Important Maps They Didn’t Teach You At School

Everyone knows this.


The world map. The one you’ve known since you were little. But throw in some colours and some symbols and this old map can show you the world as you’ve never seen it before. So let’s take a look…

The Most Popular Sports in the World


See all this green? That’s soccer, or football – if you’re from the rest of the world -which you probably already knew is the most popular sport in the world. By far. There are fifty countries in the world with professional soccer leagues and an incredible 3.4 billion people tuned in to watch the 2018 World Cup Final in Russia.

©S. Hermann & F. Richter

And the red? That’s cricket, which spread around the British Empire along with tea drinking and good manners. Other mentions are purple – China’s obsession with table tennis – cream-colored Mongolia’s taste for wrestling, Canada and Finland’s ice hockey habit, and rugby’s domination of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. But mostly it’s just soccer.

2016 Olympics Results

So if we’re talking sports, who’s the best? Well, here we can see prowess at the greatest sport meet of them all, the Olympics.

©Ali Zifan

The United States took a comfortable first place getting gold in a staggering forty-six events, ahead of the UK with 27 and China with 26. And the worst country? That has to be India, who only had a silver in woman’s badminton and a bronze medal in woman’s wrestling to show for the efforts of 1.3 billion people, the same number as the Bahamas, with less than four hundred thousand people.

Map of Imperial Units

The United States is indeed a special country. In fact, it’s so special that it’s one of only three places to use the imperial system of measurements instead of the metric system.

via Wikipedia

The only two other countries using pounds and feet instead of kilograms and metres, are the paragons of progress Myanmar and Liberia.

Worldwide Driving Orientation

At least the US is in the majority when it comes to the rules of the road.

©Benjamin D. Esham

This map shows that most of the world drives on the right (marked in red), as they should. As well as Japan and Indonesia it’s mostly the former countries of the British Empire again that are driving in the wrong lane (marked in blue).

Monarchies in the World

©Max Fisher

The British Empire also features strongly in this map, showing the remaining monarchies in the world. At one point the British Empire governed almost a quarter of the world’s people and land area, here shown in red.

via Wikipedia

In fact the blue in this map shows all of the countries invaded by Britain at some point in history.


But since the pop super-group Queen went out of fashion, well, queens have really gone out of fashion. As you can see from the first map, blue Australia, New Zealand, and Canada are yet to grow up and cut ties with their mother country. Also, it’s only a few red countries in which the monarch has really any real power.

Educational Backgrounds of World Leaders

Speaking of leaders, this map shows the educational backgrounds of world leaders.


What are the light purple countries? Those are the places where the head of state has a background in economics or business. The second most common category is the lawyers, shown in yellowy-brown. You can also see the soldiers in red and the scientists in blue.

How Welcoming to Foreigners

©Max Fisher

This map made by the World Economic Forum shows how countries welcome foreigners. You can see the lands of open arms in soothing blue and the countries of cold stares in hostile red. Surprisingly, famously friendly America ranks somewhere in the middle, behind the three most welcoming countries: Iceland, New Zealand, and Morocco. In deepest red are Bolivia, Venezuela, and Russia; the three places that really don’t want to see you.

Freedom of Press


Here we can see that much of the world isn’t very welcoming to journalists, either. The black and the red countries show the places where the press certainly isn’t free. The orange shows where there are noticeable problems. It’s only in the yellow and white countries where the situation is satisfactory or good, which surprisingly includes countries like the United States and the UK.

Average Height for Males by Countries


Here we can see the world by height, with the Nordic giants in a healthy red and the more vertically challenged people represented in blue.

Prevalence of Obesity

After height comes width, which we can find out by the most obese countries in the world, which are shown in red.


Twin North American fatties the United States and Mexico are joined by a helping of South Africa and there’s lots of bad cholesterol in North Africa as well. Part of the reason for them is increased sedentary lifestyles and higher fat intakes. Opposite them Asia has slimmed right down, ready for beach season.

Deadly Sins Map

Speaking of gluttony, here we can see the hotbeds of sin in the United States. Everything is bigger in Texas so it’s no surprise that they have the most fast-food restaurants.


California and the Northeast look pretty greedy with both plenty of wealthy people and many living below the poverty line.


Florida and the Southeast are envious of the wealth around them, with high rates of theft.


They’re also pretty wrathful, with high rates of violence.


Slothfulness is evenly spread, with lots of places spending plenty on entertainment and recreation relative to employment rates.


Then there’s the pride belt all the way across the South- the aggregation of all the other sins- because pride is the root of all sin.


Global Distribution Of Atheists

©Max Fisher

Here you can see China rejects all this moralistic thinking altogether, being by far the most atheistic country in the world, with Japan and parts of Europe being only slightly keener on religion, with ten percent or more of people identifying as atheists.

World Map of Social Networks

If you thought Facebook was taking over the world… you were right. This map shows the use of social networks in 2009.

©Vincenzo Cosenza

Here’s the same map in 2012.

©Vincenzo Cosenza

The parts of the world where Facebook is the biggest social network are in blue, though don’t ignore QZone in China, VK in Russia and everyone’s favorite Iranian social networking site… Cloob. I wonder how it has changed since.

Map of the Most Common Surnames in Europe

Now let’s look at the most common surnames in Europe.

via Reddit

You can see some interesting things. You have the Joensen, Jensen and Johansson’s stretching across Northern Europe, and the Nowak-Novak heartland in the middle. And what is Borg doing down there in Malta?

In Proportion to Population

©Paul Broding

You might enjoy this map, in which each square represents a million people. Asian giants China and India are, well, ginormous in proportion to the rest of the world.

Total Fertility Rate Map

If it sounds like there are too many people in the world, spend a moment on this map.

©Max Fisher

Though you often hear of the impending disaster of over-population, here you can see fertility rates around the world. The purple bits aren’t growing at all, and the parts in red are actually shrinking.

Map by Births and Deaths

But still, there are a lot of people being born. 360,000 a day, 15,000 an hour, 250 a minute, four a second, to be exact. So, there’s this map, charting births and deaths in real time.

©The Atlantic

World Air Traffic

Also in real time is this rather beautiful map, showing all of the flights in the world over the twenty-four hectic hours.

Notice that as evening approaches, the traffic is predominantly from the US to Europe and when daylight comes, the traffic switches and it’s predominantly from Europe to the US.

Most Photographed Places

Or you can see the world lit up by flash bulbs in this map showing the world’s most photographed places.


Eight of the ten most photographed places in the world are in Europe. We just can’t stop taking images of Europe.

Lightning Intensity Map

If that didn’t energize you, this might, because it shows where in the world the most lightning strikes are.

©NASA/GHRC/NSSTC Lightning Team

Would you have guessed the middle of Africa gets more than anywhere else in the world? Shocking. That concentration in central Africa is explained by the fact there’s a higher frequency of lightning over land and on the equator, where its hottest. Land heats up faster than water so there’s greater atmospheric instability, leading to the formation of storms.

World Map of National IQ Scores

Here’s a map by authors Lynn and Vanhanen in their 2006 book ‘IQ and Global Inequality ‘.


You might be surprised to see that the US and Canada are, well, exactly the same, but both are comfortably outscored by China and Japan. At the top of the class, Singapore and Hong Kong have an average IQ ten points higher than the United States.

Lactose Intolerance

You might also be surprised to learn that much of the world doesn’t do milk very well. In fact about 65% of the world’s adults are lactose intolerant.

©Rainer Zenz

The dark blue countries are ones where more than 80% of people are lactose intolerant. The fifteen biggest milk drinking countries are all European, hence explaining why people from these nations are tolerant of lactose. Finland is the world champion milk guzzler- the average Finn consuming almost a kilogram each day. Interestingly, 15% of the world’s milk is sourced from animals other than cows, including goats, sheep, buffalos, camels, horses and donkeys.

Vegetarians and Vegans by Country

What India lacks in Olympic sportsmen, it makes up for in Vegetarians, with more than any one in ten Indians going without meat.


In fact, among those that are carnivorous, most don’t eat beef, which is why you won’t find a Big Mac in India. They have the Maharaja Mac.


Fossil Fuel Energy Consumption

If you care about the environment you might want to avert your eyes from this map.

©Our World in Data

You can see the world in which we live in isn’t very green. It shows countries by fossil fuel consumption. USA and China are the biggest offenders.

Nuclear Energy Percentage of Total Energy Use

An alternative to burning carbon is nuclear power. This map shows countries by how much of their electricity is nuclear.


Here you can see every nuclear power plant in the world, all 450 of them.


Number of Nukes


In a slightly less crowded field, here we see the nuclear powers of the world, with heavy-hitter Russia blowing the roof off the world with its hoard of more than seven thousand nuclear weapons, ahead of the United States and far ahead of the UK and France who have a pitiful tally of less than 300 nuclear bombs.

Billionaires on the Planet

©Nick DeSantis

As you might expect, the US has more billionaires than anywhere else on the planet by…. a lot. There are around 540 billionaires in the United States, according to Forbes magazine, almost three hundred more than their closest rival, China. Thank goodness it’s a Communist country.

Map by Sunshine Hours

If you want to live the good life, this map shows where to retire to find your place in the sun.

©Helmut Erich Landsberg

If you hadn’t heard, the Sahara desert in Africa is great for sun lovers, while in Northern Canada you might want to leave your sunblock at home.

Where To Be Born Index

And finally, the world is a big place, so where would you want to be born?

©Max Fisher

I would suggest choosing one of the blue parts of the map which are the parts of the world that provide, the best chance at a good life, according The Economist magazine. They factor in wealth, life expectancy, political freedom, job security, climate, security, community, and gender equality to estimate the best opportunities for a healthy, safe, and prosperous life. The red parts, well, let’s just say that it might be better to gasp your first breath in Norway than Nigeria.

Did you like or dislike any of these maps? Did any bend your mind or give you a new way to look at the world? Let me know in the comments section down below… Thanks for reading!

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