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Global Ignorance

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Hulk Hogan: Brother, I'll leg drop your ass back to Beijing!
Kim Jong-Il: Beijing is in China, you blond asshole!

Trade, travel, war, and other interactions between nations and regions is an integral part of human history, from the Silk Road to the Triangle Trade to containerization. In fact, in today's globalized world there is only a small handful of countries that are self-sufficient, i.e. can support their own population with everything they need without needing to trade for it, so geography has always been something that people would (or should) be aware of, simply by virtue of the fact it's A) very difficult not to, and B) just seems a bit rude not getting to know your neighbors. Thus, when TV wants to show that a person is an idiot, they almost inevitably show them making a geographic mistake, such as mistaking a continent for a country, or the inability to find a given location on a map.

This can be done with a character, to demonstrate their status as The Ditz, or with real people as part of a Selective Stupidity feature.

Alternatively, it can be used to depict a character as being a short-sighted nationalist, usually a resident of The United States, particularly by Europeans who frequently use this trope as shorthand for stupid Americans who know nothing of the world beyond the continental forty-eight states. It's not without its merits, though: a variety of studies have found that American students are among the least geographically literate in the world. (And yes: for the record, America is one of those self-sufficient countries, probably not by coincidence.)

In a variation, a character insists on using the old names for countries that have reformed or gained independence, such as Rhodesia (a former British territory in Southern Africa now known as Zimbabwe), Formosa (Taiwan), or Ceylon (Sri Lanka). In this case, the character is oblivious to the changing political climes, and has no interest in staying current. If he knows the modern names, but refuses to acknowledge them, he's probably a Quintessential British Gentleman who wants to hearken back to the glory days of the empire.

A third possible use is to show a character as being out of touch rather than stupid by using the old names for countries that no longer exist but did exist in their lifetime, like Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union. Unlike the above example, these characters are unlikely to be making a statement and are simply old, or otherwise haven't had any reason to check a map in the past decade. A common side effect for anyone from the Soviet Bloc who Slept Through the Apocalypse of its disintegration.

Of course there are greater and lesser degrees of this trope, and it can be used in subtly different ways. Not knowing the name of the capital of the country a character is currently in almost certainly is showing how the character is genuinely stupid (and not knowing the capital of one's home country/state/province would definitely be considered stupid), while being unable to name all of the former Yugoslavian republicsnote  is unlikely to be saying a character is dumb unless it's being asked by The Smart Guy to demean a character. However this can backfire as the 'genius' character demands another name—the capital of Belarusnote —and ends up stumping themselves.

Often a character who isn't characterized as being either The Smart Guy or The Ditz will make understandable but amusing slips along these lines to cement their position in the intellectual hierarchy particularly if they have been being a bit too smart recently. A good example would be thinking Thai people are from Taiwan which is wrong, but not completely stupid either.

Usually a case of In-Universe Factoid Failure when it happens in fiction. Can overlap with Eskimos Aren't Real, if the character refuses to believe that a country actually exists. See also Artistic License – Geography.


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  • Coach Lasso: As part of the ignorant American stereotype Lasso fits to a tee:
    Lasso: Wales? Is that another country?
    Beard: Yes and no.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, when Makie reveals how much she's learned much about the history and geography of Mundus Magicus in a few weeks, Yuna is surprised, given that normally she can't find Germany, France or Italy on a map, and thinks that Switzerland is near England and that Australia is around Europe.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
    • Alfred/America asks where Japan is on a map... of the United States of America.
    • In the English dub of the anime, the narrator begins a discussion of a part of Polish history, stops herself - "Right, anime fans." - and backs up to begin a dumbed-down version of the same information. Then she stops herself again: "Right, American fans. Poland is a country. In Europe!" Ow.
  • Bakugan Battle Brawlers: Julie apparently told both Billy and Dan that she thought Germany was next to Australia.
  • Used as a plot point in Gundam 0080. Bernie, posing as a Federation soldier, claims to be from Australia while making small talk and mentions how he used to love playing in the snow around Christmastime. Several minutes later, the man he was talking to realizes that the Southern Hemisphere has warm weather in December; this is the mistake that blows the team's cover and gets everyone but Bernie killed. Not to mention that Sydney was wiped out by The Colony Drop and no longer exists at that time, anyone from Sydney should not be talking like that about it.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Touma Kamijou is very ignorant about topics like geography and history, which the other characters find really annoying. He tries to use the excuse that he's a Japanese student and shouldn't be expected to be knowledgeable about countries like Denmark, but none of the other Japanese characters have this problem.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: JoJolion, Hato Higashikata is revealed to have ruined a family vacation to Hawaii because she didn't realize Hawaii wasn't part of Japan (and, thus, never bothered to get a passport).
  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You:
    • Miss Naddy, real name Nadeshiko Yamato, is an inverse Occidental Otaku: a Japanese woman who idolizes the United States of America to the point she presents herself as an American. However it doesn't take long to realize that, between her mangled English, sexy cowgirl getup, and sincere belief that the national anthem is "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", she knows nothing about the U.S.
    • Matsuri Dei is introduced working a festival dressed as an Elegant Gothic Lolita. She received her outfits from her parents, who work overseas as fashion designers. Matsuri does not realize that she's dressed in any special fashion style, however. Because her mother is British and Matsuri herself loves festivals, she sincerely believes her gothic lolita outfits are British festival-wear, the equivalent of happi coats seen in Japanese festivals.

  • This trope is standard fodder for political satire. Various humorists' caricatures of Sarah Palin have had her, among other things, refer to West Korea, say that Delaware was in the Middle East, and think that lesbians are Lebanese, along with the famous "I can see Russia from my house" from SNL.
    "Lesbians are Greek. Everyone knows that."
  • Jeff Foxworthy has a bit about the time he took his family to Hawai'i (which he described as "the Clampetts go to Maui"). One of his relatives asked "When are we gonna change our money to Hawai'ian money?"

    Comic Books 
  • Dave from Knights of the Dinner Table is convinced that Canada is a Communist country and behind the Iron Curtain. He also thinks the language of Israel is Orkish. And Weird Pete doesn't realize that Papua New Guinea is a real country.
  • Tabby in Nextwave. She thinks Europe is a country and is shocked to learn that the French are in Canada.
  • In the Marvel Universe, a renegade operator of the Red Ronin mecha attempted to travel to the Soviet Union to start a series of incidents to begin World War III. Fortunately, the idiot decided to do that by flying East instead of North, the shortest aerial route, to reach that nation. This allowed the The Avengers to intercept and stop it in New York City.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • In one story arc, Calvin decides to secede from his family and move to Yukon, which he believes is possible to walk to in one afternoon. Regardless of where he lives in the continental United States (generally it's believed Calvin lives outside of Cleveland, Ohio), this is a patently ridiculous notion. Another arc has him try to walk to the North Pole to meet Santa, and in both cases Calvin's mom doesn't try to stop him, for the obvious reason that she knows he'll never get there.
    • In one story arc where Calvin accidentally pushes the family's car into a ditch, he and Hobbes decide to run away from home rather than face his parents' wrath. After fleeing for what is an hour or two at most, Calvin thinks they've definitely entered another state by now. The fact his mom manages to quickly find him indicates he barely even made it out of his backyard.
    • While waiting for the school bus one day, Calvin tells Hobbes that, instead of going to school, he could hitchhike a ride to the Serengeti and spend his life migrating with the wildebeest. Hobbes has to tell Calvin that's impossible because the Serengeti is in Africa, much to Calvin's disappointment.
  • In a FoxTrot arc, Paige's friend Nicole was once asked to locate Iraq on a world map without country names. However, it comes to light that Nicole not only can't locate Iraq on the map, she can't even locate the U.S. Eventually Paige locates Iraq on her first try... but only because it was the only place Nicole didn't point.
    Nicole: Okay, so if this is America... then this must be Iraq!
    Teacher: Let's go back to that "if", Nicole.
    Nicole: [pointing at Antarctica] Okay, so if this is America...

    Films — Animation 
  • In a Shrek film, Donkey is served a platter of food by a chef who says "Bon appétit" (which is a French expression) and Donkey exclaims: "Oh, boy! Mexican food!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dumb Blonde Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes:
    Lorelei: Excuse me, but what is the way to Europe, France?
    Dorothy: Honey, France is in Europe.
    Lorelei: Well, who said it wasn't?
    Dorothy: Well... you wouldn't say you wanted to go to North America, Mexico.
    Lorelei: If that's where I wanted to go, I would.
  • From the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie:
    Buffy: Well, excuse me for not knowing about El Salvador! Like I'm ever going to Spain, anyway!
  • In Die Hard, a psychiatrist interviewed on the news brings up his book on "Helsinki Syndrome", as he calls it (presumably Stockholm has copyrighted itself and wouldn't give the rights). The newsreader cuts into clarify that Helsinki is in Sweden, and is quickly corrected — "Finland."
  • Invoked in Disney's The Three Musketeers (1993); Porthos claims to have been given gifts from various royals who don't exist, including the Queen of America and the Czarina of Tokyo. He smirks whenever he says one, waiting to see if anyone catches onto his bullshit.
  • In Snow Dogs, the character played by Nichelle Nichols apologizes to an Alaskan cab driver because she only has "American money" with which to pay him.
  • In The Thing (1982), MacReady has to be reminded on more than one occasion that the men who showed up at Outpost 31 are Norwegians, not Swedish.
  • Earth Girls Are Easy: An alien asks Valerie if they're in Finland (just having seen a sexy travel commercial) — she cheerfully replies "No, you're in the Valley — Finland is the capital of Norway!"
  • In The Wizard of Oz, Glinda's song in the beginning says, "She fell from the sky/ She fell very far/ And Kansas she says/ Is the name of the star" implying that Oz is on another world that now thinks Earth is Only Kansas.
  • Money Monster: Lee Gates thinks Swahili is South Africa's official language. He's called out for this.
  • Idiocracy: A government official mentions that a nuclear reactor is leaking in Georgia. When his coworker states it's in Florida, he responds by saying "Florida is in Georgia, dumbass".
  • In Knives Out, the racist, classist Thrombeys do not know what country Marta, their patriarch's nurse, is from (despite their frequent declarations that she is "part of the family), and simply guess a random South American country whenever the subject comes up, to make it seem like they're more knowledgeable and empathetic to her than they really are. Richard even provides two completely different countries (first Paraguay, then Uruguay) on separate occasions, while his son Ransom assumes she's from Brazil despite Marta clearly speaking Spanish and not Portuguese, which is the chief language of Brazil.
  • Transylvania 6-5000: While in America, Gil asks where Transylvania is, and Mac Turner points vaguely off in a random direction and says "Somewhere over there", as Jack looks on in disbelief.

  • In Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, the protagonist is described as "someone someone who thought Iran was David Bowie's wife, and who didn't know where Germany was". At least the latter allegation is corroborated.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: When Greg has to do a school project about Malta, he admits he doesn't know almost anything about that country and the only thing he's sure about is that Malta is "somewhere near Russia" (it's in the Mediterranean Sea).
  • In The Great Gatsby, Nick asks Gatsby what part of the Midwest he is from. Gatsby responds, "San Francisco." This is the first sign that Gatsby isn't who he claims to be.
  • David in The Magic Map certainly suffers from this- for example, he thought that the Amazon River was “somewhere in Africa or Asia”- although it gradually lessens as he explores the Living Map and learns from its inhabitants.
  • In Why We Took the Car, Maik at first refuses to believe that Wallachia existsnote .
  • In the modern re-adaptation Pride: A Pride and Prejudice Remix by Ibi Zoboi (where the Bennett family is a working-class Afro-Latinix family in the fast gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick) the well-read Zuri is caught trying not to reveal her ignorance of certain locations in the world and even how to eat lobster (due to being too expensive), this is less a comment on her intellect and more on how her family's poverty limits how far they can travel (they have seen Times Square three times) and the locations Zuri isn't familiar with are popular vacation spots for the wealthy. About the wealthy Darcy family:
    So far, I know that they've gone skiing in somewhere called Aspen, go to somebody named Martha's Vineyard every summer (except for this one, because of the move), and how they are still hoping to take a trip to some place called the Maldives.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel:
    Cordelia: Oh, yesterday your cousin called, with one of those names from your part of England.
    Doyle: ...My part of England? note 
  • Common in shows by The Chaser, in their Selective Stupidity segments:
    • CNNNN has a journalist checking out general knowledge about Americans. During that skit, one section has random people point out Iraq and North Korea on the map. While they do find those countries, the map is mislabeled, and thus they put the pin in the middle of Australia. One person also comments that North Korea has a large land mass compared to South Korea (mislabeled from Tasmania). And finally, if the USA needed to attack the country in the bottom-right corner of the map, they would have to attack from the West (cause the East just has the edge of the map).
    • The Chaser's War On Everything has a skit that involved promoting Australia's tourism. Random Americans were shown pictures of famous landmarks, which the Chasers then claimed were actually in Australia. Notable examples include the Leaning Tower of Perth, Big Ben in Adelaide, The Eiffel Tower in Melbourne and the Taj Mahal in the Simpson Desert.
      Woman: [after being shown the Sydney Opera House] That was in Nemo. I have no idea what it's called though.
  • Happened frequently with Ali G on Da Ali G Show.
    • In one episode he visited the United Nations building, was surprised to find that Africa wasn't represented as a country, and refused to believe the guide's explanation that many African countries were represented.
    • In a mock appeal, he shows a map of the world with pretty much everything mislabeled - such as Africa being labeled Jamaica and South America as South Central.
  • Friends:
    • Joey was fond of this one too. Notable exchange when Chandler is trying to compete with Joey for the attentions of a Dutch girl.
      Chandler: Joey, where do you think Dutch people come from?
      Joey: Um.... Pennsylvania Dutch come from Pennsylvania.
      Chandler: But original Dutch people? Would you say they come from somewhere like the Netherlands?
      Joey: Haha, you can't fool me. See the Netherlands is a made-up place where Peter Pan lives.
    • Joey also spent an episode trying to find somewhere he could change US dollars into "Vermont money".
    • And then there was the Thanksgiving Episode "name the states" game, in which he named 56 (including New England and South Oregon), and then chided Ross for making up a state (Utah) that was actually real.
    • When Chandler is pretending to emigrate to Yemen to escape Janice: "That almost sounds like a real place!"
    • In a second season episode, where Chandler and his new roommate are talking about ex-girlfriends, Chandler mentions how he broke up with a girl because she thought the capital of Cambodia was Sean Penn, when "everybody knows the capital of Cambodia is... not Sean Penn." (This isn't actually as foolish as it seems since Sean Penn sounds similar to Phnom Penh.)
  • Scrubs had geography as one of J.D.'s weaknesses. He claimed New Zealand was close to "Old Zealand" and pointed out China on the Janitor's globe when he was looking for Iraq.
    Janitor: That's China.
    J.D.: You're China.
    Janitor:...That's an outrageous accusation.
  • The Goodies: “Australia? That’s in America, isn’t it?”
  • Mr. Show:
    • In the first episode, Bob Odenkirk tries, and fails pathetically, in an attempt to name all the US states in 15 seconds. Thereafter, David Cross explains that Bob missed the first day of school, believes there are only five states, and thinks one of them is called "Chim-Cham".
    • In one skit, a group of college students on an MTV show claim to have traveled all over the world, showing a crayon map of the places they went in Europe. "Europe" is drawn in the shape of the continental United States, divided up into countries such as "Germany" and "Europe."
  • In a Running Gag, Gob and Maeby in Arrested Development believe Portugal is a Spanish-speaking country in South America. The pilot also features Buster mistaking the blue parts of a map for the land (to make it even sillier, he was described a scene or two earlier as having taken graduate-level classes in cartography). Another one involves Gob's plan to hire "Mexicans from Colombia", where Michael points out that they are called "Colombians".
  • In one episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Drew Carey called Africa a great country. Greg Proops responds "It's also a continent if you're a geographer!" The contestants turned it into a Running Gag for the rest of the episode.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, on his journey to Alaska Francis was conned into changing his US currency for 'Alaskan dollars'.
  • In an episode of the "Trash Talk Show" parody Night Stand, host Dick Dietrick (played by Timothy Stack) responds to a Vietnamese guest's question, "You've heard of Vietnam, Dick?" with "Oh yes, we fought against each other in The Korean War."
  • Parks and Recreation:
    • Andy Dwyer:
      April: I'm sorry, I was in Venezuela.
      Andy: Oh, really? Wow, across the pond.
    • And in another episode:
      Andy: Hey it's me, Justin. Take my coat, but please be careful I got it from the King of Africa when we were walking on the Berlin Wall together. Really, Justin, what instruments do you play? [pause] Actually he's a pretty sick keyboardist.
    • Andy choosing a country for a model U.N.
      Leslie: Andy, will you be Iceland?
      Andy: The bad guys from Mighty Ducks 2? Don't think so.
      Leslie: How about Japan?
      Andy: The bad guys from Karate Kid 2? Even worse. How about Germany? They’ve never been the bad guys.
    • A Freeze-Frame Bonus in the episode, "Win, Lose, or Draw". On Andy's list of all the places he and April could live, "U.S.S.R." is listed, but crossed out with "Russia" written in next to it. Presumably, Andy ignorantly wrote down "U.S.S.R." and April corrected him.
    • After driving for many hours to visit the Grand Canyon with April, he asked, "So where are the faces of the presidents?"
    • In a deleted scene from that same episode, April takes advantage of her husband's global ignorance by taking him to a random patch of land and claiming that it is Four Corners (where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado meet), presumably to avoid having to drive out of their way to the actual place. Andy happily jumps back and forth across the imaginary state boundaries, excitedly shouting that he's in states like Arizona and Nebraska, that don't even border each other in real life.
    • In one episode, Tom's girlfriend from Doctors Without Borders was going to Rwanda. He complains that, "if I know anything about Rwanda — and I don't — I bet it's full of rich guys who will buy her whatever she wants."
  • In one episode of Boy Meets World Shawn thinks that you can get to Europe on a bus. He even buys a bus ticket to Paris, Texas thinking it will take him to Paris, France.
  • Seems to be a common trait among the "Beauties" in Beauty and the Geek.
  • The Amazing Race being a travel show and all, and not all of the contestants have exactly been geniuses. Occasionally the producers make a task based on it.
    • Despite being constantly reminded that they were going to Chile, Season 16's Jordan (the female one) proceeded to request tickets to Santiago, China.
    • Season 12:
      Nate: Taiwan? We're going to Taiwan? Huh.... I don't know much about Taiwan... but Thai food's pretty good.
    • Season 17:
      Phil: Nick & Vicki, what's the name of this country?
      Vicki: We're in London, right?
      Phil: That's right, the country of London.
    • Also in Season 17: The teams were visiting a school in Ghana and tasked with identifying Ghana on a map. It went about as well as you would expect.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
    • When Frank, Dee, and Mac tried to play "50 States", Mac and Dee continually name states like "West Dakota", much to Frank's amusement.
    • In season 15, Mac and Dennis are amazed at how Charlie is honestly shocked to realize Pittsburgh is in Pennsylvania as he assumes it's impossible a state can have more than one big city.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Chimera", Carter remarks to her boyfriend Pete Shanahan that there's no zoo in Colorado Springs, apparently completely unaware of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Writer Joseph Mallozi said that this was done on purpose to indicate that she spends so much time working she's completely unfamiliar with the city she lives in.
  • A massacre at a "Moldavian royal wedding" was a major plotline of the soap series Dynasty (1981). Apparently, the show's producers and writers were unaware that Moldavia was a real region and a historical country (not to mention that the real Moldavia isn't a monarchy).
  • There was a somewhat infamous episode of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? where American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler showed up. "I thought Europe was a country..."
  • A Saturday Night Live sketch featured guest host Jerry Seinfeld playing a high-school history teacher. After all his students fail a test, he decides to adopt an interactive approach and opens a discussion about the Battle of Britain. However, the students turn out to be too ignorant for the approach to work, as they don't even know who Britain was fighting.
    Teacher: How many of you saw Raiders of the Lost Ark? [all hands go up]
    Student: I have it on tape. I could bring it.
    Teacher: No, thank you. Now, who in the movie was Indiana Jones fighting... [hand goes up] ...besides the snakes? [hand goes back down]
  • Seinfeld:
    • Season 8 Episode 1 ("The Foundation") includes both "prefers the old name" and "ignorance" about the location, both with Burma/Myanmar.
    Peterman: I've already left, Elaine. I'm in Burma.
    Elaine: Burma?
    Peterman: You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me. Bonne chance, Elaine. [to a passerby] You there on the motorbike! Sell me one of your melons! [runs after him]
    • A little later in the same episode...
      Kramer: Hey. [notices Elaine] What's wrong?
      Elaine: Oh, Peterman ran off to Burma, and now he wants me to run the catalog.
      Kramer: Where?
      Jerry: Myanmar.
      Kramer: The discount pharmacy?
    • There is this exchange in the opening of Season 9 Episode 1 ("The Butter Shave").note 
      George: What is Holland?
      Jerry: What do you mean, "what is it?" It's a country right next to Belgium.
      George: No, that's the Netherlands.
      Jerry: Holland is the Netherlands.
      George: Then who are the Dutch?
  • In Derren Brown's The Gathering special, he randomly selects an audience member and asks her to think of a country. She does. Her country? Africa. Not only does Derren not call her out on her obvious mistake (Note: there are over 50 countries in Africa) but has her reach under her seat and find a note he left there with the description of the woman in question and her choice of country. That's right, even Derren is guilty of that.
  • Flight of the Conchords:
    • People being unaware of New Zealand's existence (or just plain ignorant about New Zealand) is a Running Gag.
    • Bret and Jemaine's friend, Dave is always confusing them for Brits, Australians, etc. He later refers to New Zealand as someplace nobody's heard of.
    • A racist greengrocer won't serve food to Bret and Jemaine because they are from New Zealand. It's then revealed that he confused New Zealand for Australia and they bond over their hatred of Australians.
    • Murray wants to get the American President to met up with the Prime Minster of New Zealand. The President asks if New Zealand's even a real place.
  • Referenced in an episode of How I Met Your Mother when Ted finds out that Robin doesn't plan her life and out of the blue says she might want to go to Argentina. Robin, who is Canadian, doesn't think too highly of American geography education.
    Ted: Why is this the first I hear of Argentina?
    Robin: Because American schools suck at geography?
  • Drake & Josh:
    • When Mrs. Hayfer is out of town and the boys are looking after her house. Drake finds a videotape of her as "Miss New Jersey".
      Drake: There's a New Jersey?
      Josh: Yeah, they just opened it.
    • An Animal Control officer mentions having fought in Vietnam. Drake asks, "Where's that, New Jersey?"
    • Josh proves to not be much better than Drake when the latter asks why they call it "New Jersey" and he has no idea. Someone of his intelligence should know there actually is a regular "Jersey", as in the Isle of Jersey off the coast of Great Britain that's the source of the U.S. state's name.
  • In the pilot episode of Sports Night, Dan points out they've got sources from Helsinki's bid for the Olympics from Swiss Olympic officials when, in fact, Helsinki is in Finland. Later, when Nathalie brings up one of the candidates for the new associate producer job, Isaac responds, "Could you make sure they could find Helsinki on a map?"
  • The Inbetweeners: Simon doesn't know where Swansea is. Jay thinks it's Oop North. Neil thinks it's an animal.
  • In Kaamelott, this is true for a lot of characters besides King Arthur.
    • Hervé de Rinel, after a grand tour of Britannia, concludes that the island is round (and produces a map as proof). Worse than that is when he adds, to be more convincing, "I went around it twice to be sure!"
    • Séli has basically no idea of geography: she doesn't know where Aquitaine, the Pyrénées, or Burdigalanote  are.
    • And then there's Robyn (a Robin Hood parody):
      Robyn: But wait, isn't there a common border between Britain and Byzantium?
    • Perceval somehow manages to go around introducing himself as "Provençal le Gaulois" (Provençal the Gaul) instead of "Perceval le Gallois" (Percival of Wales).
      Arthur: Doesn't even know his own name.
  • Daphne's mum Gertrude, in Frasier, doesn't realise that Hawaii is part of America - much to Daphne's frustration. Daphne herself got mixed up between Maine and Montana in an earlier episode, asking if Montana was "the one next to New Hampshire".
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: A Running Gag when starting an item about a country that's not in North America is to first show the wrong country highlighted on a map of the continent it's in and then showing the right country:
    "Country X [country gets highlighted on a map], a place you think of so little that you didn't notice that wasn't Country X, this [other country gets highlighted] is country X".
  • In Cobra Kai, this is the first solid evidence that John Kreese's stories about enlisting in the US military after the events of the the first Karate Kid trilogy are made up. He talks about time spent around the world, including talking about what Mogadishu was like in the 90s, and then without missing a beat, appears to say that Mogadishu is part of Rwanda. Miguel notices and points out that Mogadishu is the capital of Somalia, an entirely different country. Later in the same episode there's a case that is partially this and partially a case of Latin Land; Kreese refers to Miguel as "the Mexican kid" and when Johnny (who is no paragon of political correctness or global knowledge himself) corrects him and notes that Miguel is from Ecuador, Kreese shrugs and replies by more or less saying that it's all the same anyway.
  • Servant of the People: Played for Laughs in Mukhin's plots. In his second episode, Foreign Minister Mukhin couldn't point out where Uganda is.
    Oksana: Yesterday, the Lord's Resistance Army arrested him (Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's president).
    Mukhin: You see! Even God is against the president.
  • In the first episode of The Last of Us (2023), Joel apparently thinks that Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, is located in the Middle East while Tommy confuses it for a country. They have to be corrected by an exasperated Sarah.

  • In Jon Lajoie's "Very Super Famous":
    All the Mexicans love me down in the South America
    From Colombia to Brazil all the way to Algeria

  • In an episode of Fat, French and Fabulous, Janel mistakes Denmark for the country Dutch comes from.
    Jessica: You've been in America less than a year. Your understanding of geography is dissolving like seltzer as we speak.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Two WWE wrestlers, Matt and Jeff Hardy, were arguing which of them was the smarter. The first challenged the second to name the capital of Brussels.

  • In Bleak Expectations the protagonist tries to catch the antagonist in this trope but just ends up proving he too fits it.
    Pip Bin: If you truly are American, then you will be able to name all the states of your fair nation.
    Harlan J. Trashcan (a.k.a. Mr. Gently Benevolent): Of course. There's Virginia, West Virginia, and, um... North Virginia, South Virginia, East Virginia, South-east Virginia, mid-Virginia... the Virginia Monologues, Like-A-Virgin-ia, Virginia-Virginia and Vermont.
    Pip Bin: Damn. Spot on.
  • Pauline Hatful on How Green Was My Cactus:
    "England? Dunno where that is, but at least you speak English."

    Video Games 
  • In Persona 5, Ryuji wonders how Yusuke is going to take a plane from Tokyo to Los Angeles, thinking that Los Angeles is both smack-dab in the middle of the United States and the capital city of the country. The other characters all immediately mock him via text messages.
  • Broforce:
    • The game's levels are usually defined by the country they are set in. Mission 12, however, is set in Africa, as if it were a single country. (The developers, being South African, are very much aware of the joke.)
    • The "general" character, when talking about Arstotzka, implies the military had to do extensive research in order to determine that this country is, in fact, a country.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories has a radio ad for a cheesy International Showdown by Proxy sports movie featuring a "worldwide Push Up contest" held in "Tokyo, China".
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: Playboy X says that Dubai is in Africa (instead of the Middle East) when discussing his business with an Arab businessman. Niko immediately tells him that this is so wrong and shows Playboy is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.
  • In Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People: Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective, Dangeresque, in the Stylistic Suck Show Within a Show, discovers that is father has been hanging around Venice. In a small badly-edited-out scripting mistake, he declares that it's time he heads to Franc-(jump cut) Italy!
  • Like any true red-blooded American, the Soldier of Team Fortress 2 demonstrates little awareness of other cultures. Some of his domination lines to Sniper confuse Australia and New Zealand, and one of the comics suggests that despite his patriotic loathing of anything Russian or German, he has yet to realize he's been working with a Russian and a German for years.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • There are countless stories on Not Always Right about people who never seem to have heard of New Mexico, Canada, or Delaware. There's also a woman who thought they celebrated Thanksgiving in Switzerland.
  • For Thanksgiving 2013, BuzzFeed asked its British staff to label a map of the US, which was predictably hilarious. The next year, they asked their American staff to label Europe, with roughly the same results.

    Web Videos 
  • Linkara of Atop the Fourth Wall is infamous for making several errors in location for his reviews. For example, the "Kamandi: At Earth's End #2" review had him wrongly criticize the writer for stating Hackensack, New Jersey was west of New York City, only for Doctor Linksano to pop up and correct him on that mistake. Unlike most examples of the trope, Linkara's well-aware of his poor geographical skills and has made said ignorance a Self-Deprecating Running Gag.
  • Moviebob referred to Africa as "a beautiful country" in an episode of The Game Overthinker discussing racism. To his credit, he apologized for that error in a later video.
  • In the series CollegeHumor Does the Purge: Um, We Have a Few Questions About the Purge, Mike Trapp's character exhibits self-awareness. He keeps (yes he does keep) mistakenly thinking Canada is part of the United States and blaming the shoddy American educational system for his ignorance.
  • During the Hulk Hogan vs. Kim Jong-Il Epic Rap Battles of History, Hogan threatens to kick the North Korean Kim's ass "back to Beijing". Kim's first line in his rebuttal verse: "Beijing is in China, you blonde asshole!"
  • French Baguette Intelligence: In Geography Makes No Sense..., Gringo claims that Mexico isn't in North America, one part of it is in Central America and the other part is in South America.
  • The Onion News Network once did an interview with a U.S. State Department bureaucrat who erroneously sent billions of dollars in foreign aid money to the wealthy European microstate of Andorra after confusing it for a poor, war-torn African country.note  When the bureaucrat tries to defend his mistake, they unveil the State Department's "official" Map of Africa, which is split into four huge supercountries, one of which is called "Mumbambu", and a region around Central Africa simply labeled "???" (which is where the bureaucrat assumed Andorra might be located).

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "The PTA Disbands", when Marge became the substitute teacher for Bart during the teacher's strike, at dinner, she describes her day as "Exhausting. It took the kids 40 minutes to find Canada on the map." To which Homer responds by also invoking this trope, commenting about how small and tucked away Canada is. Down there.
    • Springfield itself is a Running Gag of this trope, being anywhere and everywhere the writers need it to be. Best exemplified in The Movie.note 
      Flanders: Look, you can see the 4 states that border Springfield. Ohio, Nevada, Maine, and Kentucky.
    • Homer and Bart get whacked by this trope again in "Bart vs. Australia". Bart mistakes a "Rand McNally" logo on his globe for a country, causing Lisa to mock him: "In fact, in Rand McNally, they wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people!" Later, Homer looks at the globe, spots Uruguay, and laughs and says "Look at this country! 'UR Gay'! (Laughs)".
    • Both Homer and Mr. Burns (in different episodes) are astounded at the discovery of a New Mexico, though Mr. Burns at least has the excuse of old age.
    • In The Movie, Homer says, "We have a great life here in Alaska, and we are never going back to America again!"
    • Homer as a high school student skipping English class in 1974 in "The Way We Was": "English? Who needs it? I'm never going to England! C'mon, let's go smoke!"
    • Exaggerated in "G.I. D'oh" when Homer asks "We're China, right?"
    • In "Mother Simpson", Mr. Burns is seen in the post office trying to send a letter to "the Prussian consulate in Siam", exasperated as the clerk cannot find any mention of Prussia or Siam in his geographical index. This isn't a joke about ignorance so much as part of the Running Gag about how outdated Burns is — Siam became Thailand in 1939note , and Prussia broke up into several different countries between the World Warsnote , and had not been a sovereign state since joining the German Empire in 1871. The clerk, on the other hand, is just plain ignorant, since he thinks his inability to locate Prussia, Siam or an "autogyro" means his own manual must be out of date.
    • Two linked moments from Bart:
      • In "Girly Edition", as Bart is making a human interest story:
        Bart: Some say the ducks went to Canada. Others say, Toronto.
      • In "The Bart Wants What It Wants":
        Gretchen: I'm leaving in ten minutes. My Dad's shooting a movie in Toronto.
        Bart: You're going to Spain?!note 
    • The episode "Little Big Girl" featured a girl who thought Norwegian people were from a place called "Norwegia".
    • Similarly, in "Much Apu About Nothing", Üter was teased by other students and told to "Go back to Germania!"
    • In "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangalore", Mr. Burns has the Nuclear Power Plant outsourced into India, and Homer is picked to train the new employees. After the long flight, Homer says:
      Homer: This isn't India! Where's the University of Notre Dame, the Indy 500, Wrigley Field, Dodger dogs?
      Indian Woman: You ignorant American, you have confused India with Indiana, Indiana with Illinois, and the Cubs with the Dodgers!
  • The Penguins of Madagascar:
    • Alice, the zookeeper, thinks koalas and kangaroos will get along well, because they're both from Austria.
      Repairman: You mean Australia?
      Alice: There is a difference?
    • King Julian, while living in the Central Park Zoo, believes he is in France.
    • The penguins also mistake Shanghai, China for Dublin, Ireland.
      Skipper: We gotta blend in. River dance.
  • South Park:
    • Randy tries warning then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that California would be New Jersey's next victim after Colorado is taken over, only to be informed that Utah and Nevada lie between them. And he is a geologist. To be fair, they did manage to drive to China and Romania on two separate occasions...
    • When the Director of Homeland Security rounds up all Peruvian Flute Bands in the world, he sets his sights on destroying their country next. He was baffled to learn that no one on his research crew knew where they come from despite it being in the name and has to point Peru on a map to them.
  • Kim Possible: Ron is evidently not very good at identifying countries. "Tokyo... I love the French!"
  • The Looney Tunes Show: In "Eligible Bachelors", Lola somehow mistakes the Eiffel Tower for Stonehenge. While she and Bugs are in Paris and standing in front of the Tower. She also mistook the Palace of Versailles for the White House and was surprised the Louvre was an art museum and not a shopping mall, despite claiming to be a Louvre lover.
  • An episode of Ned's Newt has Ned trying to lecture a dimwitted schoolmate, and one of the tasks is to place a cutout of Africa on the globe. He puts it on the Moon.
  • Pinky and the Brain: When Brain founded a fictional country, he was relying on the trope to keep people from finding out it wasn't a real one. Even the generals in The War Room fell for it.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Lawrence Fletcher thought Hawaii wasn't part of the United States.
    • Stacy believed the pyramids were in France. She corrects herself a moment later, saying they're in Belgium.
  • In season 1 of Totally Spies!, Alex is not only childish but also a little dumb dumb in the head. Episode "Shrinking" shows that she's very much geographically illiterate, thinking the Taj Mahal is in Mexico and the Great Wall is in Peru. Luckily, Sam the smart girl is right there to correct her.
  • Total Drama All-Stars extra clips show Lightning being washed away to Paris after his elimination and assuming he's in Germany.
  • Johnny Bravo: In "Johnny Bravo Goes to Bollywood", Johnny mistakes India for Indiana and, under the belief the place is full of Indians (i.e. Native Americans), wears a cowboy outfit when he goes there.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: In "Love at First Height", after Timmy (who spent most of the episode with the body of a 16-year-old and was mistaken for a Norwegian supermodel named Gah) is reverted back to being 10-years-old and Vicky (who fell in love with him) demands to know where Gah is, Timmy says that Gah had to go back to "Norwegia".
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: One episode establishes that Bloo and Terrence both think Singapore is in Wisconsin.
  • Big City Greens:
    • In "Gabriella's Fella", Cricket learns that Gabriella is moving to Montreal, which he thinks is in Europe.
    • In "Trivia Night", Cricket picks Geography as his subject for trivia night at the cafe, thinking it's some sort of math. When asked "What is the capital of Mexico", he answers "M", thinking Gloria meant the capital letter, and loses, while Remy correctly answers "Mexico City".

    Real Life 
  • In a SBS manga column for One Piece, a fan asked Eiichiro Oda which real world countries each of the Straw Hats would come from. He answers by saying that Luffy would be Brazilian, Zoro is Japanese, Nami's Swedish, Sanji's French, Chopper's Canadian, Robin's Russian, Franky's American, Brook's Austrian... and Usopp? Oda says that he's African, giving the name of a continent instead of a country.
  • According to Americans, New Mexico is not part of the United States. The most egregious example of this was in 1996, when multiple New Mexicans were refused service when attempting to buy domestic tickets to the Atlanta Olympics. They were directed to buy from the appropriate agency in their "home country," i.e. Mexico.

  • On that note, a surprising amount of Americans seem to think "South America" begins at the US/Mexico border. Mexico is, geographically speaking, still in North America. In fact, geographers consider South America to start at Colombia. (If the North-Central-South schema is used, it is sometimes considered Central and sometimes not. The UN's political region definition considers Mexico Central American for instance. Another definition uses the Panama Canal as the boundary, splitting Panama between the two continents.)
  • Some people still refer to Beijing as "Peking". For context: It used to be pronounced like Peking, but a sound change called palatalization occurred in North China which changed some 'k' sounds to 'j' sounds (the same phenomenon is why English has hard and soft C and G). This change did not occur in South China, where notably lies Hong Kong, the city Britain took in the Opium Wars. Thus, when the Brits asked what the locals' city was called, they got "Peking".
    • Beijing however, is still officially still called "Pekin(g)" in French, Dutch, German, Russian, Castilian Spanish (but not in Latin America) and - amusingly - Japanese. (As mentioned, the "Peking" to "Beijing" thing is due to a sound change. Due to Japan's long history with China, they learned the pronunciation back when it was pronounced "Peking" by every Chinese and never bothered to update it.)
    • A few other holdouts exist - Peking duck, the University of Peking, and Beijing's two international airports are PEK for Beijing Capital and PKX for Beijing Daxing (the IATA hates changing airport codes once assigned — the code for Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat is still SGN for the old name Saigon.)
    • To a lesser extents, a lot of place names in China are sometimes referred by their obsolete transliterations to this day, thanks to the complicated history of Chinese romanization. Aside from Peking, there are Nanking (Nanjing), Szechwan (Sichuan), Hokkien (Fujian), and Canton (Guangdong, although Canton is usually taken to mean the city of Guangzhou). A lot of these names are filtered through Chinese regional languages, hence why their pronunciations are very different from Modern Standard Chinese, based on Beijing Mandarin.
  • Many older British people are surprised to hear that it isn't Malaya any more but Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore is no longer the island extension of "Malaya" but a separate state in its own right, Ceylon is now Sri Lanka, Calcutta is, as far as they are concerned, still spelled with the letter "C" instead of its current name "Kolkata", Burma is now Myanmar and not a neighboring country, and where on earth is Mumbai? Is it anywhere near Bombay, for goodness' sake? And the Conservative Party got negative press for its more right-wing elements selling t-shirts bearing the legend Why say "Zimbabwe" when you mean Rhodesia?.note  And due to this, their offspring continue the trend of using the old names. And when both old and new names are used, it's easy to confuse which is which, or to think they are different countries.
    • Most recently, a British Foreign minister, who of all people should have known better, greeted a European opposite number as being from Czechoslovakia. He had to be reminded the man he was welcoming was a senior politician from Slovakia. note  And Yes, Minister, there is a difference.
  • The Danish school system has a subject called "geography", but it's based much more around physical geography than human geography. Meaning that many Danish students will be able to tell you exactly what terrain and ecosystems that make up Brazil, but not where Brazil is (at least, they may not be truly sure except for "somewhere in South America"). Facts such as a country's location, its population number, its capital and the sorts are facts you'll have to find out yourself or be taught by someone else than your geography teacher. However, living in a very small country that is not as self-contained as the U.S., and being among the nationalities that love travelling the most, has helped to make most Danes not that global ignorant.
  • The same problem (among a few others) is prevalent in the German school system, too. The average German high school graduate has a reasonably good shot at correctly identifying Earth's continents, but most won't be able to pinpoint the various countries on them (hell, many can't even name all of Germany's sixteen federal states, much less tell you their location). No wonder, given how superficially actual global geography is treated in class. Stuff like demographics, economy and such usually doesn't get any mention at all. The best you can hope for is one or two class hours of skimming a world map, and perhaps a short test of your knowledge of the neighbouring countries and their capitals, and that's about it. Fortunately, Germans are just as travel-happy as the Danish, so anyone with an interest in the world at large is likely to avert this trope, to varying degrees.
  • Following the announcement that the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing were Chechens, so many Twitter users thought Chechens were from the Czech Republic that the Czech ambassador put out a statement which basically said, "we're not Chechnya". Ironically, "Chehi" ("The Czechs"), was a genuine Russian nickname for the Chechens during the Nineties.
  • People will occasionally refer to Myanmar as its older colonial name, Burma. However, this is an unusual use of the trope, as generally these people are aware of Myanmar's "official" name but refuse to use it because it was picked by the hated military junta that ruled the country until 2010 (and still has a very big say in how the country is run), and thus consider it wasn't decided by the country's legitimate government and people (never mind that both names are semantically the same thing, with Myanmar being the more formal of the two, and most ethnic Burmese refer to their country as "Myanmar"). The TV Tropes page for the country was called "That South East Asian Country" for quite a while.
  • There's a common joke amongst Brits that some foreigners (chiefly Americans) think that Scotland and Ireland are located where Ireland is, that England is the island to the right, that Wales and Northern Ireland don't exist, and that this whole area comprises Britain. Some Americans will describe themselves as Scots-Irish (instead of Celtic, which would be accurate), and Americans of Welsh descent seem to be quite rare. If nothing else, Americans will always take the time to proudly list all the countries they are descended from without showing any knowledge of those countries beyond stereotypes. This manifests itself most obviously in St. Patrick's Day celebrations, which bear little resemblance to how it's actually celebrated in Ireland. Scots-Irish does not refer to some mix of Celtic Scottish and Irish blood, but rather to the Ulster Scots, a very specific group. Of course, not all Americans who claim Scotch-Irish heritage are aware of that history, or understand the distinctions, and may indeed think of themselves as simply having both Scottish and Irish heritage. And good luck finding anyone (including most Britons!) who can find the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Shetlands, or Orkneys on a map. Virtually no one can even name any of them.
  • Even smart people can often make Egregious geographic mistakes.
    • A significant percentage of people picture South America being directly under North America, when it is actually more to the south east. Also, people tend to imagine Australia being much farther south than it really is.
    • People often picture Africa as the same size as Europe, India as smaller than Great Britain, Greenland as a huge landmass in the north bigger than Africa, and Antarctica as a gigantic frozen continent in the south bigger than everything else put together. The Mercator projection is the one to blame, because of the way it distorts the latitude so everywhere near the equator is squeezed while places at higher latitudes are exaggerated. It's great for navigation, because it is consistent in preserving directions, but is grossly inadequate for teaching geography. The truth is that Africa is much bigger than the projection shows (it is the second biggest continent in the world for god's sake. You can fit two Europes and one Australia in it and still have room to spare), India is much bigger than Great Britain (it is the size of 14 Great Britains), Greenland is, though the world's largest island, smaller than Africa's second largest country, and Antarctica is smaller than Russia and only drawn the way it is because its geographic center happens to be located near the South Pole.
  • Asking Brits to label the 50 American states (spoiler: some get them all, some get next to none, some get them all in vaguely the right area but not 100%) compared to getting Americans to label the 5 countries of the British isles (spoiler: One person got them all, but beyond her only a few of them even got Scotland and England in the right places).
  • Sometimes, the Brits can be no better than the Americans they mock. In 2017, after the Brexit referendum, Channel 4 did a street poll asking people to draw the border of Northern Ireland. Many of them simply cut off the top quarter of the island, one woman split the island in half south of Dublin, another accused the Irish of "making trouble just because they lost", apparently unaware that Ireland did not vote in the Brexit referendum on account of being an entirely different country.
  • A certain viral video from 2016 has a woman triggered over...a Lyft driver's hula doll accessory in his car. During the middle of her rant (at the start of the video), she calls Hawaiʻi a continent. Naturally, everyone who's seen this video will never, ever forget that.
  • While Americans are infamous for not knowing that Asia has many more countries than China, Japan, and Korea, both they and a number of British folks are shocked when they realise Americans believe that India isn't in Asia. Granted, it's not unusual even amongst geographers to consider it a separate region like how some might say Egypt is in a place called 'The Middle East' rather than Africa, but some go as far as to think it's separated from the mainland. The term "Indian subcontinent" may be at fault, since it's rather misleading. ("A subcontinent means a small continent, which is still a continent!")
    • In fact many people (especially Americans) tend to struggle to accept that South Asian countries and West Asian countries are Asian due to believing Indian Sub-Continent and the Middle East are seperate continents. Meanwhile in nations like the UK and Sweden, where British South Asians (Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi) and Swedish West Asians (Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian) make up the majority of Asians in their respective nations, are considered the typical Asian ethnicities.
    • Some people even believe that the "Greater Middle East" includes everything from Morocco note  to Bangladesh note  and in between. When in reality the Middle East does not include countries of South Asia or North Africa except Egypt which is partially West Asian thanks to its Sinai Peninsula.
  • 60% of surveyed Americans couldn't find Iraq on a map even though the country was actively at war there. This means that many of the men and women deployed there likely could not even find their location on a map.
  • The trope is often exaggerated when applied to Christopher Columbus, with people saying he thought the Earth was flat and wanted to sail to the edge or that he thought it was shaped like a pear and way smaller than it really was (or, conversely, that he was the only person who knew that Earth is round when everyone else believed that it was flat). Neither of these are true; while he did think he landed on a different continent than where he really did, most of the "in the know" people had the exact same misconception, so he can hardly be singled out for not knowing better. His biggest error wasn't in underestimating Earth's size (though he did that as well) but in vastly overestimating how big Asia is.
  • A university professor once failed a student for comparing the social media culture of the United States and Australia because, since it's a continent in its own right, she wasn't aware that Australia is an actual country. The mistake was later rectified after the student was able to convince her that Australia is an actual country. She was fired for her ignorance and passive-aggressive Never My Fault attitudenote  after rectifying her mistake, and the student was refunded despite graduating because she almost failed her course for an unfair reason.


Video Example(s):


The capital is M!

Cricket thinks a state capital is the first letter of its name, which is a capital letter.

How well does it match the trope?

4.57 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / GlobalIgnorance

Media sources: