying, "They have found a shortcut."

She also once oversaw production of a series of posters for people promoting one facility in Canada which featured three or four attractive young people with wide Sears-model smiles examining their city map cheerfully. Problem: the map was prominently labelled PRAHA, so these jokers are apparently trying to find their way around $_CANADIAN_CITY with a map of Prague. Well, there's your problem.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:30 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Balkans can be hard, but if you always remember that Croatia is the one that looks like a C, you'll always get at least one Balkan country right. Sadly, the rest of the Balkan countries don't have the decency to be shaped like the letters their names start with. Who wouldn't love a Macedonia shaped like an M?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:40 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


which isn't even in a state because it's in a mispelt district named after a country in Latin America.

I know you're being sardonic, but I actually like that our capital is still named after the invented, and almost entirely forgotten, female personification of America.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:51 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Here's an online test of European geography. It's tough because it doesn't eliminate countries once you've gotten them right, so you have to remember which of the Balkans/Baltics you've already guessed. I managed 88%.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:57 AM on February 14, 2014


I love that Canada is labeled BIG SCOTLAND ( with polar bears)
posted by The Whelk at 7:00 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


97%! The Balkans were of course the trickiest (it took me a couple of tries to get Montenegro). Helpful hint for the three Baltic states: they are arranged alphabetically north to south (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania).
posted by erlking at 7:01 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Try the water quiz also,

In easy and hard versions
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:03 AM on February 14, 2014


The Baltics are easy - they are stacked in alphabetical order. Estonia is north of Latvia and Latvia is north of Lithuania.
posted by graymouser at 7:04 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


you people want hard - Oceania. All of it. Balkans are a layup compared to that.
posted by JPD at 7:06 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I got a similar score, but man I have trouble with the Balkans too ... if it's in southeastern Europe and doesn't border a sea, I know the names but I'm basically guessing which is which. (Although the test referring to Macedonia by initials only didn't help. Does anyone actually call it "Fyrom"?)
posted by kyrademon at 7:07 AM on February 14, 2014


93%, and I'd have done worse if I hadn't refreshed my memory when I was shocked how little Eastern European geography I knew. But it got a lot easier once (spoiler!) I figured out that mousing over each country gives you part of the country's name: javascript:filter('bul') for Bulgaria, for example.
posted by Jeanne at 7:08 AM on February 14, 2014


Ever since I realised that many English people couldn't locate Dublin on a map, I've refused to feel ashamed of my unending inability to have a clue where Iowa and Idaho actually are even after seeing Iowa on roughly nine billion electoral maps and living in the US for years. I swear they keep moving that state around just to mess with me.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:09 AM on February 14, 2014


Here's a US states version. 100% Boom! Take that, Wyoming/Colorado!
posted by Rock Steady at 7:10 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ever since I realised that many English people couldn't locate Dublin on a map, I've refused to feel ashamed of my unending inability to have a clue where Iowa and Idaho actually are even after seeing Iowa on roughly nine billion electoral maps and living in the US for years. I swear they keep moving that state around just to mess with me.

We're MIMAL's nose.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:12 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just more proof why it's still the Al Franken Century.
posted by briank at 7:13 AM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Similar results, maybe, but the problems aren't really similar. Everybody should know where places like France and Spain and Russia are. But the 50 states of the USA? As if anyone living outside of the North-Eastern US should know where Delaware is? That's a bit like asking Americans to name and locate the counties of England.

Right. Because the EU isn't a thing, and all those European borders are still totally relevant. Like it or not, the US and Europe are the same size, and Iowa is no more irrelevant to Europeans than Slovakia is to Americans.

When I lived in New York and Thanksgiving would come along I was asked a whole bunch of times when Britain had its Thanksgiving; which suggested to me that the average American didn't know much about it either.

You know the concept was brought to the US from England by English people, right?

Does anyone actually call it "Fyrom"?

No. Well, Greeks, maybe, but... No. FYROM is an acronym for "Former Yugoslavia Region of Macedonia."
posted by Sys Rq at 7:13 AM on February 14, 2014


Oh, yeah, Mr. MIMAL! I learned that the tray he holds the chicken of Kentucy on was a "Tin" pan, which hints that it is "Tenn"essee.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:14 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


- have a state called Washington nowhere near your capital city called Washington, which isn't even in a state because it's in a mispelt district named after a country in Latin America.

FWIW, "Columbia" (and its variant spelling) and "America" mean exactly the same thing.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:16 AM on February 14, 2014


It's like some people didnt have that painting of a huge glowing Columbia shooting away Natives and planting telegraph wires in my wake in your history textbooks to illustrate westward expansion!
posted by The Whelk at 7:22 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


FWIW, "Col(u/o)mbia" and "America" mean exactly the same thing.

I thought "America" came from "Amerigo Vespucci" and "Columbia" came from "Christopher Columbus".
posted by pracowity at 7:24 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Even Finns can't label the states. It's nice to know they're not better than the rest of us at everything...
Embarrassing. Dear Americans, mix up Sweden/Switzerland or Slovakia/Slovenia as much as you like. I won't judge.
posted by gueneverey at 7:25 AM on February 14, 2014


...planting telegraph wires in my wake...

Did you just blow your secret identity?
posted by frimble at 7:25 AM on February 14, 2014


Embarrassing. Dear Americans, mix up Sweden/Switzerland or Slovakia/Slovenia as much as you like. I won't judge.

I understand that this is one of those things where some things just make sense to some people and some don't, but mixing up Sweden and Switzerland makes zero sense to me. Mixing up Slovakia and Slovenia? That's defensible.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:28 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was convinced this was a double but no, just that Buzzfeed tends to recycle content ideas. LOL WE'RE TERRIBLE AT GEOGRAPHY LOL COOL WOW
posted by troika at 7:32 AM on February 14, 2014


I did far better on the US test than I did on the Eurpoean. Although I only correctly identified Idaho because I remember the shape of the state on the potato bag.
posted by teleri025 at 7:33 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm really, really on board with changing Nebraska's name to "Middleshire."
posted by COBRA! at 7:36 AM on February 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Tangential anecdote:

One of the most hysterical conversations I've ever had was when I met a geographer from Norway, here in the US on vacation, and innocently cracked some joke about whether he'd gotten any dumb questions about Europe while he was here - and he was off and running.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:37 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


You have to share these dumb questions.
posted by The Whelk at 7:44 AM on February 14, 2014


Unfortunately the only one I can remember was someone asked him what country Europe was in.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:49 AM on February 14, 2014


It didn't help that they put Alaska off the coast of California. Everyone knows that's not where it is!
posted by Boggins at 7:50 AM on February 14, 2014


Mixing up Slovakia and Slovenia? That's defensible.

What? No! I get that they sound the same but one is the ending of "Czechoslovakia" and the other is just a name that sounds eastern European. Mixing up those two I totally don't get.

Also, in general, I get that there's a big difference between knowing states and knowing countries, I really do. I used to do daily geography quizzes until I was perfect on everything except Oceanian because I have a lot of trouble remembering which of those islands is which. I do think this stuff is important.* That said, I think a lot of people from Europe underestimate how big the US really is. It's big! They think they'll visit New York and take a day trip to Los Angeles or pop by to see Mount Rushmore or something. This is not accurate! These are not feasible travel plans. There's just not a good way to compare the two areas; yes, countries are much more different than states and expecting everyone to know the internal division of a single country isn't reasonable. That said, if you live in the US you live in a big country and you DO need to know as much about that as possible. So yeah, we focus on what's nearby and not the names of a bunch of places across an ocean.

My real question, though, is how come stuff like this is always Europe? How come we just completely forget that Asia or Africa or South America or Oceania exist? Badly educated means you can't place the European countries because that's where "culture" comes from? Is it because those other people are far away and talk funny? Seriously, why is it so much more important to know European countries than Asian ones? That assumption, that Europe is the place you should REALLY know, is just as bad as Americans not being able to identify European countries.


*"I not a Mexican!"
"Great, what was that all about?"
"Lucy's from El Salvador. It's an entirely different country."
"So?"
"So? You get upset if people think you live below Sunset."

posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:52 AM on February 14, 2014 [14 favorites]


Boggins: It didn't help that they put Alaska off the coast of California. Everyone knows that's not where it is!

You sure about that?

posted by Rock Steady at 7:57 AM on February 14, 2014


What? No! I get that they sound the same but one is the ending of "Czechoslovakia" and the other is just a name that sounds eastern European. Mixing up those two I totally don't get.

But they're kind of close together. They don't border each other, but they border some of the same countries. Switzerland and Sweden sound a lot less similar to my ear and are in completely different parts of Europe. That's what makes it more defensible for me. That and the fact that both Slovakia and Slovenia are only about twenty years old.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:59 AM on February 14, 2014


But they're kind of close together. They don't border each other, but they border some of the same countries. Switzerland and Sweden sound a lot less similar to my ear and are in completely different parts of Europe. That's what makes it more defensible for me. That and the fact that both Slovakia and Slovenia are only about twenty years old.

I get what you're saying but you are wrong.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:02 AM on February 14, 2014


My real question, though, is how come stuff like this is always Europe? How come we just completely forget that Asia or Africa or South America or Oceania exist? Badly educated means you can't place the European countries because that's where "culture" comes from? Is it because those other people are far away and talk funny? Seriously, why is it so much more important to know European countries than Asian ones? That assumption, that Europe is the place you should REALLY know, is just as bad as Americans not being able to identify European countries.

Seriously tempted to create a sockpuppet just so I can favorite this again.
posted by troika at 8:03 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I used to be able to do all the UN member nations, but what did that mean? Where was it going to get me?

Knowing this may or may not get you things, but not knowing stuff like this could get you to lose things. My professor apparently recommended somebody for a job interview once; everything was going along swimmingly, until the interviewee could not name the three Muslim-majority countries adjacent to Singapore. Not knowing stuff like this off the top of your head is okay most of the times, except if you were doing a case-study on selling halal food in South East Asia.
posted by the cydonian at 8:12 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's different kinds of provincially myopic turtles all the way down.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:18 AM on February 14, 2014


I used to be able to do all the UN member nations, but what did that mean? Where was it going to get me?

I think we tend to place a little too much emphasis on being able to find stuff exactly on a map, but knowing where stuff is generally is good if you're going to be voting in a country that has a foreign policy. Actually those Lizard Point quizzes that Rock Steady linked to are great for these purposes, because you get three tries (at varying point levels) so that if you know generally where Albania is, you might still get some credit for it, even if you get it mixed up with Macedonia once.

That said, I love taking geography quizzes so I mostly do it as a hobby.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:18 AM on February 14, 2014


When I lived in New York and Thanksgiving would come along I was asked a whole bunch of times when Britain had its Thanksgiving; which suggested to me that the average American didn't know much about it either.

You know the concept was brought to the US from England by English people, right?


Why does that mean we would have a Thanksgiving? Because we got rid of them?
posted by Summer at 8:27 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I thought "America" came from "Amerigo Vespucci" and "Columbia" came from "Christopher Columbus".

Well, yes, but they still mean the same thing. "Jealous" and "envious" come from different roots, but in casual conversation they mean the same thing.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:30 AM on February 14, 2014


99 comments and not one reference to Carmen Sandiego? Apple-II-gamer-me would have aced this test.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:34 AM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


My real question, though, is how come stuff like this is always Europe? How come we just completely forget that Asia or Africa or South America or Oceania exist? Badly educated means you can't place the European countries because that's where "culture" comes from? Is it because those other people are far away and talk funny? Seriously, why is it so much more important to know European countries than Asian ones? That assumption, that Europe is the place you should REALLY know, is just as bad as Americans not being able to identify European countries.

China's provinces get to be a lot more fun. There's Shaanxi (capital: Xian) which borders Shanxi (capital: Taiyuan); the provinces of Henan, Hunan and Hainan are different and are not even close to each other. Hebei and Hubei are different provinces, both bordering Henan. And all this before we even get to the old and new transliterations.

But here's the thing: if you are outsourcing to China, you better know how far Shandong is from Guangdong, or you'd get a shanzai product in Shanghai, or something.
posted by the cydonian at 8:36 AM on February 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


Who wouldn't love a Macedonia shaped like an M?
Greece?
posted by Flunkie at 8:41 AM on February 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


Anybody got a blank map like this? I want to try!
posted by symbioid at 8:56 AM on February 14, 2014


You know guys, differentiating Sweden and Switzerland may be easy for us worldly MeFites, but the two countries really are confusing for some Americans.
posted by gueneverey at 9:06 AM on February 14, 2014


When I was in my early-to-mid single digit years, someone got me a jigsaw puzzle (one of those thick kid ones that fit into a frame) of the United States, where each piece was a different state. I am pretty sure that my obsessive play with that puzzle explains my ability to place the states -- it got ingrained early.

I only wish I'd had similar puzzles for the rest of the world, though quite a lot of the world changes way more frequently than the US puzzle pieces do.

you always remember that Croatia is the one that looks like a C

I had a similar mnemonic to distinguish Vermont from New Hampshire.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:20 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Knowing this may or may not get you things, but not knowing stuff like this could get you to lose things. My professor apparently recommended somebody for a job interview once; everything was going along swimmingly, until the interviewee could not name the three Muslim-majority countries adjacent to Singapore. Not knowing stuff like this off the top of your head is okay most of the times, except if you were doing a case-study on selling halal food in South East Asia."

I'm convinced that I got into graduate school, studying Microbiology of all things, when I managed to impress the Russian chair of the department's admissions committee by knowing that the time period characterized by Mongolian domination of the Kievan Rus is known as the "Tartar Yoke" in English after she struggled to translate the Russian language term she knew. I tactfully did not mention how the academic consensus outside of Russia on how that time period affected Russia and Russian culture is very different from the perspective she learned in secondary school.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:23 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


To be fair though "the Tartar Yoke" is one of the coolest phrases in the study of history. It's almost a shame that it leaves you with a wrong impression of the history of the period, because it's delightfully evocative.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:29 AM on February 14, 2014


"The Balkans can be hard, but if you always remember that Croatia is the one that looks like a C, you'll always get at least one Balkan country right. Sadly, the rest of the Balkan countries don't have the decency to be shaped like the letters their names start with. Who wouldn't love a Macedonia shaped like an M?"

Macedonia, or at least the region Classical Macedonians would have considered Macedonia, does in fact have a giant convenient M in it. However, the sovereign state that currently calls itself Macedonia only includes a comparatively small portion of that region, and a relatively peripheral portion at that, much to the consternation of Greek Macedonians.

This causes a deep and bitter conflict, which is incidentally why the country is generally referred to as FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia), supposedly a temporary measure until the dispute is resolved.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:34 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Europe keeps moving the goalposts, is the problem. The ones that have held steady for a couple hundred years I can pretty much nail, but the rest? Why bother? Want me to point out Yugoslavia?

Also, did that one with the Master's Degree make a MLP joke on there?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:39 AM on February 14, 2014


You know the concept was brought to the US from England by English people, right?

Why does that mean we would have a Thanksgiving? Because we got rid of them?


It's not at all unreasonable to assume the place Thanksgiving came from might have it.

(And England didn't get rid of the Puritans, if that's what you meant by "them." Quite the contrary.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:40 AM on February 14, 2014


The worst was when I told a friend I was going to Slovenia and he did not believe it was a real country.
posted by Sara C. at 9:42 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


The worst was when I told a friend I was going to Slovenia and he did not believe it was a real country.

Before 1991 he would have been right. This is pretty much why we have maps of Europe.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:49 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


One of my earliest memories is when my teacher put a sticker on the classroom map and explained that Czechoslovakia was now divided in two, as demonstrated by this special sticker.

'Bastards!' I thought. 'Why can't those people make up their minds and not add to the list of countries I now have to remember.'

I now live in the Czech Republic and have made up some other story about the first time I heard about the Velvet Revolution, as I can't imagine anyone here would feel that sympathetic with poor, first grade me.
posted by brambory at 9:51 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Chinese provinces are easier to remember if you know that "bei" means north and "nan" means south, and "xi" is west and "dong" is east. The names are pretty logical too, like "he" means river and guess where Hebei is.
posted by vogon_poet at 9:51 AM on February 14, 2014 [11 favorites]


"Mixing up Slovakia and Slovenia? That's defensible."

Apparently the Slovenian and Slovakian Embassies around the world meet regularly to exchange mislabeled mail and the flags are also regularly confused. There is a national joke in Slovenia,
Slovenia has a coup d'état and the first thing that the new dictator does is give out the order to declare war on US. So they make a plot and set of a massive bomb in the middle of New York. Nothing happens. So they say fuck it, let's do another one and set of a bomb in the middle of LA. Still nothing. So they set of a bomb in Washington. Nothing. So the dictator calls up Obama to taunt him and Obama says: How the fuck can you still be alive, we dropped like 10 nukes on Bratislava already!
posted by Blasdelb at 9:54 AM on February 14, 2014 [27 favorites]


Seeing as how Anglo-Americans run this planet, I can understand how they wouldn't know the name of each province in their empire. I don't know the name of every flower in my backyard.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:56 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Before 1991 he would have been right.

This was in 2011. The person in question is not elderly.
posted by Sara C. at 10:11 AM on February 14, 2014


When I was in my early-to-mid single digit years, someone got me a jigsaw puzzle (one of those thick kid ones that fit into a frame) of the United States, where each piece was a different state.

You inspired me to do a web search for a picture of the US States puzzle that Kentucky Fried Chicken gave out for the Bicentennial. At least, in my memory, that's what it was. Alas, it seems Google doesn't know about it.

As for world geography, it helps to have a copy of that huge National Geographic "Our World" atlas in the house. Thanks to that book, I have a thorough understanding that the nation of Sudan (did I get the country right?) contains two completely naked black men with their backs turned toward me, looking over a cliff.
posted by polecat at 10:16 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I suspect that part of the reason that Americans assume that Britain has a Thanksgiving is because Canada does, and Canadian Thanksgiving, a month before American Thanksgiving, is marked on all our calendars. (I'm not sure why, since other Canada-specific holidays are generally not noted, but whatever.) Anyhow, if you know that the Brits settled America and Canada, and both those places have a Thanksgiving, it's not too great a leap to assume that the country of origin must also have one.

Also, for people who want to play along, Sporcle has a bunch of games of this sort, as does Find Country and Geography Map Games. This has, if nothing else, proved to me that my seventh-grade teacher was remarkably successful in drilling city/state/country information into my developing brain, as I can still reliably locate a surprisingly large number of countries, assuming that their borders haven't changed since 1990. Thanks, Mrs. Petkoff!
posted by MeghanC at 10:20 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


just don't confuse Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan or your coworker will end up with her underwear being mailed to her boss in a craaaaazy misunderstanding.

anyways the only thing i'm convinced of now is that every place is probably interesting. no need to pride yourself in the things you do know and dismiss things you might possibly not know yet.
posted by twist my arm at 10:37 AM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was convinced this was a double but no, just that Buzzfeed tends to recycle content ideas.

I'm glad you brought that up, because I want to ask:
  • What actually is this, actually?
  • Does Buzzfeed (whatever that is) do social research?
  • If not, what's the source? The motivation?
  • Who gave what test to whom? When and why?
  • Is this all the results or the cherry picked for laughs results?
  • Did one or two people generate all the results for fun and clicks?
  • How would I know? Why should I care?
  • Please don't bother trying to find her: she's not there.
Without the answers to these pretty basic questions, there's no context. It's just a jumble of poorly labeled maps with un-funny comments between.

All bets are off when you Americans [cites various US geonominal anomolies]

Would you care to discuss the spelling and pronunciation of various UK / GB placenames, Cholmondeley?

how the hell are we supposed to remember the difference between Idaho, Ohio and Iowa? . . . Switzerland and Sweden . . . Slovakia and Slovenia . . .

That's easy. By actually knowing something about them as places, not just superficially similar marks on a page.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:44 AM on February 14, 2014


The geographical location of a country is not the most important thing about this.

What would be more accurate is testing people on content - "name one music maker from this country/state"; "name one of this country/state's three top exports"; that sort of thing.

I think that doing this would also highlight how much more different European countries are from each other than American states. I mean, if you love music, you can instantly name Polish, German, Austrian, English, Spanish, Hungarian, Italian and French music makers without batting an eye; but try as I might, I can't come up with music makers from more than three states (they being CA, NY and LA) - without cheating of course. (Mind you, I can name quite a few from California and New York...)

Part of this is because a lot of US composers moved around a lot between states - it's very hard to assign e.g. Stephen Foster any state. But that also highlights the profound difference between American states and European countries - can you imagine, say, Béla Bartók moving to England? (OK, Handel did move from Germany to England, but this is famous because it's so rare...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:54 AM on February 14, 2014


- don't put Kansas and Arkansas next to one another

In our defense, they are both adjacent to Ur-Kansas.
posted by Foosnark at 11:04 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sara C.: "Before 1991 he would have been right.

This was in 2011. The person in question is not elderly.
"

Lordy, what do they say when you ask where Laibach or Zizek is from?
posted by symbioid at 11:27 AM on February 14, 2014


Looking at how often Sweden and Norway got swapped, I began to think they are the Vermont and New Hampshire of Europe.

Also just think how much easier labeling Europe would have been circa 1550. Our problem region? Holy Roman Empire, Hungary, Poland, done!

... wait France was split up into three different bits?
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:30 AM on February 14, 2014


I just imagine Sweden as a bigger schlong. Finland is easy cuz it's next to Russia, so that leaves poor lil' Norway.
posted by symbioid at 11:35 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also just think how much easier labeling Europe would have been circa 1550.

What in the blue hell is that map? "Seljuk Caliphate"? Sicily ruling Greece? There's a bunch of other stuff that might make sense if the year were 1200 and not 1550 (although a bunch of other stuff would be even more wrong), but, man, let's just say that there are a ton of problems with that map.
posted by Copronymus at 11:37 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


OK, the history student in me got a bit cocky and figured if Europe in 1550 was a breeze, then I've got Europe in 117 A.D. (Roman Empire has got to be easier than Holy Roman Empire, one assumes).

[the sound of an undergraduate history major weeping]

Moesia? Pannonia? If I have children can I name that after administrative regions in the Roman Empire????
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:38 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also just think how much easier labeling Europe would have been circa 1550. Our problem region? Holy Roman Empire, Hungary, Poland, done

That map is kind of crazily wrong. The Seljuk Caliphate is the label given to what should be the Ottoman Empire. The Seljuk Empire having collapsed four hundred years before the date given and never governed a lot of the territory given to it on the map. It also seems to give the Western coast of France to the English, which shouldn't be the case in 1550, which is a hundred years after the Hundred Years' War ended. Tolouse had been part of France for hundreds of years a that point, and I believe Burgundy was as well.

That map is crazy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:39 AM on February 14, 2014


Yeah, I was curious about Portugal. Wikipedia says there was a brief union of Spain and Portugal starting in 1580:

Although Portugal did not lose its formal independence, it was governed by the same monarch who governed the Spanish Empire,[37] briefly forming a union of kingdoms, as a personal union

I suspect there is a lot of gross simplification in that 1550 map.
posted by polecat at 11:40 AM on February 14, 2014


Copronymus, oh shoot, I didn't even look at the rest of the map, I was so delighted with my notion of time-travel as a solution to geography quiz confusion.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:41 AM on February 14, 2014


Who gave what test to whom? When and why?

As far as I can tell, they're filled out by Buzzfeed employees (one of teensy text blurbs makes note of the maps being sent from one office to another).
posted by troika at 11:41 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I didn't even look at the rest of the map, I was so delighted with my notion of time-travel as a solution to geography quiz confusion

I think you're probably right as a general idea, it's just that the specific map you found is kind of astounding in its weirdness.
posted by Copronymus at 11:43 AM on February 14, 2014


Yeah where did you get that 1550 map? It looks all sorts of incorrect. Alt-history or something?
posted by Carillon at 11:45 AM on February 14, 2014


Oh dear. more weeping from a former history major. How about this map for 1560 AD? Even though the lack of simplification begins to make central Europe somewhat complicated again.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:46 AM on February 14, 2014


Europe in 117 A.D.

Wow, Albania and Iberia sure shifted -- to say nothing of Asia.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:48 AM on February 14, 2014


Carillon, I google-image searched "holy roman empire map" and picked the first one that seemed visually easy on the eyes. I'm hoping I did inadvertently grab an image from an alt-history site, otherwise THINK OF THE CHILDREN!
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:48 AM on February 14, 2014


Haha it's certainly fun to look at. Looks like here's this site it came from.
posted by Carillon at 11:51 AM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


If you think you are some sort of hot shot at name-the-country-on-the-map quizzes, then I invite you to this series, with quizzes where you not only have to drop the country on the map (and it disappears when you get it right, so you can't build off of correct answers), you also have to rotate and scale it correctly. It is heinous; the only small mercies are that you don't have to scale or rotate the very small states.

South and Central America is a little less hard; Europe and the US are more difficult. (There are also easier versions, like merely dragging the country on the map).
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:51 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Muhahaha. Alt-history indeed. Teach me to grab an image without going to the source page first.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:53 AM on February 14, 2014


P.S. Sys Rq, that holds true for the Roman Empire map....
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:55 AM on February 14, 2014


I don't think any alternate history cartographer has ever loved inappropriate umlauts as much as whoever did this, because holy shit that is a lot of umlauts.
posted by Copronymus at 11:59 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


AU where every word has an umlaut in it for Reasons

What even is the alternate history that would result in that particular breakdown of world powers? It seems very strange to have Denmark as an independent state not attached to either "Bohemia" or whatever they're calling the rest of the Scandiwegian monstrosity. Also strange to have Orkney, Armagh, and Man as independent states when I think, historically, there has been mostly a lot of shared culture/movement of peoples there. Especially an independent Manx state on a map that lacks Poland.

The Khazar Khanate and Abbasid Caliphate stuff makes a degree of sense, and I think it would be interesting to read about an AU where a Jewish Khazar state dominated Central Asia into the modern era.

Is there even any good Alternate History out there aside from The Yiddish Policeman's Union?
posted by Sara C. at 12:13 PM on February 14, 2014


What would be more accurate is testing people on content - "name one music maker from this country/state"; "name one of this country/state's three top exports"; that sort of thing

Ha! For some reason I still remember learning that a major export of many Southeast Asian countries was cement. It struck my 12 year old mind as an odd thing to export, like exporting dirt.

As far as I can tell, they're filled out by Buzzfeed employees (one of teensy text blurbs makes note of the maps being sent from one office to another).

Ah, thanks, didn't see that (still don't).

So why do we care what a small number of Buzzfeed employees know about geography?

Is there even any good Alternate History out there aside from The Yiddish Policeman's Union?

A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!
 
posted by Herodios at 12:18 PM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Loosely related, but my favourite bit of European trivia is that the official vehicle of the San Marino Military is the Subaru.
posted by ovvl at 1:50 PM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm proud as always that some people recognized Finland although, as often happens, our country is mostly not even on the European map. Also, pity for Serbia. So poorly known that even the map is incorrect.

Speaking of which, many of the borders are really dodgy. Did someone just draw these freehand? Seen separately I would have never recognised Austria looking at that weird-shaped blob. Where's the ~100km of border between Hungary and Ukraine? That's a remarkably bad map of European states.
posted by ikalliom at 3:47 PM on February 14, 2014


This was in 2011. The person in question is not elderly.

Now I'm curious about your definition of "elderly."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:56 PM on February 14, 2014


Loosely related, but my favourite bit of European trivia is that the official vehicle of the San Marino Military is the Subaru.

I just bought a Subaru. I bought it because it was cheap on sale, and someone had decked my old Kia mini-SUV. I have driven a Jeep Cherokee, ('90s model) Jeep Wrangler (TJ), Chrysler Pacifica AWD, Kia Sportage 4x4 and Ford Escape (2013 variety) in the snow.

The Outback has steering feedback that's best described as "stodgy". You need to wrestle the wheel to get it to go where you want. The Escape just zipped there, and the Kia and Chrysler just went there without hassle.

But, man, no matter how hard you press that throttle, no matter how sharp the turn, the Subaru just digs in and goes.

And then, in the snow? I had to drive somewhere in a Nor' Easter at least once per week for the past two months.The rental Escape was sideways more often than it was not at the slightest application of the gas pedal. I was an old hand at disabling and re-enabling stability control and the differential lock on the Kia (before it got clobbered by a little old lady) to get it to grip. It was otherwise as excellent as, if not better than, the Jeeps. We will not speak of the Chrysler.

The Subaru was stodgy. No matter how hard I pressed that throttle, no matter how sharp the turn... snow? There's snow here? No...you're silly! Silly but very comfortable. Oh, there's a full-time map-light? I didn't even notice until I needed it. I am appreciating minor features as my car is driving on ice, and there are 4x4 pickups in the ditch. Oh yeah, 30mpg.

It's a damn good car. Whatever the opposite of buyer's remorse is, I'm having it. It needs to be the official car of everywhere it snows.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:11 PM on February 14, 2014


So what have we learned today?

Buzzfeeders don't know their geodgy
Especially when the map borders are dodgy
Sammarinese army cars' steering is stodgy
You prolly think my comments make me look codgy
 
posted by Herodios at 8:17 AM on February 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I was curious about Portugal. Wikipedia says there was a brief union of Spain and Portugal starting in 1580

The thing is, countries hadn't been invented yet as we know them. Countries were the long list of territories that a monarch had inherited or conquered, that's why the Spanish Habsburgs had Portugal and Flanders and Naples and Milan and Sardinia and a shitload of other lands, apart from the Americas and the Philippines and such.
posted by sukeban at 9:54 AM on February 15, 2014


Apparently 1 in 4 Americans don't even know that Earth orbits the Sun.
posted by homunculus at 7:53 PM on February 15, 2014


Now I'm curious about your definition of "elderly."

Old enough to remember the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for starters.
posted by Sara C. at 8:06 PM on February 15, 2014


bc of this thread i learned state capitals and, however briefly, am able to label 170-ish countries (gave up on islands). i've had bouts of playing those geography games so it wasn't starting completely from scratch, but it's been a few years and i'd never tackled africa previously so never tried the whole globe at once. i learned there's a lot there that's actually helpful once you break it up into sections. northern africa is kinda like the western half of the US-- they take up a lot of room so once you get them down you feel like you've accomplished a lot. then there's the twins-- niger/nigeria, 2 congos, 2 sudans (and guinea triplets). south africa is automatic. madagascar from playing risk. name recognition osmosis over the years from news headlines on a lot of countries even if you don't pay attention to current events: somalia, ethiopia, rwanda, sierra leone. our kenyan president and bradgelina's namibian vacation spot. central african republic is indeed central.

i did the estonia/latvia/lithuana alphabetizing thing too! yay study buddies. i don't think i recognized that croatia was shaped like a C though so thanks for that helpful hint. what fucks me up about europe is the scattered m countries. moldova, malta, monaco, montenegro, san marino.

also i have learned to spell kyrgyzstan without copy/paste.

this was a totally legit way to spend valentine's day shut up
posted by twist my arm at 8:13 PM on February 15, 2014


That's a bit like asking Americans to name and locate the counties of England.
No, unless you were asking Europeans to name the counties in the various States.
posted by bongo_x at 12:02 AM on February 16, 2014


Apparently 1 in 4 Americans don't even know that Earth orbits the Sun.

Yes, and according to the same study, neither do 34% of Europeans, 30% of Indians, 28% of Malaysians, or 14% of South Koreans.
posted by albrecht at 8:24 AM on February 16, 2014


Apparently 1 in 4 Americans don't even know that Earth orbits the Sun.

Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:39 AM on February 16, 2014


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