01 Jun The World in Pictures: What Are Countries Most Famous For?
The World in Pictures: what are countries most famous for?
We all have a certain idea in mind when thinking of other countries. Some good, some bad, some accurate, some hilarious.
Rand Rescue shares a snapshot of different countries with five things that they’re known for as indicated by other nations and visitors (whether prospective or those who have already visited). The content curated here was gathered from social media and travel sites, groups and forums. It may not represent those things these countries should be noted for or the things they are most proud of, but rather those things travellers are most aware of when visiting these nations or territories, OR those things most shared and searched for in search engines for these countries.
We noted negative aspects for a few nations (like South Africa) because these are things that cannot be overlooked – but we tried to keep the ‘negatives’ to one point only, and don’t want to dwell on it too much.
Note: All images were acquired via paid premium licensing, free-for-use platforms or under the various Creative Commons licences. Where CC attributions are required we note these in our sources. If these images are redistributed they should refer/link back to this article for licensing and CC attribution purposes.
Highs and lows
Argentina’s landscape is quite amazing. With both the highest and lowest points in the Southern Hemisphere, a range of lakes, glaciers, deserts and forests, the nation has a wealth of experiences for nature and geography lovers.
Latin America has a wealth of dances and dance styles, but few are as famous as the Tango which hails from Argentina.
Argentina loves their ‘braais’ or asado as much as South Africans, but if there’s one dish they’re known for the world over it’s undoubtedly empanadas. Other famed dishes include dulce de leche, provoleta and the condiment chimichurri.
‘Cowboys’ may be famous for their representation in US films, but the gaucho are by far the most representative of the ‘cowboy’ lifestyle in the world. The nomadic horsemen of Argentina and Uruguay are still seen to this day.
If you like your bread, thank the Argentinians. Wheat is said to have originated in the Tigris and Euphrates valley near Iraq, but Argentina is one of the greatest producers of wheat in the world.
Pairing a lion and a fish may sound odd, but merlions are a famous sight in Singapore – from statues and branding to water features and collectibles.
If your country wins the award for the best airport year-on-year then chances are you really have the best airport in the world. Many visitors fly to Singapore just to land in Changi airport.
Law & order
If there’s one thing you know to do in Singapore, it’s obeying the law. Not only are their laws strict, but they legislate even minor actions – which is how they keep their streets clean and their crime low. Many people are even afraid to visit Singapore for fear of being charged with crimes for minor infractions.
Singapore is known as the ‘garden state’. There is an abundance of greenery and public parks to fascinate visitors.
Perhaps one of its greatest claims to fame is the quirky, dramatic, strange, impressive and continuously evolving architecture and arrangement of these – most of which is amplified by the lighting at night.
Many people don’t realise quite how big Australia is – and within its enormous nation lies the outback, an arid and semi-arid landscape filled with unique landscapes, geography and wildlife.
Sydney Opera House
As one of the most iconic buildings in the world, the Sydney Opera House is synonymous with Australia – whether for its unique features or the entertainment it houses within.
Australia, like South Africa, New Zealand and other nations, is fond of its rugby, cricket and hockey in particular (and don’t forget the footy). But just like California, Australia is seen as a hub for surfer lifestyle, snorkelling and other watersports.
Kangaroos are undoubtedly not the only strange creatures which fill Australia’s landscape (there are dingoes, kookaburras, koalas, emus, giant spiders and other critters), but they’re synonymous with ‘down under’.
South Africa has the Khoi San people, Australia has the Aboriginal people. While the cradle of humankind is said to be in SA, the Aboriginal people of Australia are believed to be the oldest civilization on earth based on DNA studies, with ancestry traced to approximately 72 000 years ago. These people were indeed also linked to an ‘out of Africa’ event which preceded their establishment, but the lineage of those African people lead to Australia and Papua New Guinea.
From cars to buildings to devices – German engineering is something the world has always admired and looked up to. Visitors can view many of the factories or museums where these ideas sprung from.
Germany has multiple well known scientists in ‘its repertoire’, but Albert Einstein is perhaps the most well known. Other renowned German scientists include Kepler, von Humboldt, Born, Benz, Planck, Heisenberg, Hertz, Ohm and more.
Whether Germany likes it or not – Oktoberfest is one of the celebrations to attend. While it is celebrated the world over, being there in person certainly trumps other alternatives.
As with Russia, South Africa, Belgium, England, the USA and many other nations – human rights atrocities are unfortunately not only part of German history but a major factor which attracts visitors. While Holocaust remembrance sites aren’t necessarily within German borders, it is the point of origin.
Few things attract car fans much like the Autobahn. While it is perhaps not as impressive for those who experience it frequently, the idea of a roadway which doesn’t limit one to a certain speed is embedded in others’ minds as synonymous with Germany.
When the world thinks of the USA, they think of Hollywood. It’s not merely a destination, but a state of mind – it’s a place where fans and hopefuls in the entertainment industry flock to, whether to be seen, noticed or to spot a famous face.
One can readily go to Asia to find fast food in abundance, but the USA has perfected the franchising of fast food and embedded their brands throughout the world – from KFC and Burger King to Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.
It’s odd for one country to proclaim a ‘world competition’ which exists almost exclusively within its borders, and yet the USA has managed to make it a worldwide event – mostly due to the quirky advertising which they showcase during the Superbowl.
War & weapons
The USA is a military powerhouse for good reason. It has been at war more than any other country in modern history and has been at war continuously longer than any modern nation. The US military invasion and tactics and focus on arms is what is perhaps most well known for the world over.
Given the enormous range of the USA, there are numerous amazing sights to see in the country – including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Caddo Lake, the Dry Tortugas, the Everglades, Glacier National Park and Niagara Falls.
Jamaica is well known as the country which produces some of the fastest runners in the world – Usain Bolt perhaps being the most famous. Scientists have linked the athletic aptitude of the people to their genetic heritage.
Reggae music has its origins in Jamaica. Bob Marley is perhaps the most famous of these musicians, but he is hardly the only famous face associated with reggae.
Whether you’re a keen Caribbean visitor or simply love watching Captain Jack Sparrow sway about – one and all associates Jamaica with Rum.
Ackee & Saltfish
We may know our bokkoms, but few national dishes are as unique as ackee and saltfish found in Jamaica. Ackee (a type of lychee) fried with salted cod is something people from around the globe associate with Jamaica.
An odd entry, but one which finds favour with literary and film buffs the world over: Sir Ian Fleming who wrote James Bond was not only inspired to write his series while living in Jamaica, but found inspiration and settings for at least 10 of his James Bond novels in Jamaica.
One may assume the non-western equivalent of Hollywood to be Bollywood, but Nigeria’s ‘Nollywood’ is the second largest film industry in the world.
Nigeria is undoubtedly the capital of phishing scams in the world. While it is a source of jokes both within and outside Nigeria, no one can deny the association with phishing and spam.
Masquerades are hardly a Nigerian concept, and yet it is part and parcel to the Nigerian culture. Masquerades are the greatest showcase of Nigeria’s cultural diversity and heritage.
Nigeria is the most populous ‘black’ nation in the world, meaning it has the greatest representation of black heritage and people across the world.
The oldest dye pits in the world have been found in Nigeria, which makes sense given the remarkable diversity of coloured fabrics and application of dyes in their clothing and artefacts.
It’s not exactly clear where the idea of France as the home of romance stems from, but the idea has stuck. Couples are particularly keen to visit the country to indulge
their romantic whims.
Champagne is not only a place, but it is synonymous with the bubbly alcoholic beverage which is made in the region and may not be used to sell sparkling wine from any other origin.
France is famous for their unique performances of cabaret and dance by scantily-dressed performers. The original Moulin Rouge was destroyed in 1915 and rebuilt in 1921 and is a favourite for visitors to this day.
French cuisine is famed the world over as a culinary style of cooking which follows specific rules and recipes. It’s far more than just cuisine, though, as the country is also famous for how things may be paired and in what sequence things should be consumed in a social setting.
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is hardly the only landmark France is known for, but it is definitely the most famous. Other entries include the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de PAris, Centre Pompidou, the catacombs, Arc de Triomphe and…while not in France, the Statue of Liberty in the USA is also a symbol of France in a sense.
Step aside Argentina, Australia and USA – South Africa will not give this title up to anyone. Braai is not just a way of cooking, it is a social occasion. Even our children are taught to cook food over open fires – whether for a shisa nyama or weekend braai, it is ingrained in all our cultures and part of who we are.
We can’t deny the fact that we are known for Apartheid. It may be a sore point for most people in our country, but it is also part of the journey which we’ve all lived and – whether good or bad – a reason why many tourists come to visit our country.
We have the great meteor to thank for the fact that South Africa is one of the richest countries in terms of mineral wealth in the world. The impact left a crater which ‘unearthed’ deposits of minerals and placed SA on the map for investors and tourists.
Nelson Mandela is one of the most well-known faces in the world for uniting a nation and stepping out of 27 years of incarceration into political power without an ounce of hatred or despair to unite a nation through sport, music and colourful shirts.
Cape Floral Kingdom
Table mountain itself is one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, but not only that – it is home to the smallest and most biodiverse floral kingdom in the world. The Cape Floral kingdom outranks even the Amazon rainforest in terms of endemic biodiversity, with more than 9 600 plant species which grow nowhere else in the world.
Russia isn’t the country with the most medals in weight-lifting (that honour goes to China), but Russia has the most weight-lifters and people dedicated to weight-lifting in the world.
Russian Revival architecture
Russian revival architecture, which is particularly common in Russian Orthodox Christian buildings, is fascinating not only for the shapes and nature of the structures, but also for the vibrant colours of these buildings.
As with South Africa, Germany, England and Belgium on this list, sadly the top-of-mind and primary thing people associate Russia with is currently the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia is well-known for having produced some of the greatest writers and literary works in history. These include Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Turgenev, Nabokov, Gogol, Leo Tolstoy and Pasternak.
Whether in memes, ads, Hollywood films or common conversations – Russia is synonymous with vodka.
Modern martial arts didn’t actually start in China, but it was perfected in China’s Shaolin Temple. China is famous for kung fu in particular, which can be traced back to the Zhou dynasty.
China is the home of pandas. The world is fascinated with these black and white bears, not only for their odd shading, but also for all the goofy memes and footage which show just how different these animals are to other bears.
Made in China
If there’s one thing China is certainly most famous for it’s branding all products made in the country with the well known ‘Made in China’ emblems, stickers, engravings, etchings and labels.
The Great Wall of China
One of the greatest feats of architecture and construction is the Great Wall of China. South Africa’s own Braam Malherbe and David Grier were the first and last persons to ever run the entire length of the Great Wall of China in one go.
Dragons are considered luck-bringers in Chinese culture and can be seen in anything from the Chinese Dragon dance to artworks, fashion, architecture and collectibles.
Italy is not the only country known for fast cars, but it is home to some of the most blitz auto brands in the world, including Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini. Even if rivals like Germany are known for other famous fast rides, Italy is a favourite for those who want to take their fast cars on road trips.
We cannot mention Italy without reference to pasta. The land of a thousand types of pasta where nonnas are happy to share the recipes passed down through generations – but only in taste, as you wouldn’t get them to write these recipes down.
One of the most famous landmarks in the world, the Colosseum, is located in Rome, just east of the Roman forum. It is the largest standing amphitheatre in the world which is still standing.
Fashion is synonymous with Milan. When one thinks of catwalks and style – Italy is top of mind. Fashion buyers, models and designers flock here for a glimpse of the new styles and goods.
The Roman Catholic church
While the Holy See/Vatican is considered an autonomous region, it is still very much part of Italy. Hundreds of thousands of visitors visit the nation for spiritual enlightenment from the Pope as head of the Roman Catholic church. Of course, the many atrocities committed by the church makes it a double-edged sword in terms of PR.
One of Mexico’s most famous artists is undoubtedly Frida Kahlo. Many people visit the country to catch a glimpse of her life and culture.
While Latin-American nations all love their soap operas, Mexico produces more telenovelas than any other country in the world! Many famous celebrity stars have started out on the sets of these soap operas.
The Maya (Mesoamerican) civilisation which spanned Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador is showcased most dramatically in the Mayan ruins in Mexico which tourists flock to each year.
Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead is not the only celebration Mexico is known for, nor is this celebration restricted to Mexico, but it is undoubtedly one of the observances the country is most well known for.
Whether taken on its own or as part of cocktails like Margaritas, tequila is one of Mexico’s greatest exports.
The Hagia Sophia is a highly significant landmark for both Orthodox Christians and Muslims. But it is not merely a symbol of religious heritage, it is also an emblem of historical and cultural heritage.
The evil eye may sound quite ominous, but the purpose of the symbol is to offer protection from evil. You will see the emblem on jewellery, crockery, linen and many other materials and products throughout Turkey.
Hot air balloons
The hottest thing to do in Turkey is take off in a hot air balloon – also quite readily available given they are the country with the most hot air balloons in the world.
While kebabs may be one of the most famous dishes, Turkey has offered a wealth of culinary treats to the world. From Turkish delight to turkish tea, dolma, pita and much more. It should be noted, however, that Turkey is not the only country where these dishes stems from as the traditional roots of the food stem from times where political borders looked far different.
While South Africans may know about church bazaars, Turkey is famous for these. They also have one of the oldest and biggest bazaars in the world.
Not only does Sweden not have any waste, but they actually import waste which they use to generate clean energy and electricity.
You don’t need to have an IKEA in your country to know about it. Many jokes and memes have been distributed with people struggling to assemble furniture on their own.
Sweden is considered the pop music capital of the world. With stars like ABBA and Roxette it’s no surprise.
Swedish meatballs are quite unique compared to other types of meatballs the world over. Also one of the most served and consumed foods in the country.
The Nobel Prize
Arthur Nobel is a prominent Swedish claim to fame. The father of international excellence in different fields and industries, it’s no surprise why he makes this list.
It’s hard to choose a single waterway which represents Egypt between the Nile and the Suez canal, but in global minds the Nile takes precedence.
Engravings and paintings on objects aren’t Egyptian in the least, but when people envision these, they automatically think of Egypt, which makes it a top spot for ancient art on walls and other materials
Likewise, camels aren’t restricted to Egypt, but it is what the world thinks of when they imagine Egypt.
Undoubtedly the most prominent representations of Egypt are the pyramids scattered throughout their landscape. Many pyramids aren’t found within modern Egyptian borders, but tourists flock to Egypt for the most prominent of these.
English playwright William Shakespeare is undoubtedly one of the most well known writers in history. Not only are his books and plays studied the world over, but he has arguably had the greatest influence on the English language of any single individual.
The whole world is hooked on the affairs of the British Royal family. Whether weddings, birthdays, funerals or scandals.
Having invaded 90% of the world and taken artefacts from all conquered nations, England hosts the greatest collection of foreign treasures in the world. Moreover, they even have legislation which outlaws their persecution or the return of such artefacts to other countries. To date, England has been most set against returning any artefacts to other countries, despite other nations taking great strides to do so.
The Big Ben
There are thousands of landmarks in England which tourists associate with England, but the Big Ben is certainly one of the most prominent in most minds.
The Queen’s Guard
The Queen’s Guard can almost be seen as landmarks in their own right given their stoicism and nearly unchanging stances on any given day. Most tourists like to take snapshots of these guards when visiting the country.
Believe it or not, but Belgium is a massive hub for comic book fans. While the world may think of US comics or anime when they think of comic books, Belgium is the home of many prominent international comics like Tintin, Lucky Luke, The Smurfs and Nero.
Belgium is deeply ingrained in the minds of all fashion and textile designers as one of the prime regions for lace, especially in Bruges.
NATO has been in the news quite often in recent years, so it is no surprise that people around the world know that it is headquartered in Belgium (as is the EU).
The Congolese holocaust
As far as genocides and the impact of colonialism on a single region goes – Belgium has the worst history of all. King Leopold II of Belgium – who was no king to begin with, not only took over the Congo in the name of Belgium, but amassed around £3 million (nearly R60 million) between 1896 and 1906 alone and his reign led to the death of at least 10 million Congolese people and this doesn’t account for all the mutilations and other abuses this atrocious tyrant was guilty of.
One cannot mention Belgium without mentioning chocolate. The airports in Belgium sell more chocolate than any other place on earth alone. Waffles come in a close second in the culinary world.
South Africa and many other nations in Africa are obviously also famous for our safaris, but safari is to Kenya like cricket is to India – it is the tourism staple of the country.
Whether Kenyans like it or not, the former US president put the country on the map for many western nations, in particular the USA, given his Kenyan heritage.
Of all African nations, Kenya is the most formidable in terms of athletics – from sprinting to long jump and marathons – they have consistently represented their nation and the African continent on the world stage for decades.
The Maasai tribe is not limited to Kenya, but the bulk of these people reside within Kenyan borders. The Maasai are known for their warrior jumping competitions, colours, and protection of natural resources and people.
As the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the favourite spots for hikers, nature enthusiasts and mountaineers the world over.
While breaking plates is a symbolic ritual used to signal an end and beginning (from Greek Orthodox funerals), the rest of the world remains fascinated by this and is also quite keen to be allowed to break things in a sense of celebration.
White & blue
White buildings along azure coasts are synonymous with Greece and Greek islands. Far more than a mere architectural phenomenon, it elicits feelings of calm and attracts visitors the world over.
The Olympic Games
Greece is well known as the birthplace of the Olympic Games. Many architectural marvels still speak to ancient Greek obsession with human feat and competition.
Greece is unquestionably the home of philosophy – from Aristotle, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Diogenes, Epicurus and Thales, these philosophers also informed the course of law, mathematics, science, politics and healthcare the world over.
Olives & olive oil
Where else would you go if you loved all things to do with olives? Olives are part of most Greek dishes and are synonymous with the country.
Brazil may not be the only nation to hold this stereotype, but for those who wish to visit the nation, the images and videos they’ve seen have indicated that it is host to many odd creatures – many of which are more dangerous the more colourful they are.
Football is as much a religion as religion is to the people. While other nations may have similar sentiments, including Argentina, Spain, England, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Germany and so forth…no other nation beats Brazil in terms of fandom.
Christ the Redeemer
By far the most iconic landmark in Brazil is the Christ the Redeemer statue situated atop the Corcovado overlooking Rio de Janeiro.
While the Amazon rainforest and river span several countries in South America, it is most widely associated with Brazil, which homes more than 60% of the rainforest.
Brazil is hardly the only nation to hold carnivals and go all out – but the world cannot think of Brazil without envisioning the bright, colourful and eclectic wear and wares of the Rio Carnival.
Spices aren’t necessarily Indian – they could literally originate from anywhere in the world and many of the spices grown and used in India may not have originated there, but if spice is what you’re looking for, India is your thing.
India is well known for the beautiful and intricate adornments which is both part of Indian culture and synonymous with Hinduism.
Who can mention India without talking about Bollywood. The Asian answer to Hollywood culture and film, Bollywood has taken the world by storm.
Cricket did not originate in India, and other nations like South Africa, Australia, the West Indies, England and Pakistan are all crazy about their cricket – nothing compares to the hype around cricket in India.
It’s almost impossible to interact with major (or minor) brands the world over without reaching an Indian call centre or email support agent at some point. The country is famous for one of the hotspots for outsourcing customer support. Not all people view this as a positive point for India – but it is a stereotype perpetuated throughout the world.
Vincent van Gogh
One of the most well known artists in the world is Vincent van Gogh. He is famous for his unique style of painting, his use of colour, as well as his numerous self portraits, some of which show him after he’d cut off his own ear.
The Netherlands is a place where you travel by bicycle. Well, of course there are other modes of travel, but if you want to see the world on a bicycle, this is surely the place to go.
Indeed, it’s hard to mention the Netherlands without talking about its well-known decriminalisation of cannabis and cannabis usage. Many visitors flock here for this very reason.
If you want to see windmills, the Netherlands should be your top spot. Not only can you see a range of older windmills used for the purpose of milling, but the country is well-known for using wind generation as a green energy source.
Much like Namaqualand’s daisies, visitors flock to the Netherlands to view and photograph tulips in bloom.
South Africa may want to claim this one, but just like India and cricket, rugby is undoubtedly associated with New Zealand. Their haka being incorporated into rugby culture speaks to how intrinsic it is to the nation.
Lord of the Rings
Not only was Lord of the Rings filmed on location in New Zealand, but the tale by South African born author J. R. R. Tolkien has seen a wide range of sights pop up in New Zealand.
The volcanic black beaches of New Zealand are a sight to see for one and all – an oddity for those who associate beaches with white sands.
While many people like to reproduce the tribal style tattoos of Polynesian people, Kiri Tuhi (skin art) is intrinsically linked to ethnic identity among the Maori people of New Zealand and are deliberately designed and created to represent the Manawa lines of the people who bear them – these aren’t random tattoos but deliberate representations of one’s identity.
Many jokes have been made about New Zealanders and sheep…and these aren’t entirely wrong – New Zealand really has the most sheep in the world.
Nihon kenchiku consists of four primary architecture styles mostly focused on structures’ roofs: kirizuma (gabled roofs), yosemune (hipped roofs), irimoya (hip-and-gable roofs), and hogyo (square pyramidal roofs).
Kobe is not just famous for its beef – it’s also the home of karaoke. There is hardly a place on earth where karaoke is as celebrated and such a favourite pastime as in Japan.
Geiko or geigi is not just a way of dressing and doing one’s makeup, it is a traditional cultural practice which incorporates performing arts, dance, music, singing, hosting, behaviour and appearance.
Samurai aren’t just people who are skilled with swords. The bushi were purposely employed as warriors who served a military service from the 10th to 19th century. Samurai culture is also widely represented in manga and anime.
Few scenes are as wondrous and breathtaking as seeing Mount Fuji framed by a pink carpet of cherry blossoms.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The mounties are well known throughout the world – mostly for their distinct outfits, though word is that they are also quite charming.
The maple leaf isn’t on the Canadian flag for nothing. Maple syrup is a staple (and not only in Canada)
Bears, bears everywhere. At least that’s what it seems like. Bears aren’t a Canadian entry on their own, as they also coincide with the salmon run. Of course bears aren’t restricted to Canada and are common in the USA, Russia, China and other places, but people undoubtedly associate bears with Canada.
Canada is a country of lakes, framed by the most beautiful landscapes. It is a favourite for those who want to escape the bustling cities as well as nature photographers.
Ice hockey is undoubtedly one of the greatest beacons of Canadian branding for those the world over.
Go see the world!
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