Why oh Why: What Are Googlers Asking About the World?

So. I saw a map on Twitter a few days ago which demonstrated the most popular Swedish google searches for the question, “why is [country] so…” applied to each country in Europe. This got me checking what google.co.uk users had been asking (minus the “so”), and, geo nerd that I am, I soon got to work compiling my own list of the top answers, which I’ve divided by subject as best I could.

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Fascinating snapshot of the state of the world early in the 21st Century, or a pointless waste of a few hours of I’ll never get back? You decide!

 

Obesity:

  • Why is Nauru the fattest country in the world?
  • Why is Samoa so fat?
  • Why is Tonga so fat?
Nauru
Well over 90% of people on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru are overweight

Climate:

  • Why is Australia so hot?
  • Why is Cyprus so hot?
  • Why is Libya so hot?

Religion:

  • Why is Albania Muslim?
  • Why is Indonesia Muslim?
  • Why is the Czech Republic atheist?
  • Why is Estonia so atheist?

The sea:

  • Why is the Bahamas water so clear?
  • Why is Fiji water so good?
Fiji
Fiji

War and civil strife:

  • Why is South Sudan at war?
  • Why is Sudan at war?
  • Why is Syria at war?
  • Why is Thailand protesting?
  • Why is Ukraine protesting?

International relations and borders:

  • Why is Norway not in the EU?
  • Why is Romania in the EU?
  • Why is Serbia not in the EU?
  • Why is Taiwan not in the UN?
  • Why is Azerbaijan in Europe?
  • Why is Comoros in the Arab League?
  • Why is East Timor a different nation?
  • Why is Guyana part of the Caribbean?
  • Why is Ireland divided?
  • Why is Kosovo not part of Albania?
  • Why is Lesotho separate from South Africa?

Geography:

  • Why is Chile so long?
  • Why is Italy shaped like a boot?
  • Why is Kazakhstan so big?
  • Why is Oman split in two?
  • Why is Russia so big?
Italy: kicking Sicily up the arse since dinosaurs roamed the arse
Italy: kicking Sicily up the arse since dinosaurs roamed the earth

Important/ famous

  • Why is Afghanistan important?
  • Why is Benin important?
  • Why is Israel important?
  • Why is Kyrgyzstan important?
  • Why is Macedonia important?
  • Why is Paraguay important?
  • Why is Belgium famous?
  • Why is Lithuania famous?
  • Why is Poland famous?

Internet country codes:

  • Why is Algeria dz?
  • Why is Croatia hr?
  • Why is South Africa za?
  • Why is Switzerland ch?

Telemarketing scams:

  • Why is Antigua and Barbuda calling me?
  • Why is Dominica calling me?

Violence:

  • Why is Honduras so dangerous?
  • Why is Iraq so dangerous?
  • Why is Jamaica so violent?
  • Why is Papua New Guinea so violent?
  • Why is Venezuela dangerous? 
Papua New Guinea: "Dangerous? Us?!"
Papua New Guinea: “Dangerous? Us?!”

Climate change: 

  • Why are the Maldives at risk?
  • Why are the Marshall Islands sinking?
  • Why is Kiribati sinking?
  • Why is Madagascar in danger?
  • Why is Tuvalu under threat?

Wealth:

Googlers are keen to know why the following countries are so “rich”: Austria, Botswana, Brunei, China, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Germany, Kuwait, Mauritius, Qatar, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, the UAE, and the US.

I've never quite understood why Brunei has such a reputation for wealth...
I’ve never quite understood why Brunei has such a reputation for wealth…

Happiness:

  • Why is Bhutan so happy?
  • Why is Costa Rica so happy?
  • Why is Denmark so happy?
  • Why is Vanuatu the happiest place on Earth?

Economic development:

  • Why is Kenya an LEDC?
  • Why is Mozambique an LEDC?
  • Why is Nigeria an LEDC?
  • Why is Tanzania an LEDC?
  • Why is Cambodia underdeveloped?
  • Why is Sri Lanka a developing country?
  • Why is Zimbabwe in poverty?
Zimbabwe: money's not worth very much when inflation per annum reaches the sextillions
Zimbabwe: money’s not worth very much when inflation per annum reaches the sextillions

Tourism:

  • Why is Malaysia a popular tourist destination?
  • Why is Spain a popular tourist destination?

Names and nicknames:

A common question was to ask why a particular country is named the way it is: for eg, “Why is Brazil called Brazil”. The following countries can also be placed in this category: Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Finland, France, Gambia, Grenada, Jordan, Micronesia, New Zealand, Niger, Peru, Portugal, and El Salvador. A few further countries were the basis of similar queries:

  • Why is Belarus called White Russia?
  • Why is Burma now called Myanmar? [Alternatively: Why is Myanmar called Burma?]
  • Why is Gambia called the Gambia?
  • Why is Grenada called the Spice Island?
  • Why is Lebanon called the Lebanon?
  • Why is St Lucia called Helen of the West?
  • Why is the Ivory Coast called the Ivory Coast?
  • Why is the Netherlands called Holland?
Yellow area: Holland. Grey area: the rest of the Netherlands
Yellow area: Holland. Grey area: the rest of the Netherlands

Cost of living:

  • Why is Angola so expensive?
  • Why is Belize so expensive?
  • Why is Djibouti so expensive?
  • Why is Sweden so expensive?
  • Why is the Seychelles so expensive?
  • Why is Bulgaria so cheap?
  • Why is Egypt so cheap?
  • Why is Malta so cheap?
  • Why is Morocco so cheap?
  • Why is Tunisia cheap?

Population density:

  • Why is Canada sparsely populated?
  • Why is Mauritania sparsely populated?
  • Why is Mongolia so sparsely populated?
  • Why is Namibia so sparsely populated?
  • Why is Suriname so sparsely populated?
  • Why is Bahrain so densely populated?
  • Why is Barbados densely populated?
Mauritania: lots of sand, not so many people
Mauritania: lots of sand, not so many people

Why a country?

  • Why is Andorra a country?
  • Why is Liechtenstein a country?
  • Why is Monaco a country?
  • Why is San Marino a country?
  • Why is Sao Tome and Principe a country?
  • Why is St Kitts and Nevis a country?
  • Why is Bosnia and Herzegovina one country?
  • Why is Trinidad and Tobago one country?
  • Why is the Vatican City its own country?

Football:

  • Why is Colombia ranked so high? [That is, apparently, in the FIFA rankings]
  • Why is Senegal playing in Casablanca? [Referring to a 2014 World Cup play-off match]
  • Why is Uruguay so good at football?

Miscellaneous:

  • Why is Armenia not recognised by Pakistan?
  • Why is the Central African Republic a failed state?
  • Why is Cuba bad?
  • Why is the Dominican Republic richer than Haiti?
  • Why is Iceland green and Greenland ice?
It's a good question...
It’s a good question…
  • Why is Iran a threat?
  • Why is Japan so weird?
  • Why is Luxembourg a tax haven?
  • Why is Panama’s geographic location important?
  • Why is Palau a wonder of the world?
  • Why is Saudi Arabia against Iran?
  • Why is Swaziland’s life expectancy so low?
  • Why is Uganda homophobic?
  • Why is the UK in debt?
Uganda: truly a bastion of tolerance
Uganda: truly a bastion of tolerance

japan_weird

Poor:

The first suggestions for the following countries is to ask why they are “poor”: Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, DR Congo, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Hungary, India, Laos, Latvia, Liberia, Malawi, Mexico, Moldova, Nepal, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, the Solomon Islands, Somalia, Tajikistan, Togo, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zambia.

Well, that’s a bit boring, so here are a handful of the next most popular questions people have been asking about these countries. As you’ll see, most of these alternatives were no less damning!

  • Why is Burkina Faso at risk of desertification?
  • Why is DR Congo a failed state?
  • Why is Eritrea and Ethiopia at war?
  • Why is Ethiopia 7 days behind?
  • Why is Greece declining?
  • Why is Guatemala so dangerous?
  • Why is Hungary so racist?
  • Why is Laos communist?
  • Why is Mexico so violent?
  • Why is Moldova not part of Romania?
  • Why is North Korea so bad?
  • Why is Slovakia obese?
  • Why is Somalia lawless?
  • Why is Togo so unhappy?
  • Why is Uzbekistan corrupt? 
Greece: on the slide since 500BC
Greece: on the slide since 500BC

And finally…

Any eagle eyed anoraks may have noticed a quintet countries are missing from this list. For various reasons, these nations are no friends of Google…

Montenegro does not register on the search engine at all, presumably because the geniuses over at Google believe the name is a racial slur. St Vincent and the Grenadines too draws a blank, presumably because no one has ever been bothered to type in such a long winded name. Turkey is scuppered by the popular yuletide foodstuff of the same name. Georgia is impossible to do since all the entries relate not to the country but the eponymous US state (for the record, people want to know why it’s called the Peach State). And finally, googling Guinea brings up lots of suggestions about the Andean rodents of the same name. 

A guinea pig. Possibly from Guinea
A guinea pig. Possibly from Guinea
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