Shortcutting… Flags

10 Aug

With any meeting of nations comes that confusion of multi-coloured stripes, circles and stars that is… the flags! Yay! What better game to play while sitting in any cafe, shop or restaurant with the Olympic bunting on show than Name That Flag! Now, with so many countries (204), learning each and every flag is no simple task. I’d say I can name about 40 without revision (not that I’d revise… That would be weird…) – most of Europe plus USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and a handful of Asia, Africa and South America. I don’t know how your average, non-geography-trivia-loving person would compare, but I’m giving myself a ‘could do better’ (I’m really good at capital cities though, I swear!).

First on today’s agenda, I would like to present you with a guide for more easy flag-identification. I know you’ve been dying for one. (No seriously, please skip this paragraph unless you’re a hardcore flagophile – it’s very boring.) Starting with Europe, a good clue is the off-centre cross, which ought to point you in particular towards the Scandinavian region – see Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. Three equal vertical stripes is also a safe bet for Europe (France, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Romania, Belgium, Moldova, Andorra), three equal horizontal stripes (Russia, Hungary, Austria, Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia) or two horizontal stripes (Liechtenstein, Monaco, Poland, Ukraine, San Marino). That doesn’t quite cover Europe, but it’s a good start. Themes of Africa include stars (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Morocco, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Somalia, DRC, Togo), crescent moon and star (Algeria, Mauritania, Tunisia – Northern Africa), and triangle on the left with stripes (Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, Sudan, Zimbabwe). It turns out there are a fair few three vertical stripes here too, so maybe that ain’t such a good clue after all… The crescent moon, symbolizing Islam I believe, is also present in Asia (Malaysia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan), although apart from that there ain’t much of a trend… For Oceania, look for the Union Jack in the corner (Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Tuvalu), and for South America I’m going to say horizontal stripes with a twist – i.e. with a crest, or a lot more than three, or differing thicknesses. North America is rather un-patterned, except for a few flags that are divided into four segments in one way or another.

Whew. Okay. That’s over with. Now let’s have a bit more fun (no, don’t get too excited – I’m sticking with flags). Here are a couple of my favourites (if you don’t know them – and shame on you if you don’t – just hover over them and your questions will be answered):

And finally, just in case I haven’t quite bored you to death yet, I have one more piece of exciting trivia for you. For you will be thrilled to hear that there is one flag that is different, unique, an outsider. What is so special about this flag? It’s different on the front and back. I know! So exciting! But which flag is it? Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the flag of… Paraguay! Yayyyy! Woooo! So how exactly do the front and back differ? Well, the front has the country’s coat of arms on it, whereas the back has the Treasury Seal. Don’t believe me? Well here’s a lil pic for you to see for yourselves what the difference is:

Picture courtesy of

So there you go. Bet you’re all flagged out now. You’re probably waving the white flag of surrender  (see what I did there?). Your strength is diminishing – flagging, one might say. So I shall save semaphore for another day.

Suffice it to say, keep shortcutting,



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