Nearly two thirds of Brits can't identify half the countries in Europe    2008-05-15 04:54:19    

Although more than 55 million Brits travel to Europe each year, the majority of travellers hop on and off planes and trains with no idea about where they are going, ie: the exact location of their destination within Europe.

Research commissioned by the UK's leading accommodation website,, showed that 63 per cent of British adults can identify less than half of the countries in Europe.

Worryingly, many British adults could not find the most popular European destinations on a map, including Switzerland (45 per cent), Spain (15per cent), France (11 per cent) and Italy (8 per cent) even though themajority have visited at least one of these countries on holiday.

The most popular European destinations that we love to visit...but don't know where they are:

1. 81 per cent couldn't locate Costa Brava
2. 63 per cent couldn't locate Costa del Sol
3. 53 per cent couldn't locate The Algarve
4. 37 per cent couldn't locate Ibiza
5. 28 per cent couldn't locate Normandy

Perhaps this is not surprising, considering that more than half (62 per cent) of UK adults confess that they don't even check a map to see where in Europe they are going before travelling to their destination. 16 per cent of adults (the equivalent of 7 million) admitted that they can'teven remember when they looked at a map, 8 per cent of adults (theequivalent of nearly 4 million) last looked at a map when helping their child with their homework and 4 per cent confessed that the last time
that they looked at a map of Europe was in a school geography lesson.

But it's not just the geography of Europe that's puzzling Brits, 60 per cent thought there were less than 30 countries in Europe (there's at least 47!) and an uninformed 19 per cent didn't even realise that Britain is part of the European Union.

Many respondents hadn't even heard of some countries - more than one in ten (11 per cent) believe that Iceland isn't in Europe (8 per cent thought it was part of North America) and 13 per cent think that Moldova is somewhere in Asia, South America or Africa.

Alan Gilbert, Professor of Geography at UCL, comments:
"Despite the ease of modern travel in Europe, people's knowledge about the world has possibly declined; it has certainly not improved. Today, many people do not know where major rivers flow, the names of capital cities or even whether countries are in Europe, Africa or Asia. Of course, the world is now a much more complicated place, for example, there are now many more countries, but our lack of knowledge about theworld is surprising given that we now have instant access to information about virtually everything.

Since almost all of us have also travelled somewhere, one would have expected interest in foreign places to have increased. But, apart from the minority that takes their travelling seriously, it seems that most people simply get on a plane or bus and trust that their travel company will deliver them to a hot beach and a cold beer somewhere or other.

It's important to familiarise yourself with European maps to ensure that when travelling, we're making the most out of this wonderful continent."

Least Known European Destinations (Percentage of adults who could not locate the following countries on a world map):

1. Lithuania (81 per cent)
2. Slovakia (80 per cent)
3. Romania (78 per cent)
4. Ukraine (71 per cent)
5. Croatia (71 per cent)

Tony Walsh, Development Director from, comments:
"With Europe being such a popular holiday destination for us Brits, it's quite astonishing that so many people were unable to identify popular holiday resorts, such as the Costa Brava and Costa Del Sol. The increase in budget airlines has meant travelling to an array of destinations is a lot easier - meaning hopping on and off transport without actually looking on a map to see where you're going is becoming the norm. As the research shows, a lot of us clearly need to brush up
on our geography."

Regional Differences
The Welsh are the most 'geographically challenged' about the countries situated in Europe - an embarrassing 40 per cent of Welsh people didn't know that Montenegro was a European country (11 per cent more than the national average of 29 per cent).

Almost a third (32 per cent) of Scots have spent a holiday on the Costa Del Sol but 22 per cent couldn't locate it on the map and a further 18 per cent couldn't name Spain's capital city.

Similarly, although Yorkshiremen like to travel to France (71 per cent have visited there at least once), 17 per cent of people from Yorkshire can't find France on a map of Europe and more than a quarter (28 percent) didn't know that Britain is part of the European Union. In fact,people from Yorkshire proved with more than a quarter (27 per cent) visiting Ibiza, compared to a national average of just 19 per cent.

Londoners are best prepared for travel - almost half (42 per cent) always check a map to see where they are going before setting off to a European destination.

Age Gap
Wisdom does come with age: a worrying 37 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds didn't know Britain was part of the E.U., compared to only 13 per cent of those over 55 years.

However, the average 55 plus traveller believed there were only 27 countries in Europe, compared to the average under 25s who were closer, guessing 33 countries.

Gender Differences
Women were worse at identifying countries on a map, with 15 per cent of females struggling to even find France compared to 8 per cent of men. One out of ten women failed to recognise the distinctive shape of Italy, compared to 6 per cent of men.

This perhaps come as no surprise, since one fifth (20 per cent) of females can't remember the last time they looked at a map of Europe, compared to 12 per cent of men.

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