4 years ago
The Real Size of the World
  • Posted May 30, 2017
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In the world of international dating, size matters! This is not to say an individual should be appraised on their physical proportions: rather, if you’re looking for love while traveling the world, then you would do well to disregard some of the misconceptions we have about the relative size of different countries. The ‘Mercator Projection’ of the world – the map that we all know from an atlas and other 2D representations – necessarily distorts the size and shape of  some countries in order to squash our globe into a more convenient rectangle.


For example, should you happen to meet a handsome Tanzanian then you might cause great offence if you mention that his country seems to be around the same size as Germany. In fact, while the populations of these two countries are not so different from each other, Tanzania is two and a half times the size of Germany – although on a standard map, they look the same. Tanzania also boasts 120 different tribes and the same number of different languages, so your journey there could prove more challenging than that weekend in Berlin you recently enjoyed!

Similarly, the UK looks bigger than Madagascar on the map – but the African country is 2.4 times larger. 95% of the bigger country’s reptiles, 89% of its plant life, and 92% of its mammals are unique to Madagascar, so if it’s size, variety and inspiration that you’re looking for, it certainly seems a more monumental option than the gray old UK.

It’s a trend that you’ll note for the whole of Europe vs. Africa. The Mercator interpretation of the world stretches and distorts the size and shape of countries the further they are from the equator. Thus, Europe seems similar in size to Africa when in fact the latter is three times the size of the former.

Similar distortions can be found in the Americas. Greenland in the north seems to be a real giant, but you won’t want to mention this to your Latin lover. In fact, South America dwarfs Greenland 8.2:1. Likewise, the UK across the Atlantic is a quarter the size of Colombia, although they appear roughly the same on the map.

In such politically-charged times, it can be intimidating enough meeting new people from different backgrounds and trying to find a common ground without appearing ignorant. Naturally, regardless of whether this is in a dating context or not, principles of love and tolerance remain our priorities. But if the complex social implications of the shifting political landscape are constantly changing, and challenging to keep up with –particularly when you’re busy traveling! – there are some more stable truths you can fall back on, such as the actual shape of the Earth.

For centuries, explorers and fusty old academics have sought to better understand the comparative sizes of the continents, and the famous Mercator Projection is in fact just the most popular offering among many – with others paying more attention to accuracy of sizes. The Mercator Map instead manages to line up its contours accurately against the points of the compass, making it handy for navigation if you’re an old-school sailor, but perhaps not so vital if you’re looking for love rather than the North Pole.

A  new infographic from Expedia can help you put things in more perspective, offering some fascinating facts about our common misconceptions regarding the size of our countries and continents. It also offers some refreshing ways to reconsider our world – by gravity, by temperature, or just by spinning the south to the top and the north to the bottom – which is a great way to shake off old assumptions and take off onto your next adventure with a more holistic idea of just what’s going on beneath our feet.


What country sizing are you most surprised by? 

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