That’s right! Talking about the green island — well, green, white and orange, if we want to get technical. Ireland is one of the most recognizable and influential English-speaking countries out there. Here we’ll explore some of the reasons behind that bold statement. We’ll also take a quick look at the geography, culture, and other aspects of this modern Celtic nation. Let’s do it!
One thing that can get confusing about Ireland is … well, what it is. There’s the island (and smaller isles) of Ireland, yes, which holds two different countries on it. One — the one we’re talking about — is the Republic of Ireland, or Poblacht na hÉireann if you want to get fancy (we’ll just call it Ireland for simplicity’s sake). The other is the United Kingdom, which lays claim on the island by way of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland itself is a bit confusing, not necessarily a country, but maybe a special county, a semi-autonomous region, we don’t know for sure.
Anyway, Ireland (the republic) is a bit easier to define. Unlike its Great British neighbors, Ireland is still in the EU. The rest of the UK sits just across the Irish Sea and the two entities have impacted each other for millennia now. Don’t check the watch on that one.
Ireland’s capital is Dublin, which is also the biggest urban area. Even though about 40% of Ireland’s people live in this one region, there are still other major towns like Cork, Limerick, and Galway. Irish people themselves are pretty homogeneous, being in not too big of a place. Still, immigrant communities are present and well on the island, with many coming from other parts of Europe, the Middle East, East Asia, and Brazil of all places.
Historically, Ireland has been divided into provinces. Namely, they are Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster. Today they don’t serve much of any administrative purpose, although they do hold value in other ways. Locally, the country is divided into 31 entities; that’s 26 counties, 3 cities, and 2 city-and-counties.
The climate in Ireland is temperate and maritime with mostly mild, cool weather. It can get super rainy but isn’t super snowy. These were great conditions for vast forests, although most of those have been cut down. Most the landscape these days is hilly and pastoral with green fields. A majority of the land is set aside for agriculture. There’s a general central plain that culminates in more highland areas around the edges, especially in the west. Much of the coast is rocky with cliffs. Cliff diving, anyone?
What’s the craic, lads? C’mon, give me your best Irish accent! We all know it when we hear it, and that’s due in part to the iconic culture of this place. Common social values in Ireland have to do with their unique sense of humor, storytelling, and folklore, an interest in politics and philosophy, admiration for wit, open expression, and the arts, as well as a pride for (and conflict with) the tricky history of the nation. Who really wants to bring up Protestant discrimination, foreign conquest and assimilation, or the several devastating famines? Not me, my friend.
This sense of pride, though, is one of the very reasons so many Irish abroad are quick to claim their origins. Often, even those with distant Irish descendants are happy to claim where their ancestry. This could be due in part to Irish last names being pretty easily identifiable.
A lot of them come from Gaelic origin, with names like O’Reilly, O’Hara, MacDonald, McAvoy, Murphy, Flanagan, Kennedy, etc. Oh, and the Normans had something to do with it (Kilpatrick, Kilkenny, Fitzpatrick, Fitzgerald), and the Welsh (Walsh). But hey, there’s a lot more to it. Some of the most iconic parts of Irish culture come from Gaelic roots, such as certain musical styles, dance, dress, and sports. I mean, hurling and Gaelic football are mostly an Ireland thing.
Farming and small-town life are also significant aspects of Irish identity, given all those agricultural fields we mentioned earlier. Counties play a role in many people’s identities, shaping things like accent and team affiliations, among others. Dublin is a major cultural and arts center, tied in as one of Europe’s most important financial and technology hubs too. It’s also had a lot more English influence over the years as compared to rural Ireland, so Anglo-Irish ID is a bit stronger than elsewhere in the country.
Irish folklore has also played a huge role in popular world folklore, especially in places like the U.S. and UK. Just think of how big Saint Patrick’s Day and shamrocks are outside of Ireland. Other major characters popularized (at least partially) by Irish storytellers include fairies, pixies, mermaids, the shapeshifting Pooka, the headless horseman, Dullahan, and most noteworthy of all, yes, leprechauns! Don’t know why I got all excited on that one.
Last one here, I wanted to mention Samhain (Saow-in). This traditional Celtic festival where turnips were used to scare away bad spirits would later evolve into today’s Halloween. Most of us use pumpkins instead of turnips now, but popular media have brought this spooky celebration all over the world. And it all stems back to pagan rituals. Imagine that.
Irish = Catholic?
After Gaelic culture, few things have influenced Irish identity and development like Catholicism. We know there’s a whole lot of controversy here, but what can I say? This Christian denomination is so crucial that it has basically been used as a major distinguisher between who is an “Irish national” and who is an “Irish Brit,” or just “Brit.” Irish from the republic are nominally a lot more Catholic, while those in Northern Ireland are a lot more Protestant. It could seem like a trivial difference, but centuries of squabbling and prejudice have really driven the fork deep between the two sides.
Even though it’s been a major issue, on and off, many Northern Irish still consider themselves as simply “Irish.” There’s steady talk of Irish unification too. I don’t know enough about it to voice an opinion, and I’m sure not everyone is open to that happening. Still, it shows how there is some mutual respect and cooperation between the two sides of the island.
The color green is often associated with the country on an international level. Despite conveniently being the color of clovers, it also is associated with the Catholic Church within Ireland (orange is associated with the Protestants).
Speaking the Gaelic
Irish Gaelic or Gaelige is a co-official language with English. It used to be the main language of the people up to about a hundred or so years ago. At different points in history, Ireland was under the control of Great Britain or England. The most recent time during the Industrial Revolution saw a rise in literacy and other factors that grew the English-speaking population substantially, kind of merking those poor Gaelic speakers. Well, not the speakers themselves, but you get it.
Nowadays, Gaelic has struggled to keep up since many don’t really see a need to learn it. Most fluent speakers happen to be older or from rural areas where Gaelic culture is still strong. Cities or areas that have significant amounts of Gaelic speakers are called Gaeltacht, I’ve gathered. Since it’s not really spoken outside of Ireland, and only spoken by a small percentage within its own country, you can understand why it’s a hard one to sell, especially to the youngsters.
Still, the language is mandatory in schools and most people know at least as much Gaelic as I know Spanish from my high school classes. There’s also a sense of revival for Gaelic in some communities, much like there is for lots of endangered languages around the globe. Despite not being fluently spoken by many, the language itself serves a sense of Celtic-rooted identity.
Many words, idioms, and expressions have made their way into the local variety of English. The Irish accent, influenced by Gaelic tongues, Norman and Anglo-Saxon dialects, English, and the several other Gaelic and Brythonic languages nearby have all shaped each other and meshed to influence the local version of English we all recognize today. Cool stuff.
To hear some people speaking in Gaelic and with Irish accents, watch and listen below!
Up to the north side of the Canadian west coast. Well, sort of. Less expensive than the south and a lot less populated, what Northern British Columbia lacks in those areas, it more than makes up for in God-given beauty. I guess it was just born that way.
North BC is known for gold rushes and a frontier past mixed with a Wild West persona where rugged mountains meet the green misty shores. A distinct corner of Cascadia merging the Ring of Fire and the Great Plains. Wooh, we’ve got a good one. Learn a bit about it with a quick profile, then stay tuned to read what makes this part of the province so unique.
northern BRITISH COLUMBIA: Quick Profile
British Columbia takes up the entire west coast of Canada. Strangely though, most of this coast in the north is cut off by Alaska, with which it shares a long U.S. border to the west and northwest. Northern BC is considered generally what’s north of Queen Charlotte Sound or Prince George, which happens to be the biggest town on this side of the province.
There are lots of mountains and highlands up here, especially along the rugged Coastal Mountains that are home to BC’s tallest peaks. The Rockies are also prevalent in the east and middle where they morph into a general northern mountain range. With many fjords and islands near the coast, there’s also the major archipelago called Haida Gwaii.
Most of this coast has oceanic and wet climates whereas the interior is generally continental or subarctic. This includes dense forests, semi-arid plains and woodlands, and tundra. East of the Rockies is a stretch of prairies too. The name for British Columbia comes from the name of the region before confederation, which comes from the Columbia River. Read here for more details on the name and about Southern British Columbia.
Well, why is Northern British Columbia so special? …
1. Because of the Lower Rockies
What are they?:
This is a section of the vast Rocky Mountains that is in the lower part of north British Columbia. They are filled with gorgeous mountain scenery, lakes, glaciers, and an abundance of waterfalls.
What do they have?:
In this general area are some notable provincial parks like Bowron Lake and Wells Gray. That last one has some very beautiful and iconic waterfalls like Helmcken Falls. There’s also the prominent Mount Robson, one of the tallest peaks in the province and the Rockies overall. It also has some nice glaciers and its own set of cascades in the Valley of the Thousand Falls.
2. Because of its Northern Mountains
What are they?:
In the north are a set of mountain chains that go from the northern bit of the Rockies and merge into separate ranges. These mountains cover much of the interior of the region with lots of spacious wilderness alongside the customary awe-inspiring scenery.
What do they have?:
For some of those raw wild landscapes of North America, the upper part of the Rockies has got it covered. These span places like Northern Rockies Provincial Park, the Kwadacha Wilderness, Dune Za Keyih Provincial Park, and the serene area around Muncho Lake.
In the inner mountain ranges can be found a distinct set of valleys and wildlands like in the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness and Mount Edziza, a prominent volcano with colorfully designed soils. There’s also the Stikine River Provincial Park with more tundra landscapes, a winding canyon, and hot springs to go along with them.
3. Because of the Coastal Mountains
What are they?:
The Coastal Range is a set of very rugged and tall mountains near the coast of British Columbia and along the U.S. border with Alaska. It’s home to the tallest peak fully within BC — Mount Waddington — and the tallest one period shared with Alaska — Mount Fairweather. I’m guessing its weather isn’t so fair, though.
What do they have?:
Besides those two massive climbing walls, these particular mountains have tons of beauty to add to British Columbia. We have Kitlope Heritage Conservancy and the Atlin or Téix’gi Aan Tlein Provincial Park.
Tatshenshini-Alsek way up north has especially pretty valleys and glaciers. On the opposite end is Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park with stunning lake-filled valleys, fjords, and falls.
4. Because of Haida Gwaii
What is it?:
Haida Gwaii (X̱aaydag̱a Gwaay.yaay in the Haida language) is the name of a group of large islands off the coast of northern British Columbia. With rocky shores and densely forested interiors, these islands are also a major site for trekking and adventure.
What does it have?:
There are a number of special features on the islands like impressive rock towers on the coasts and wooded trails that lead up to sweeping views of the islands into the highlands. One particular place to view these features is Gwaii Haanas National Park on Moresby Island. Other than amazing natural beauty, the park preserves several indigenous sites with iconic totem poles among other culturally significant structures.
5. Because of the Alaska Highway
What is that?:
“But this isn’t Alaska.” I know. This iconic highway — or a part of it, more accurately — runs through the prairies and lowlands of northeastern BC. The highway also runs through regional centers like Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson.
What does it have?:
Being a sort of crossroads for rail and road traffic, the Alaska Highway cuts across some scenic parts of the province, making it a popular drive in the area. There are also major towns like Dawson Creek, pretty much the starting point to the highway with an art gallery and a cool pioneer village.
On the north side of Peace River Country, Fort Nelson is one of the more isolated towns in BC. There’s also a heritage center, the namesake fort in “Fort” Nelson, and a drive that will take you into the isolated mountains or the Northwest Territories to get really lost. Also, enjoy those pretty Northern Lights.
6. Because of Barkerville
What is it?:
Barkerville is a unique historic town and park that used to be a booming center during the Cariboo Gold Rush of British Columbia. Not just some ghost town, it has been preserved very well and remains a tourist attraction.
What does it have?:
This place preserves a lot of the early frontier identity of British Columbia through fully restored buildings and active historic interpreters. I love how much Canada loves its history. As far as I can tell, the town is no longer inhabited but functions as a living breathing historic time capsule. The town was also very significant for Chinese Canadian immigrants and forms a key part of the strong Asian-Pacific presence in British Columbia.
7. Because of Great Bear Rainforest
What is it?:
This is one of the largest protected parts of the Pacific temperate rainforests, an ecoregion that stretches from Alaska all the way down into California. There are lots of dense woodlands and wildlife out there too.
What does it have?:
It’s essentially a protective zone along the coastal ranges. You go there just to enjoy pure natural wilderness. There’s also the anomalous “Spirit bear” or Kermode bears. They are a unique kind of black bear whose offspring are born every so often with white fur. How mystical!
8. Because of the Culture
Okay, so I try to fit in the cultural aspects of all of these places, but in northern British Columbia, it’s nature that dominates. I’m not saying that the railways, gold rushes, logging, and forestry had nothing to contribute. Many of the towns up here are set on preserving what life was like for the many pioneers that sought to make this area home … even if for a short while.
This is where the most open roads, the most rugged mountains, and the whitest black bears can be found under one boreal roof. From the world’s largest temperate rainforests to one of its most expansive prairies, this part of BC shows us that it holds its own as far as natural wonders go.
Definitely more rural than the south and with a bit of that Oregon Trail-Columbia country in the blood, it’s definitely more isolated than many places on the planet. With that, the diverse people and cultures from centuries over have maintained their mark on this remarkable patch of earth called Northern British Columbia.
**Did you enjoy reading about this remarkable place in Canada? Tell us what you like about Northern British Columbia, and shout out if you’re from there! Thanks so much for being a part of this site and this journey we’re on around the world. Feel free to check out other posts here on Cult-Surf and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to have a word, or collaborate! Talk soon. Peace.
What can we say about the nation of Guyana? It’s a fairly small country — well, most countries look small next to Brazil. Guyana is known for its preserved nature, unspoiled rainforests, scenic mountains, and wildlife. It’s a somewhat black, somewhat East Indian, really mixed country all around with a diverse and unique face in the world. Ready to learn more about the English-speaking world? Let’s talk about Guyana.
Geography: The Basics
Officially known as the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, the first thing to know is that Guyana’s located in South America. The nation is divided into 10 regions which are broken into smaller divisions called neighborhoods. Each neighborhood, represent! The capital city is Georgetown within the Demerara-Mahaica region.
The country has a total area of about 83,000 square miles (215,000 sq km). That makes it a bit bigger than Belarus and a bit smaller than Laos. The country’s population is over 743 thousand, slightly less than Bhutan or about the same as the city of Seattle.
Guyana on the Globe
So Guyana is actually part of a larger region called the Guianas. These are a group of countries and parts of countries in northern South America along the Atlantic coast, east of the Orinoco River. It shares land borders with Brazil, Suriname, and Venezuela with which it has an ongoing border dispute.
Most of the people and major towns are on the wet coastal plains, Georgetown included. Otherwise, Guyana has mountains inland at the Guiana Highlands. Mount Roraima is the highest peak which it shares on a 3-point border with Venezuela and Brazil.
The region has a bunch of those table-top mountains called tepuis, made popular in the Pixar movie, Up. The Essequibo is the longest river forming some major islands at its mouth. Also in the highlands is Kaieteur Falls, believed to be the biggest single-drop waterfall in the world!
Pretty easy to describe, Guyana’s climate is mostly tropical in the whole country. Of course, it is cooler in the highlands and wetter in the lowlands. It is fairly moist throughout the year with a rainier and drier season.
The coast and rivers have lots of wet plains, swamps, and mangroves, while sandy hills and savanna appear inland. There’s also a large rainforest region part of the greater Amazon forest system. Guyana has one of the largest and best-preserved forest areas in the world for its size.
What’s the History?
Like everywhere else in the Americas, Guyana was first inhabited by a number of indigenous peoples, most notably the Arawak and Carib tribes. The first Europeans that really settled there were the Dutch in the late 1500s, and they were able to set up a few distinct colonies there.
Later in the 1700s, the British took control, as you do. They eventually united the Dutch colonies into one and called it British Guiana, since there were other Guianas. Around this time, Venezuela started to dispute a large area of Guyanese territory as its own, claiming the area as Guayana-Esequiba.
And the claim has never really been resolved. Finally, in the 1970s Guyana gained independence from the UK, even though they’ve remained a part of the Commonwealth ever since.
There’s one strange part of Guyana’s history that needed its own separate section. Just after its independence in the ’70s, the government leased some land to this obscure American religious movement called the Peoples Temple. Over time, the group formed a cult that got real dangerous real fast.
The group went so far as to shoot down a plane, killing a U.S. Congressman in the process after he had just paid them a visit. If that weren’t enough, the next day the group performed a mass suicide or murder drinking some kind of Kool-Aid rip-off with poison in it. It’s a really random and odd story that is now tied to the history of Guyana. Alrighty then.
Okay … & Culture?
Even though Guyana is in South America, it is culturally a lot closer to the Caribbean. It’s considered a part of the greater mainland Caribbean region (places like Belize, Panama, south Florida, etc.), and this shows in the music, speech, cuisine, and other lifestyle aspects of the Guyanese people.
In particular, the culture has strong Anglo-Caribbean ties due to British colonization. This shows in English being the official language and its highly diverse population, hailing heritage from India, China, Africa, Portugal, and other parts of Europe. This also shows in its religions, where most the people are Christian, but there’s a large Hindu minority. There’s a smaller minority of Muslims and other beliefs too.
The nation of course gets immigration and influences from neighboring countries, especially the other Guianas. Guyana is one of the poorer nations in the region though, and it faces lots of challenges and corruption despite being a country rich in oil. They share a common history of Dutch colonization, heavy slave and indentured labor, and plantation lifestyles that other places like Suriname had. Even though it’s so diverse, Guyana’s people are centered mostly in a small area, allowing the different people groups to mix in well.
In the isolated areas, indigenous culture is more prominent, stemming from the main groups: Wai-wai, Macushi, Patamona, Lokono, Kalina, Wapishana, Pemon, Akawaio, and Warao. Beyond that, several communities were formed by escaped African slaves called Maroons, adding a unique flavor to Guyanese identity.
Even though Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America, most people speak Guyanese Creole as a first language. A common feature in most Caribbean countries, Guyana still technically has its own language. Pretty cool.
**What do you think about Guyana? Did you know this stuff, or have you learned something new? I hope you can share more information with us, and I hope this article taught you more about the English-speaking world. Thanks for being a reader! Take care out there.
If you haven’t noticed yet, Iceland has a lot that makes it a unique country in and of itself. Making our way around the island, this post will dwell a bit on the two northern regions. Being so far up there, these are the two parts of the country that reach closest to the Arctic. Here you can read parts one and two of Iceland. It’s a little colder and more remote so far north. But what is it that makes the Northwestern and Northeastern Regions so unique? Let’s start by getting acquainted with this part of Iceland, shall we?
The names of both of these regions describe exactly where they stand on the map, and that goes for both in Icelandic and English. So, we at least know where they are. Common for subarctic countries, they also have some big fjords (though not quite like the Westfjords).
The capital of Northwestern is Sauðárkrókur (Saudarkrokur), and Akureyri for Northeastern. Both of these regions have pretty extensive coastlines and mountains, though there are some full-blown ice sheets down in the south of them. The northernmost points in both the island and the country of Iceland are in the Northeastern Region, where there are a few isles that reach above the Arctic Circle. Now on to the uniqueness!
Features & Places
1. The Capitals
Since we already mentioned them, let’s just start with the capital towns. I know the names might be a little confusing, so I’ll just refer to them here as S-Town and A-Town. Both of these northern regions look to be quite rural and country, even for Iceland standards. Still, this gives these towns even more of a cozy feel within the country.
Not only are these towns surrounded by scenic landscapes like sweeping harbors and snowcapped peaks. Especially with A-Town, there are a couple of other places to see like the Into the Arctic center, Iceland’s Motorcycle Museum for those who like motor grease, and a quiet Botanical Garden for those who like to sit in nature.
2. Northwestern: The Countryside
Of course, there is plenty to see outside of the capitals. In the Northwestern Region, Blönduós and Skagafjörður (Skagafjordur) come to mind out of the many idyllic countrysides here. In the area, there are even more scenes of majestic nature and landscapes stooped with watery valleys. A very cool feature of both these regions is that you can find many of those traditional sod-roof Nordic houses covered in grasses. When the ice has melted away, these homes and cabins are a pretty sight to see.
3. Special Lakes
If you like lakes, this is your place! 😀 Well, there are some interesting bodies of water out here. In Northwestern is a big one called Lake Hóp. Something really cool about it is that there are parts that seem to be shallow where groups of people can ride across the water on horseback!
If that doesn’t spark your interest, then check out this other place called Askja. Now, Askja itself is an active volcano or a series of calderas, really. Besides the feeling of being way out in the central highlands of a country that’s already pretty isolated, there are also a couple of big crater lakes, including the very large Lake Askja herself. Big beautiful bodies of water surrounded by snow-powdered hills and steamy calderas has to make a case for Northeastern Region being a special one.
3. Dettifoss & Vatnajökull
Particularly in Northeastern, you can find a few second-placers of Europe. Two of these would be Dettifoss (considered the second-most powerful waterfall) and the Vatnajökull (second largest glacier). With that said, they are definitely in first place inside of Iceland’s watery borders.
By writing this, you can probably picture for yourself the powerful, roaring waters and vast sheets of rugged ice and frozen caves. The glacier itself does stretch across a few different regions, but the larger part of Vatnajökull National Park is in Northeastern which is exactly where Dettifoss Falls are located. Okay, done with that.
I noticed doing research that these places seemed to be even more rustic and rural than the other regions of Iceland. It looks like there’s a stronger horse and farm life culture out here, and that’s great for giving some separation from the rest of the country. This area was traditionally (and still is) the least contacted for being so far up top. This has allowed the region to preserve certain aspects of rural and traditional Icelandic life that have fallen away in other parts.
There are still lots of amazing places to see and explore, and I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface. Ride a horse on a lake, catch the 2nd-most powerful waterfall in Europe, and reach the Arctic. All can be done in the wonderful Northeastern and Northwestern regions of beautiful Iceland!
**Thanks again for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed learning more about these regions of Iceland with me. I appreciate your thirst for knowledge and interest in other worlds. Please take care of yourselves and have happy travels!
Continuing our quest to explore the world’s English-speaking countries, today we’ll take a look at Belize’s place on the map. Have you ever wondered Where is Belize? Or simply, I want to learn about Belize. Here we’ll see a bit about its geography and help you all understand this place a bit better. Of course, this won’t be a definitive description, so whoever wants to add on to it can feel free to chime in! You can find more about Geography on The Actual English World. And the Geography Now video is below to enjoy. Let’s get started.
Mapping out Belize
To start off, Belize is a pretty small country, a drastic contrast to our last country, Canada in many ways. The country is broken up into six districts. From north to south:
Belize has got over 403 thousand people in an area of almost 23,000 square km, or 9,000 square miles. That places Belize as smaller than countries like Haiti or Albania, about the size of states like New Jersey or New Hampshire. It’s also the second-smallest country on the American mainland, but don’t let that fool you! This place has a lot to offer in such a small area.
Belize Geography – Where We At?
Belize has a very interesting place on the map. It sits right at the crossroads of Central America and the Caribbean, making its land features and culture really unique. It’s actually the only country mostly on the mainland to be considered a full Caribbean nation on par with Jamaica or Trinidad & Tobago, even though it does still have lots of little islands and cays. The landscape is generally flatter with plains in the north and gets more hilly and mountainous as you go south. This also goes for traveling from the east coast as you get further inland. At last, you culminate with the Mayan Mountains in the interior of the south. Most of the country has rainforests and jungles too since Belize has some of the best-preserved forests that exist.
Going back to the coast, Belize also has lots of reefs. If you’ve seen pictures of this country, you probably know there are tons of reefs, not to mention some giant blue sinkholes. Belize and its neighbors are actually home to the second-biggest reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia (we’ll talk about that one later). That makes it a perfect place for snorkelers and a haven for marine life to grow and reproduce. Put that together with the jungles that are havens for wild creatures like jaguars and you’ve got a pretty big refuge for tons of important critters.
What’s the Weather?
Besides the flatter north to the hillier south, the weather also changes a bit depending on location. North Belize is a bit drier and has a more savanna-type setting. Meanwhile, south Belize is wetter and gets more rain, which can explain the thicker forests down that way. Another thing to keep in mind is the storms. Belize does sit right on the Caribbean and just below the Gulf of Mexico. That means it’s not just a paradise for people, but for hurricanes too! To talk more on that, you might notice that Belize City is the biggest city in the country. It actually used to be the capital, but that all changed when a series of storms knocked it nearly out of place. Nationals picked up and moved their capital to Belmopan which is the current capital, a nice safe distance from the sea (in Cayo district, if you wanted to know).
But not to dwell too much on that, you’ll see a common trend of hurricanes in pretty much all the Caribbean/West Indies countries. Belize is still beautiful as heck and has a lot of biodiversity for such a small country. They owe it to their numerous habitats and the protection provided for them.
Enough Map Stuff, Talk About Belize’s History
Okay, I feel you. You want to know about some history. I know this isn’t a history post, but you might know that Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. That doesn’t mean Spain didn’t try to take it. Spanish sailors were actually the first Europeans to claim what we call Belize, but they didn’t really care to settle it. In fact, they cared so little that eventually the British swooped in and just took it for themselves. Caught you sleeping, Spain. Well, even with that, the country was called British Honduras for a pretty long while because Honduras is what Columbus called that whole bay region. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the name was changed to Belize, and the country became independent from Great Britain only in the 1980s. That’s not even that long ago.
Belize of course had a big African slave trade initially which brought tons of black people to the country. There were also lots of migrants from other Caribbean countries like Jamaica which continues to this day. Before Europeans, the region was inhabited by indigenous Americans, most noticeably the Mayans. Proof of this exists all across the country with majestic Mayan ruins being a major tourist draw and source of general awe. There have also been many other migrations from neighboring countries like Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras of people seeking refuge from war, violence, or poverty. You also have migrants from further in the past like the Russian Mennonites, Pennsylvania Dutch, and American Southerners who were looking for religious freedom, cheaper land and whatnot.
OK, Now You’re Talking Belizean Culture
Even with all of those diverse cultural influences already listed, I still didn’t talk about the South and East Asian (mostly from India and China) communities that were taken to Belize to do the work that slaves used to do. And I’m sure that I’m forgetting somebody. Oh, yes, the Garifuna! The Garifuna are mostly descendants of Africans that were able to escape slavery or ended up shipwrecked and founded their own communities on the Caribbean coast. Most of the other countries in Central America have Garifuna or related cultures, but we won’t talk about them in this section since those countries speak mostly Spanish. Still, it’s an interesting fact to know. Garifuna, no matter where they live, much like the rest of Belize, speak a creole language (in Belize’s case, Kriol), although their creoles are a bit different.Here you can read some examples of Kriol phrases.
That’s right, even though English is the official language and most people can speak or understand it, Creole is the main language for a large portion of the people. It’s a more informal way of speech, but it serves a lot for the national identity of Belizeans no matter what their ethnicity or background is. Besides that, it’s kind of interesting as an American seeing people who look Mexican/Mestizo or Chinese speaking Belizean Creole.
What Else You Got?
Much like Canada, Belize is also a Commonwealthstate of the British Crown. If you want to read about Canada, I explain more in-depth what the Commonwealth is (kind of). Otherwise, just know that Belize was part of Great Britain for a long time before it became an independent state. Like most Caribbean nations, Belize celebrates versions of Carnival and has some special events of its own. September is considered an entire month of festivities and celebrations by itself. Because of nearby Latin American contact, there are some Spanish-influenced traditions as well, and many people even have Spanish surnames. Spanish itself is widely spoken in Belize too, given that most of the population is multilingual in at least two of the national languages like Creole, Garifuna, or the several German and Mayan dialects used throughout.
So that’s that! I hope you enjoyed mapping Belize with me. It’s a spectacular country with tons of diversity right up in your face. It’s colorful, tropical, all kinds of paradise and beautiful. It may be English-speaking, but Belize has a whole identity unique to its own. Comment below if you love Belize. If you’re Belizean or know some Belizeans, please tell me how I did. What do you have to add about this compact powerhouse? Can you teach us some words in your language? Be well, and I’ll be writing to you soon!
We’re starting off a new section here in CultSurf just to give you all a bit of variety. We’ve been discussing culture, society, music, and movies from around the globe (mostly the USA, sorry, I’m a little biased). Some of you might be interested in learning more about the in-depth characteristics of English-speaking countries. We won’t focus too much on culture here, but more on geography and a few other things. I was really inspired by Geography Now on YouTube and I enjoy their channel, so I’ll share their video with the corresponding countries if they’ve made it already. They make videos about all the world’s countries from A-Z, so it might take a while for them to reach Zimbabwe, for example.
What does an American know about Canada?
So obviously I won’t be writing about myself or Americans that know a lot about Canada. I’m speaking about what I knew about the country before I started learning geography, and what my fellow citizens may or may not know already.
We know about some cities like Toronto and Vancouver, probably Montréal. Some of us like the name Newfoundland and joke at how hard it can be to pronounce.
We know it’s freezing up there. We’ve seen those pictures of polar bears walking through town.
Moose, caribou, Northern Lights, and the Arctic is somewhere up there.
We have to cross it to get to Alaska.
Funny accents, eh? And syrup, lots of bacon and syrup.
The Provinces & Cities (and Territories)
As we see on our lovely map, Canada has 10 subdivisions called provinces, plus another 3 called territories.
Central Canada has the two biggest provinces, Ontario and Quebec. This is also where you find the two biggest cities, Toronto and Montréal. It’s known as central Canada even though it’s not directly in the middle of the country. That’s because historically these were the main places to be settled by the British and French as the colony known as Canada. Later they spread out and acquired more land. These places have the most people and are the biggest economic and cultural influencers in the country. They’re also massive, reaching from the Great Lakes all the way up to the northern tundra!
The smallest provinces are in the general Atlantic Maritimes region, which are Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. These areas were among the last to really join Canada as a united country. They had lots of immigration from Scotland and Ireland, and have a much stronger sea culture than the rest of the country. They’re sort of like the New England of Canada. They were also the main places that welcomed British Loyalist soldiers during and after the American War for Independence.
Then there’s out West. This area can be thought of generally as the Great Plains and mountains of Canada. Here we have Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, though B.C. can also be thought of as the West Coast province. These were lands acquired after Central Canada was already set up, and are known for big open spaces, farming and agriculture, and lots of mountain stuff. There is major business and cultural influence coming from this part of Canada too, especially since Calgary and Vancouver are major global centers.
And then there were the Territories; Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Nunavut. These, generally speaking, are three massive landmasses (haha) way up in the tundra and arctic of North America. They are very, very, very scarcely populated and mostly got attention during the gold rush years, especially in Yukon. Otherwise there’s lots of ice and natural beauty, but I’m pretty sure they’re the least known region of the country overall.
A little about the cities, you have Toronto, Ontario, the biggest in the country, that is known as one of the most, if not the most, ethnically diverse cities in the world. I think about half the city is non-white, if not more, and even the white population is pretty diverse there. The capital, Ottawa, is in Ontario as well. A lot of the world-famous artists from Canada come from this lower area of Ontario, like Justin Bieber, Drake, The Weekend, and so on. Niagara Falls is the home of those same falls, and Mississauga has some cool spacey architecture.
Montréal is the 2nd biggest mostly French-speaking city in the world and is also extremely diverse, as is the rest of Canada. Québec is a very traditional European-looking city, especially in the old town. Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John’s, Newfoundland are important port cities and historic centers. Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and the biggest city in the world for how far north it is. Calgary is also a very big city and cultural center. Some other major cities worth your research are Victoria, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, and St. John.
What are They?
So we know Canada has provinces, not states. The provinces actually are quite similar to states in how they are run, and many freedoms that the United States are allowed, so too are the Canadian provinces. Provinces, in general, tend to come from more Empirical powers (like the United Kingdom was) and so this name stems from historical association. The United States were also at once independent states that united, while Canada’s provinces have mostly been under the rule of Britain except for a few exceptions.
Canada stayed loyal and sympathetic to Britain for much longer than the U.S. which could explain many things about their cultural identity. Otherwise, the territories are similar to territories of any country. Even though they are huge, they have tiny populations. This makes it so that their representation is a little less relevant on the national scale, and so they do in fact have less representation.
And the Commonwealth?
Like with province, there’s no universal definition of what a commonwealth really is. Puerto Rico and Guam, for example, are commonwealths of the U.S. Still, the British Commonwealth states have a lot more autonomy and are all considered their own sovereign states with some more or less cordial ties to Britain. The Monarch really only has a say in cases of a complete national or political emergency really, but otherwise Canadians are Canadians and not Brits. Although as I said before, they do and did keep stronger ties with Britain (and France, for that matter) over the years than the U.S. did.
Canada’s English-Speaking. What About Québec?
Good question. Canada traditionally had two main European colonizers: the English/British and the French. You’ll actually see this in a lot of English-speaking countries, where France took the colony from Britain or Britain took it from France and so there is a lot of mixed historical identity. Think of Louisiana, St. Lucia, or Cameroon. Geographically, Canada’s French-speaking population stuck mostly to one general area, giving this group a more distinct identity. People from Québec have long had mixed feelings about Canada, some wanting to separate into their own independent place while others just want more autonomy (not to mention those who don’t really care either way). Speaking English, French, or Punjabi, they’re all Canadians in the end.
Generally, there is pride in the history of French Canada, the part of Canada where the country got its name from. English and French are both official languages in the nation, but French is a lot stronger in Québecprovince, along with a few pockets of places in the neighboring provinces. You also get St. Pierre and Miquelon, which is an overseas territory of France (something like French Guiana, although it’s a full-on department of France) that borders Newfoundland and is fully French.
Talk More About Diversity
Canada is really one of the most diverse countries there is, and this is due to its historic reputation as an open arm for immigrants. The Asian (East and South) population and impact on Canadian culture is huge. German and Scandinavian identity is big in some regions, not to mention the largest communities of Icelandic and Ukrainian descendants outside those countries live in Canada. The country has also welcomed many from other Commonwealth states and former colonies, such as Caribbeans and Guyanese, Africans, Indians, and Pakistanis. The most influential though, hands down, have been the British and French.
Most Canadians live within a few hundred miles from the U.S. border which also impacts the culture. Northern Americans and most Canadians have a fluid cultural and societal mixture that influences one and the other. This is especially true of migration, business, and the arts. Lots of Canadians have American ancestry and vice-versa. And of course, the first occupants of the continent have had a huge impact on the country. In Canada, they are generally referred to as First Nations, and they themselves are as diverse and influential as the later foreigners that would create modern Canada. They generally are considered two main groups, the traditional people most of us think of as Native or indigenous Americans, and the Inuits, a set of people with a bit different ancestry.
Let’s End with Some Actual Geography!
Canada has a land area of over 3.5 million square miles, making it the second biggest country in the world after Russia. It has a population of about 38 million, less than countries like South Korea, Spain, and Uganda, which are way smaller. I mean, compare them on a map. The Maritimes are mostly chilly and rainy with oceanic climates and many pretty islands. The northern continuation of the Appalachian Mountain system goes up here, and way up North in Labrador to Nunavut you get the Arctic Cordillera range of tall, jagged, arctic mountains.
The south of Central Canada borders the U.S. by way of the super-important St. Lawrence River system, as well as the Great Lakes. This area is very hospitable and is where the biggest urban areas are concentrated. You also get big waterfalls and some dense forests on up to Hudson Bay which supports a kind of wet plain. It usually freezes over and so this is a major crossing ground for Arctic animals like polar bears. The middle of the country has an outstanding number of lakes, and the north is especially stocked with some of the biggest forests and highest amount of lakes on planet Earth.
Going back down, you get a general plains and prairies region that goes on till you hit some mountains. These are essentially the Canadian extension of the Rockies, and they go up all the way to the Yukon and even into Alaska. You have a fertile yet somewhat dry valley between those and the coastal mountains and rainy forests which also extend into Alaska. Above all that stuff is basically a large stretch of lakes, cold plains, forests, and taiga (basically a tundra with some scattered trees). Tundra covers most of that very northern part of the country where it steadily transitions into polar landscapes. This is especially true of the massive islands of Nunavut which reach all the way up to the North Pole (and Santa! Oh wait, he’s Scandinavian)
That’s all, you curious geography lovers! I hope you enjoyed mapping out this huge and special country called Canada. As promised, here is the Geography Now video. Please comment if you like Canada. If you are from there (howdy neighbor) comment if you want to teach us more about your fabulous home! Thanks, and we’ll be talking soon.