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An easy question for you. What is a country?

Travel Forums Introductions An easy question for you. What is a country?

1. Posted by hasbeen (Respected Member 610 posts) 2y

Hello to you,

As a Newbie to TravellersPoint I am busy checking out the facilities. I started with the Blog as my main point of interest so I could share my trips with my sister on-line, rather than by the cumbersome E mail. Looking good so far.

I then found the Maps pages. Maps have fascinated me since at least the age of 8.
I filled in my trips and sent it off to a friend to see if she could view it ok & to be suitably impressed with my circling the globe several times.
I got a response back which said that she had looked at some other stats on TP. “They state the site shows 247 countries visited yet there are approximately 196 countries in the world.  How can that be?” she asks.

Good question. What’s the Answer?

This reminded me of a topic of conversation raised by a much travelled lady on my dinner table we shared with 6 others on a cruise.
She had learned of a meeting on board with the 100 club. This is a group of people who have visited at least 100 countries. She said to us that she was not really interested in the club because they count Hawaii as a country. When every one & their dog knows Hawaii is not a country. She gate crashed the meeting and admonished them for being so silly.

This all provoked many hours of chat around the table. I for one, have never really thought what a country is. No need to. Everyone knows what a country is - right?
By the end of the cruise I realised I have no idea.
Just one example - I was born in London, England & naturally think of England as a country. But my passport says “United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland” .
The table then discussed - Is the UK a country? and if so, can England be a country? and how can the United Kingdom include England, Scotland & Wales if Wales has no King but a Prince, and Ireland neither a King or a Prince?
And what about Gibralter & Bermuda - are they countries? Isle of Man? The Channel Islands?
Then we moved on to Peurto Rico and Guam & yes, Hawaii.

Endless talk, around & around we went. Great fun but I am no more the wiser now.

We also got on to talking about “claiming to have visited a country”. What constitutes a “visit”?

Do you have to get off the boat? Do you have to leave the airport?

That started another round of chat.

It culminated with my claiming the Sudan. My plane made an unscheduled stop in Khartoum to let a few people off & take on fuel. In the middle of a war, no less. I have a photo of the fuel tanker & the airport building. Never got off the plane. I will never have the opportunity of being in the Sudan again & I don’t care what anyone else says, I have been there....

I don’t expect an answer to any of the questions above - I can Google them.

Except maybe - stats on TP. “They state the site shows 247 countries visited yet there are approximately 196 countries in the world.  How can that be?”
(My friend would like to know & is too shy to ask herself.)

Good question. What’s the Answer?


2. Posted by Andyf (Travel Guru 649 posts) 2y

As there is no world authority there is no-one to define a country, only a web of one-to-one recognitions between countries and by various organizations such as the UN or regional bodies like the EU or ASEAN.

So it ends up being subjective, decided by the individual, as is the question of what constitutes a visit.

Personally i don't have a lot of time for the UN's recognition; they're a political compromise pulled in different directions by politicians. Perfectly happy populations are subjected to the care of their decolonisation committee. Border disputes are settled by might not right - if the US have their boots on some turf they aren't kicked off, while a weaker nation gets hassled.

I tend to go with how the natives define themselves. If that is clear cut. Transnistria - I'd call it a country, but few nations recognise it and the UN doesn't. Scotland - if it isn't a country i don't know what it is. Hong Kong - isn't just a bit of China in my book.

On the other hand, Hawaii is just a bit of the USA. Greenland is edging towards greater independence, not sure. Faroes I'd call a country though. British Overseas Territories - not sure: Falklands maybe not, Bermuda maybe, Akrotiro no way, Gib not sure but feels like a small country under UK protection.

Good topic!

3. Posted by CheersT (Travel Guru 2436 posts) 2y

I can't remember ever meeting anyone yet who was obsessed with their "countries visited list" who wasn't also a complete dork.

Claiming that Hawaii should be given separate status on their "list" once again confirms my experience to this point...


4. Posted by Andyf (Travel Guru 649 posts) 2y

I don't worry whether someone has been to 20 or 120 countries, but when they count up and have only visited 5 or 6 then it tells you something about them.

5. Posted by Peter (Admin 5791 posts) 2y

We have quite a few "territories" in our list which aren't UN state countries, but can be considered countries by other measures. These are the ones that really bulk up the list.

This is always a hard thing to decide on, but our leaning is towards adding more rather than less, since people do like to add their specific part of the world. Ie, New Caledonia is an outlying territory of France. But people from New Caledonia would certainly not want to enter France as their country of citizenship. We also have Scotland, England, etc. listed in addition to the UK. Other examples of problematic areas are Palestine and Kosovo for example, which we have both decided to add.

Basically, this is never going to be a perfect list :) But we also don't include Hawaii as a country. That would just be silly

6. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5595 posts) 2y

Yep, like Peter mentions, apart from the 190+ something of independent countries, there several dozens of overseas non-independent 'countries'.

To name just a few: Greenland, Faroer Islands, Pitcairn Islands, French Polynesia, La Reunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guyana, and probably also Hong Kong and Macau. This adds up to the 247.

You should check websites of those people's clubs, I believe one is TCC (travel century club or something, the one Hasbeen probably refers to), but there is also one of the world's most travelled people (now, there are not, they just collect stamps in the passports) and they have like 600+ countries and terriroties, it is just rediculous and very entertaining.

7. Posted by katzgar (Full Member 178 posts) 2y

I am finding it prudent to stay away from tables.

8. Posted by CheersT (Travel Guru 2436 posts) 2y

katzgar, whatever you're drinking, please order me a case. Thanks buddy.