We recently tried to count up all of the countries that we have visited and became stumped when we got to the United Kingdom. We were not sure if England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland should be counted as individual countries, or if they should be grouped under one country, United Kingdom.
To help us find a solution to our quandary, we sought out our trusted friend, Professor Google. This is where things got weird. Many of the definitions we could find called England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland “countries” and the definition for United Kingdom mentioned that it consists of 4 countries, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Some of the other definitions we found did not call them countries, but called them “divisions.”
Not having the time to fly back to the UK to personally ask the Queen while staying in a hotel in Paddington, we sought out the United Nations list of member states. The UN only lists the United Kingdom as a member, and not England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. So now the question is, should we only go by the UN list of countries like many people do? But here’s the problem. The UN does not list Western Sahara and Palestine (and a few others) as member countries, but they are included on Countries in the International Organization for Standardization list. But this list does not include England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland; just United Kingdom. However, according to our good friend, Professor Wikipedia, it states that the ISO list of the subdivisions of the UK is supplied by British Standards and the Office for National Statistics and so uses “country” to describe England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland, in contrast, is described as a “province” in the same lists.
And to confuse us even more, here is a great video to explain the United Kingdom:
Daunted by the lack of a clear definition, we posted this question on our Facebook page to see what others had to say. The results were interesting and the majority of people were in favor of calling them separate countries. This question also sparked some good debates. Here are the results of our very unscientific, yet entertaining, poll:
So, what have we decided to do? We have decided to count them as separate countries for our own country count.
What are your thoughts?
If all countries qualified for the competition then they could play each other in the World Cup but you don’t need to have a passport to travel between them. They have organisations in Wales (e.g. the DVLA which is where you get your UK driving licence from) that cater to all of the UK. It’s not entirely clear, the Welsh have their own language which is still taught in schools and is the medium through which other subjects are taught too – imagine trying to learn physics or chemistry in Welsh! As if they aren’t hard enough! I would call them separate countries with benefits?