This is a strange post that may seem like a lesson in geography and politics, but bare with me.

Our son, AKA “The Pok” has become interested in all things maps. His thirst for geography is unquenchable. This is not really a surprise given he has family in the UK, Canada, and New Zealand in addition to the numerous stamps in his passport. So when my wife said let’s get him a map of the world for his bedroom I was keen to get it up on the wall.

What my wife found on eBay was not a map on a poster but a map in wall decals. I was not too pleased with this as my concern was with not getting the space right between land masses (call me picky). But it was a good idea and my better half convinced me that it would be fun for him to have the power over plate tectonics on his wall.

This “map” arrived late last week and when I was out running errands over the weekend my wife enlisted the help of my parents to install it. When I got back I was briefed on the arguments between the three adults and the fun that the three year old had. But I had to inspect their handiwork. Here is the finished result:


On first glance not bad. My initial point of objection was only in their Southwesterly placement of Australia relative to Papua New Guinea (the narrow Torres Strait). But on closer inspection there were more disturbing “errors”. Here is a zoom in of Asia / Oceania:


The first horrific error is the name of the country North of China (and the raison d’etre for the Great Wall of China). Mongolia is not Mongoloid! The second error, which has to be driven out of geopolitical hatred between China (and Korea) and Japan is the completely disproportionate size of Japan to both China and South Korea – its tiny!  Never mind the reality that the land mass of Japan is over 3 times that of South Korea and its marine geographic reach goes as far North as the Russian region of the Kamchatka peninsula. Another horrific error is the diminution of the Indochinese countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) and the ignoring of Myanmar – and these are all replaced with one country, Thailand. This might have something to do with the continuing territorial disputes that China has with pretty much every one of these countries. BTW – Myanmar is bigger than Thailand as well. What also is funny with this map is where they choose to put the mountains in Northern Russia, particularly given that Asia is the continent that hosts Earth’s tallest mountain range, the Himalayas. I could continue with other points of bizarreness like what made the “cartographer” choose certain cultural icons to represent countries, like yoga for Indians and ballet and babushka dolls for Russians – surely there is something more culturally significant than some of these things.

If I zoom into the European / Middle Eastern / African third of the map, the bizarreness continues:


The “map” uses what appears to be a Mercator projection which means the size of the land masses nearing the poles are disproportionately larger to their actual size. Africa is the largest continent by land area in the world and its cultural significance is far beyond savanna animals and pyramids. Africa is so big as a land mass that it could swallow up 6 of the G8 countries (or 6 of the G7 countries if the crisis in the Ukraine continues to play out). This image gives a much clearer idea of the scale of land mass, an inconvenient truth perhaps (the image is courtesy of the site Live Learn Evolve and uses a Peters projection).



Africa is where humankind first started walking and has the largest desert in the world in the Sahara. You would think that an absence of trees (and not every tree in Africa is a palm) in the Sahara would also be relevant. But maybe this is a reflection of general Chinese cultural perceptions of Africa. The choice of countries they denoted is strange too. Economically, Nigeria is the largest in Africa, but omitted – and the minor fact that there are over 170 million people in the country with over 20 million living in Lagos alone.

If I go onto the Middle East, Turkey (which is obviously culturally significant because of camels) must be happy with its conquest of Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Syria. Saudi Arabia now appears to be the home of the Burj-al-Arab and not Mecca (sorry Dubai). Looks like the Persians finally conquered Iraq (whose significance to all of us is not Saddam Hussein but in being the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia).

Europe is just totally weird – fishermen in Ireland, Santa in Lapland, Finland. Again the Mercator projection causes havoc with the size of the land masses. Based on this view Russia is HUGE and Europe is comparable in size to Africa. It would also appear that many of Europe’s cultural icons are from the Victorian era.

Here is the zoom into the Americas.


Again the choices (or more the omissions) of which is interesting, namely the absence of Chile, Bolivia, and Venezuela. While I recognise that Brazil is famous for its footballing prowess, perhaps its bigger global significance is that it is the home of the Amazon, along with its neighbours.

North America is reduced in its significance as well. Mexico is the home to pyramid building cultures of the same historic importance as well, namely the Maya and the Aztecs, yet what is deemed more important is the cowboy lifestyle. It would also appear that Mexico is also swallowing up most of Latin America as well (sorry to Panama, Belize, et al). Hollywood is culturally significant for the USA but I would say that San Francisco with its proximity to Silicon Valley is more important globally. The USA is also the home of the bald eagle and brown bears. There is a funny icon image that I am assuming is the Grand Canyon. And Alaska is not the home of parachuting… bizarre. Canada is a huge land with again very important forests and the home of the Inuit. And where they chose to locate the city icon (I think that looks like the Toronto skyline) there are no great cities. The Great Lakes are missing as well. What is missing from both of the Americas are their very important mountain ranges – the Andes and the Rockies (the longest and the second longest).

All up this map is strange and I am not sure this is what I want my son absorbing. It gives culturally misleading messages and does not portray the real size of the world in anyway. My son’s brain is a sponge and if I feed him complexity he will absorb it and remember it for life. I just have to find a better way to present that.