850: World According to Americans

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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!


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Many statements from the comic are still missing.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

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:

  • 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".
  • On December 26, 2006, 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. BBC News is part of the British Broadcasting Corporation and thus uses the term "Boxing Day."
  • 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.
  • Papua New Guinea and the Philippines appear to be misspelled.
  • Cape Horn is the southern tip of South America, not Africa.
  • "Taiwan (actually called the "People's Republic of China." – it's complicated.)" 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.

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.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
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); 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 (??Toane); 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.
Korea; 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)

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

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)

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)}}

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