August 07, 2005

Do you know the flag of France?

I wonder how the average Frenchman would respond, if I told him the story I am about to tell you, considering the fact that the French are known to be very proud of their country & heritage.

I can not remember being so young, that I didn't know what the flag of Britain looks like, or The United States, the Scandinavian countries, and several others (such as the Israeli). I remember when I was 6 years old. I was standing in a staircase in our house in Norway, and my father told me "yes is 'ja' in English, and no is 'nei'". I repeated 'yes', and 'no'. I had learned my first words in English, the language they spoke on Falcon Crest and Dynasty. Shortly after, also at the age of 6, my father taught me all the capitals of Europe, taught me to count in Spanish, French and German, and a few years later taught me basics of Spanish (he was quite enthusiastic about me learning languages, since he himself spoke 11 languages).
In the part of the world where I live, people normally speak 2 or 3 languages. In Iceland people always speak Icelandic, the native language. Most people speak enough English to get by in daily life, and many people speak, or at least understand, Danish (since we study it at school). There are also those (and they're not few), who speak a 4th language. People have a good idea about the major capitals of the world, at least Europe, and can point out the flags of the "most important" countries in the world. People like myself, who know the population of Mongolia, and know what year Papua New Guinea became independent, are considered to be freaks and nerds, of course (well there aren't a lot of people who spent their entire teens reading geography books and National Geographic), but what I am saying is that people aren't entirely clueless about the world.

This is why I am so often stunned by the things that Americans and Canadians sometimes say. I usually defend them. I usually say that it's wrong to stereotype (which it is), that this and that is wrong. But that still won't change the fact that there is a substantial percentage of people in these countries whose ignorance regarding the rest of the world is simply beyond my comprehension. I am not able to understand how they were able to reach adulthood without learning even a little about the outside world, since my knowledge was superior to theirs even at the age of 6 (*note that I am only talking about a percentage. Many, many Americans and Canadians are among the most intelligent people I know).

An incident, one of many, that took place at work a couple of days ago, is an example.
At work we sell these little flag pins. A lady, around 40 years old, comes up to me with the flag of Belgium, and asks "is this the flag of France?". I said no, that's Belgium. Then she asks if I could show her what the flag of France looks like! I said I would, but before I could, she had already pointed at the Irish flag, and asked if that was it. I told her no, that this was Ireland. I showed her the French flag, and she bought it. Then she asked "is this the flag of England?!". It was. How impressive. Then she said "but you don't have Canada?".
That's how I know she was a Canadian.

If anybody out there is not appalled by this story, I advise you to go to this website: flags and maps of the world, and get a basic idea about what the world around you looks like!

Posted by Maria at August 7, 2005 11:48 PM | TrackBacks
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He he, stereoype or not there is truth in it.
I read a book once:
"The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates And
Infuriates The World" by Mark Hertsqaard.
Though it is a political book and not about the limited knowledge of americans in geography,
it covers through out the book some of these issues as well.
It is a "leftist" book though and some of the things writen there I dont agree with / didnt check the facts, and it may be simplistic at times,
but on the whole I find it a very intresting book.

Check it out.

Posted by: Assaf at August 8, 2005 12:01 AM Permalink

Oh, and if you want to see something really cool
in geography, I recomend to all to download the free version of the program "Google Earth".
It is a stuning digital globe with sat' images and 3D terrin.

Google it, go to the homepage, download and install.
Note: you must have internet conection to run the program in full detail.

Enjoy : )

Posted by: Assaf at August 8, 2005 12:05 AM Permalink

Ok thanks Assaf, I might download it.
And.. I think it's pretty obvious that I have an internet connection :)

Posted by: Maria at August 8, 2005 12:23 AM Permalink

No no no Maria, might is not good enough,
you must!!!
ever dreamt of flying over the Everest?
cross the Sahara? Zoom in from far space all the way to the busy streets of New York city?
Well, even if it is not real, it is close as one can get!
it is an amazing program which put you in prespective to just how vast and big our planet really is.

Go to see Maktesh Ramon (the grate crater)
in the Negev desert, Hell I can show you my home even!!!

Who ever read this, Download and play
just dont get addicted to it
: )

Posted by: Assaf at August 8, 2005 12:42 AM Permalink

Well actually, I already have a similar program from the NASA page :)

Posted by: Maria at August 8, 2005 09:52 AM Permalink

First, I have to say that you are really lucky to have had such a father who taught you all these things.

Second, if you were appalled by that women, then you should see the National Geographic survey on geographic literacy:

I think you'll agree with me that it reveals worse things than not knowing flags or capitals of countries.

The results strengthens what you say: Americans have poor knowledge of geography, Canadians are not much better, and the only Scandinavian country in the survey - Sweden - reached the highest score.

In fact, the Americans scored last even in the question regarding the population of the US.

Posted by: Orly at August 8, 2005 11:39 AM Permalink

I know "World Wind" of NASA,
but the resolution in Google Earth all over is
much better, and in some places like NY, Tokio,
and some other places id so HiRes that you can actually spot buildings and cars. (amazing stuff)

World Wind have morw accuret Topography though,
Since Google Earth is still a beta.

Posted by: Assaf at August 8, 2005 12:04 PM Permalink

Well Orly thank you for pointing that out :p I took the survey. I can't say I found it to be very challenging. Only 7% of Mexicans could locate Sweden on the map! But Sweden is so important... I was born there for God's sake!!!
Oh, I must not let ignorance get to me like this. I just get so angry!

Posted by: Maria at August 8, 2005 12:21 PM Permalink

And I thought you were born in Norway... Maybe you should conduct a survey about your biography...

Posted by: Orly at August 8, 2005 01:49 PM Permalink

Actually I had such a survey a few months ago. I had a quiz on my blog called "what is maria's nationality?". It turned out that people mostly thought I was Icelandic/Romanian, Icelandic/Israeli, or just Icelandic.
But no I'm Icelandic/Norwegian and born in Sweden.

Posted by: Maria at August 8, 2005 02:07 PM Permalink

I know, I saw that quiz. This is why I thought you were born in Norway. Now when I think of it, you probably wrote there that you were born in Sweden.

Posted by: Orly at August 8, 2005 05:10 PM Permalink

Hello Maria,

Yes, you are rigth: I promise after my hollidays to write more posts in English.

Now, and for two weeks I am having hollydays in the North of Spain. No internet!

Have a good summer!

Posted by: Kantor at August 8, 2005 10:58 PM Permalink

No, Elvis wasn't Jewish.

Posted by: Torbjorn Karfunkel at August 9, 2005 07:36 PM Permalink

He so was. His mother was Jewish but converted to Christianity. Look it up. There's no use in fighting!

Posted by: Maria at August 9, 2005 11:56 PM Permalink

I would agree that most Americans (I can't speak for Canadians) are appallingly ignorant of world geography. Hell, there are Americans that couldn't find Canada on a map if you asked them.

I've got both NASA's World Wind and Google Earth on my computer at home. Each has its pluses and minuses, but Google Earth has amazing mapping power. It's fun to just punch in random addresses and watch as the machine "flies" you there. Great tool for teaching geography...and useful for us business travelers as well!

Hmmm...Icelandic/Norwegian woman, born in Sweden, uses an Egyptian name, listens to Hebrew music. Any more like you at home? ;-)

Posted by: Elisson at August 11, 2005 04:14 PM Permalink

When I was about 15 we took a trip to Cape Breton Island (know where that is?) and I walked into a tourist shop which sounds just like the one you work in. They also had a display of flag pins, and I commented that they didn't have a Canadian flag. The shopkeeper picked up a pin, turned to her husband and said, "Isn't this the Canadian flag?" It was the flag of Nova Scotia.

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