Interactive map of most googled 'why is' questions on Europe

This is a website dedicated to answer the most googled questions about Europe and European countries.

Why is Eastern Europe so poor?

Most googled terms for six European countries is why are they poor. For seven - why are they so rich? Inequalities in Europe are very different from American inequalities.

Why is Europe liberal?

One of the most frequent questions: 'Why is Europe liberal'? In fact, the United States has a very unique set of values. No country is more for self-expression and traditional values. But Northern Europe values self-expression even more, and Portugal has more traditional values.

Why is the Netherlands orange?

Why is Netherlands associated with the color orange? Because the orange is the symbol of the royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau. It took several hundred years to connect the color, the fruit, the family and Dutch identity.

24 May 2013

Why is Vatican called the Holy See?

Because Holy Sea was given sovereignty over the hill called Vatican, or Vatican City, to separate the papal state from modern Italy. The Holy See is episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church of Rome, headed by the bishop of Rome commonly known as the Pope, and referred as holy because of its special status within the church. The episcopal see in general is the bishop's seat, or cathedra, and the cathedral, and the surrounding land, in this case, the Vatican itself.

Another explanation where I can rely on the great video of CGPGrey, who explains the whole story of the creation of Vatican, or rather, the Holy Sea as a sovereign state in seven minutes. Not short, but given that it explains the complicated relationship between the institutionalized Catholic Church, the Pope, Rome, and Italy as a sovereign state, probably it cannot be summarized much shorter.

16 May 2013

Why is Europe a continent, and what is a contient at all?

Why is Europe a continent? Because Europeans treat themselves culturally different from Asians, and the world does not use the word continent in a strictly geological or geographical sense. Once culture, size, and point of view is taken into account, it is not the concept of Europe, but the concept of continents that becomes very confusing. Continent is a loaded word.

Generally speaking, both the concept of Europe and the concept of a continent is a very much European and Eurocentrique idea. With a bit of oversimplification, Europe is a continent because European think about their land in that way, and they persuaded the rest of the world to see them as a continent.

C.P.G. Grey gives a very eloquent explanation, and carries over the argument to the division of Americas and other politically sensitive geographical ideas.

 Thanks for @A41KE, educator and museologist, for sending this great link (among others).

14 May 2013

Who is the most trustworthy, arrogant and compassionate in Europe?

According to the recent Pew Research attitude poll, the most trustworthy European country is Germany, but it is also the most arrogant and least compassionate one. A funny part of the result is that the public opinion in eight European countries found their own country to be the most compassionate. And probably to defy stigmatization from a recent national bankruptcy, the Greek thing that they are themselves the most trustworthy.
Some more European stereotyping, this time recorded by Americans but in Europe. The leading American public attitude researcher, Pew Research came out with its new European report, which is a very worthy read beyond the topics of this blog, too. While Pew Research, within its Global Attitudes Project, only researched eight European countries, it did so thoroughly. I generally find the results to be a bit misleading if you compare them to the vast, 27+ country, decades long datasets of Eurobarometer. (My problem is that currently in Europe trust in EU institutions is very low, but what you do not see from the American research, it is even lower for national institutions.)

Germany is seen everybody in Europe with a bit of fearful envy. They be are generally believed to be the most trustworthy, and also the least trustworthy in countries that have strained relationships with them. (As we will soon explore: in the Google searches Why is Germany so successful is the causality favorite.) The French and the British seem to care a lot about each other. It is especially endearing to see that the Czechs view their former country-mates, the Slovaks to be the least arrogant, even though I am not sure if it is a well-intended or a bit superstitious view.

The PewResearch dataset is very interesting for us, because it does not have the necessary inner bias of Eurobarometer, which ask the questions by the European Union institutions from the European citizens, but it also takes a different attitude from Google trends behind this blog. So far, I researched only casual search terms in Google about Europe in the English language, so the most googled "why is Europe" questions mainly represent an outsider's interest in Europe. Most of the Google searches behind this blog are coming from America, and in some cases from the United Kingdom, which is, at least as far as personal identification with Europe goes, halfway through the American and the European public. (German 'warum ist' questions for instance are very different from the 'why is' questions, and they mostly from Germany, a country which appears to be an island now in Europe.) All in all, Pew Research gives a great survey on how European see themselves in this year. To put it into trends the best thing is to dig into the Eurobarometer interactive archives.

The stereotyping reproduced from the Pew Survey The New Sick Man of Europe: the European Union French Dispirited; Attitudes Diverge Sharply from Germans (published on 13 May 2013).

11 May 2013

Why is Belarus not in the EU?

Many people ask why Belarus is not in the EU? Because it did not apply for membership, it is a dictatorship and it does not have a functioning market economy. The requirements of the EU membership are democracy, market economy and the adoption of EU rules and standards.

The European Union was formed in 1992, amongst others on the basis of the European Economic Community. It is a political, economic and military alliance of European states. The criteria for membership were established in 1993 on a summit of the leaders of then-members states (‘Copenhagen Criteria’). These criteria call for democracy and rule of law, a functioning market economy and the adoption of EU rules and standards.

In the 20 years since the publication of membership criteria 15 countries gained membership status, two rejected the idea (and Iceland is still hesitating), and eight countries applied for membership - and none has given it up. But Belarus never applied, and certainly did not have a chance to be considered as a member.

Belarus is one of the former Soviet Union member states that never became a functioning democracy. Belarus’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, won a presidency contest in 1994 and held to power ever since. His political program negates the requirements of EU membership: he is against market economy and he is not facing free elections. The European Union imposed various sanctions on its authoritarian neighbor, including travel restriction on the leaders of the regime. This question relates to a more important question to be answered later: why is Belarus a dictatorship?

You can review on this map the most googled questions about all European countries. Further questions related to Belarus is why it is called White Russia? ... a dictatorship? ... called Belarus?

The image is taken from the, a Belarusian blog.

10 May 2013

Why is Switzerland abbreviated CH

Why is "CH" the ISO abbreviation for Switzerland, as seen in Internet domain names (.ch) and the "country" stickers on European cars? Because the multi-lingual country in the 19th century chose to use an impartial, old Latin name to keep equivalent distance from its communities: Confoederatio Helvetica. Of course, the locals call it something close to Swiss: Schweiz, Suisse, Svizzera or Svizra.
This is a very simple question, but credit is due for The Straight Dope for an exhaustive answer. As you can read Arnold Winkelried’s article, Swiss stamps still use Helvetia to refer to the country, and the typeface, or, simply, font in so many Apple computers also comes from Switzerland.

7 May 2013

Why is Eastern Europe so poor?

Why is Eastern European countries are poor? This is such an often stated question, because European inequalities between rich and poor tend to appear on the state level, between members of the European Union, as opposed to America, where it inequalities are more personal. In fact, if you look at the interactive map of most googled questions about the cause of things in Europe, why is so poor is the most frequently searched for cause in the case of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia within the EU and with respect to Albania, Serbia, Moldova and Ukraine in the neighborhood.
Branko Milanovic shows in his book (The haves and the have-nots: A short and idiosyncratic history of global inequality, a short presentation of the relevant facts here) that this is such a pressing question because most of the inequality happens between members of the European Union, on an interstate level, as opposed to the United States. In Europe, income differences are generally smaller than in America, but half of the can be attributed to a state. In America, inequalities measured by the statistical indicator Gini-coefficient, is higher but only in small amount attributable to differences between states.
Red countries: why are they so rich searches, blue countries: why are they so poor searches. Of course, differences between states or regions are persistent globally, but differences between the European countries are big, and also, as you would expect, intra-state inequalities are lower in Europe than in America. (See the other nagging question: Why is Europe so ‘socialist’ or liberal in the American parlance.)
The most equal U.S. states, South Dakota and Wisconsin have higher inequalities than the European average, and the “typical” American states of Delaware and Idaho have higher contrast between poor and rich individual than the United Kingdom and Portugal, the most unequal countries in Europe. However, differences between the average per capita incomes of the states are very different in Europe. The differences between the level of the poorest American states of Missisipi and West Virginia in contrast with the rich Connecticut and Delaware is 2:1. The difference between Bulgaria, Romania and the Netherlands is 4:1, and even higher in comparison with the tiny, wealthy Luxembourg. (Why is Luxembourg so rich deserves a post later.)
 This is a very stark difference, especially if you consider how little assistance rich European countries give to poor European countries. According to Milanovic, within the German federation, 20-25% of the national income is redistributed from the rich to the poor. The level of redistribution is smaller, but still significant in the American federal budget. However, in spite of the fact that poverty happens on a state and not on an individual level, the European Union redistributes less than 1% of the national incomes from the rich to the poor member states. Needless to say that poverty remains on a relatively personal level because poorer Americans are much more likely to move to another state in search for better income prospects.
There are very few limitations to do so, and most Americans speak one, er, two languages. European speak more than twenty languages, and a rich, Dutch speaking job cannot be always filled with somebody whose mother tongue is Polish. And citizens of two states, Romania and Bulgaria are not even allowed to move freely. While the American debate about immigration is about letting Latin Americans cross the federal border, in Europe even the state borders can be barriers. So poor people tend to stay in poor areas, although there is a very clear connection between regional incomes and regional migration levels irrespective of state borders in Europe. (See the fascinating map from EPSON here).
The reasons of the poverty of certain European nations has many causes, each deserve to be answered separately. Eastern Europe tends to be on average poorer than Western Europe for centuries, but history is not an explanation itself. Northern Europe was poor a century ago and now it is richer than Western Europe. So, why is Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine must be answered separately, as well why is Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and beyond the European Union Norway plus the tiny states of Lichtenstein and Monaco are so rich.
One thing is sure: what Google searchers see as poor countries are indeed poorer then the European average, and where people want to know the cause of richness, there is real money.

The map is taken from the European Commissions Regional Policy page.

Why is Iceland so cheap?

One of the most frequently asked Iceland questions is why it is so cheap. If you consider that Iceland is a relatively expensive country, significantly more expensive than the United States, it is an odd question. The solution to the puzzle is that a British retail chain is also called Iceland, and it is cheap. Since Iceland is a very small country, Google searches relating to the Iceland store are considerable. The other thing that is often searched for is a cheap flight to reach the rather expensive island.

Generally, Iceland is most searched when a vulcano eruption makes air travel impossible in the Europe.
These are the comparable price levels of the European countries, as measured by the OECD (together with Eurostat) in 2012.