Britons ‘can only name four capitals’

15th Apr 2012
Written by: Andrew Tipp

Britons ‘can only name four capitals’

Survey of UK reveals poor grasp of world geography

If you’re planning your gap year adventure chances are you’ve spent hours poring over maps, and are pretty clued up when it comes to country capitals. But according to a new survey, the UK is pretty useless when it comes to world geography.

A poll of 1,318 adults by the online travel agent found that most Britons do not know the capitals of popular backpacking destinations such as Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and the USA.

The results of the holiday survey revealed that the average respondent could name only four capital cities.

The responses highlighted frequent misconceptions over country capitals. Many respondents named Sydney as the capital of Australia rather than Canberra, Auckland as the capital of New Zealand rather than Wellington, and Rio de Janeiro as the capital of Brazil instead of Brazilia.

Other surprising responses named Barcelona as the capital of Spain (rather than Madrid), Mumbai as the capital of India (rather than New Delhi), and Montreal as the capital of Canada (rather than Ottawa).

The most common mistake made by Britons surveyed was naming New York, rather than Washington D.C., as the capital of the United States.

But perhaps the most shocking capital confusion was the naming by a number of respondents of Glasgow as the capital of Scotland instead of Edinburgh.

Chris Clarkson, spokesperson for, suggested the results unexpected. He said: “It’s quite surprising when you take a look at Britons’ knowledge of the rest of the world.

He added: “Even for those who aren’t well travelled, you would expect people to be able to point out certain places on a world map.

The knowledge of world capitals isn’t really of great importance in the day-to-day lives of most people. However, if you got many of the above examples wrong and want to avoid looking like an idiot in casual travel chats – or ever want to put in a strong showing at a pub quiz – it’s probably a good idea to spend some time with Google Maps. Or an Atlas. An Atlas is a book. With maps. Oh, ask your dad; he’ll have one.

How is your grasp of world geography? What’s the funniest capital error you’ve ever made, or ever heard someone else make?


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