A Comprehensive List of International Cultural Profiles

This quick glimpse at life on Earth brings the factual and the historical, mundane and the unusual, the odd and the ordinary, the famous, the infamous, and the familiar. It shows what makes people different but shows how alike all people are, too. The single uniting factor is that humans everywhere are enjoying life and expressing themselves in truly unique ways that make life on Earth one of never-ending curiosity and contentment.

Argentina

Capital CIty: Buenos Aires

Type of Government: Federal Presidential Republic

Population: 40,134,425

Area: 1,068,302 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: European, Mestizo, Arab, East Asian, Amerindian

Languages: Spanish

Religions: Christian, agnostic, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, Buddhist

Unit of Currency: Peso

Description of National Flag: Triband with light blue stripes above and under a white stripe of equal width; the Sun of May symbol is in the center of the white stripe

Date of Independence: July 9, 1816

From it’s beautiful capital city, Buenos Aires, to the central Pampas and Patagonia regions, all the way down to chilly Tierra del Fuego, people have been enjoying life in Argentina for more than 13,000 years. They’ve given us the Argentinian tango, the unflappable Eva Peron and Che Guevara, and world-class athletes in pato, football (known as soccer in the United States [USA]), and rugby. The world’s first animated feature films were created and produced in Argentina and cinema is a very important industry today. Yerba mate has become one of the trendiest beverages in the world, especially when enjoyed with Argentina’s empanadas, chorizo, and dulce de leche.

Argentina - Find some of the most passionate people and dramatic landscapes as any on earth.

Australia

Capital CIty: Canberra

Type of Government: Federal Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy

Population: 22,152,354

Area: 2,941,299 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Australian, English, Irish, Scottish, Italian, German, Chinese, Greek

Languages: English

Religions: Christian, “no religion,” Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism

Unit of Currency: Australian Dollar

Description of National Flag: A defaced Blue Ensign in the upper hoist quarter, a large white seven-point star (the Commonwealth Star) in the lower hoist quarter; the fly end of the flag represents the Southern Cross constellation with one small five-point white star and four larger seven point white stars

Date of Independence: March 3, 1986

From the Land Down Under comes the kangaroo, the koala, and the dingo; the walkabout and the boomerang; shrimp on the barbie and some of the finest wines produced in the world. The Great Barrier Reef off the island nation’s northern shore is considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world and the opera house in Sydney is perhaps the most well-known opera house ever. Hidden in plain sight in Australia’s outback is Ayers Rock, known to the nation’s Aboriginal peoples as Uluru. Two of the world’s entertainment icons - Nicole Kidman and her husband, Keith Urban, are Australian.

Australia - Get expert advice on travel to and life in Australia.

Bosnia

Capital CIty: Sarajevo

Type of Government: Parliamentary Democracy

Population: 4,613,414

Area: 19,767 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Bosniak, Serb, Croat

Languages: Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian

Religions: Islam, Serb Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Protestant

Unit of Currency: Convertible Mark

Description of National Flag: A yellow isosceles triangle centered between a wide medium blue vertical band on the fly side with the same blue on the opposite side of the triangle; seven white five-point stars and two half stars, at top and bottom, extending along the hypotenuse side of the triangle

Date of Independence:

Officially known as Bosnia and Herzegovina, the nation’s capital city, Sarajevo, came to global attention when it hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. Its strategic location near the Adriatic Sea has led to a rich history of conquest and defeat and cultural influences from Turkey, Greece, and Rome. This nation was once a part of Yugoslavia and is comprised of three main ethnic groups - the Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. The nation’s geographic beauty, historically significant past, and engaging peoples all contribute to the World Tourism Organization’s prediction that Bosnia and Herzegovina will enjoy the world’s third highest rate of tourism between 1995 and 2020.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Why not make this sacred crossroad the destination for your next big adventure?

Brazil

Capital CIty: Brasilia

Type of Government: Presidential Federal Republic

Population: 192,272,890

Area: 3,287,597 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: White, Brown / Multiracial, Black, Yellow, Amerindian

Languages: Portuguese

Religions: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, no religion / agnostic / atheist, Spiritism, Afro-Brazilian

Unit of Currency:Real

Description of National Flag: A green field with a yellow rhombus centered in the middle; centered in the rhombus is a blue disc representing the starry sky; spanning the disc is a curved band on which the national motto is inscribed

Date of Independence: October 5, 1988

“The Girl from Ipanema,” Carnaval, and the breathtaking statue, Christ the Redeemer, are all gifts to the world from Brazil. The official language in this, the largest nation in South America, is Portuguese but hundreds of other native languages and dialects have been documented, each one a reflection of Brazil’s vibrant people, its present, and its past. Brazilians love their coffee, their cachaca, and their feijoada as much as they do football (soccer), rugby, music, and dance, including the samba and bossa nova. Life in Brazil’s largest cities - Sao Paulo (its capital), Rio de Janeiro, and Brasilia, for instance - is as cosmopolitan as any other major city of the world but a trip to the Amazon River and the lands along its banks is like an enchanted journey to a different time entirely.

Brazil - Everyone who travels to Brazil becomes a fan; why not join them?

Canada

Capital CIty: Ottawa

Type of Government: Federal Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy

Population: 34,001,000

Area: 3,854,085 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: English, French, Scottish, Irish, German, Italian, Chinese, Ukrainian, First Nations, Canadian

Languages: French, English

Religions: Christianity, no religion, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism

Unit of Currency: Dollar

Description of National Flag: Vertical triband with red stripes bordering a broader white band in the center; the white band has a red maple leaf in its center

Date of Independence: April 17, 1982

From the spectacular beauty of Banff National Park to the frigid Arctic Circle to the ultra-modern cities Toronto, Quebec City, Montreal, and Vancouver, Canada is a land of diversity. Both English and French are the official languages, a reflection of very strong and lasting historical ties to its first European settlers but eight additional regional languages officially acknowledge the indigenous peoples, known as the First People of America and Canada, who flourished for thousands of years before European discovery. Today a federation with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, the country is one of the most modern nations in the world. And one of the biggest. The total area of Canada, including the waters locked within its land borders, is second only to Russia.

Canada - Explore Canada a mari usque ad mare (from sea to sea), as it’s official motto suggests.

China

Capital CIty: Beijing

Type of Government: People’s Democratic Dictatorship, Democratic Centralism, Unitary State, Socialist State, and Single-Party Communist State

Population: 1,338,612,968

Area: 3,704,427 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Han and 55 recognized minorities

Languages: Standard Mandarin

Religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese Folk Religions

Unit of Currency: Chinese Yuan

Description of National Flag: A red field with one large golden star in the upper hoist quadrant with an arc of four smaller golden stars to its right

Date of Independence: October 1, 9149

China’s Great Wall can be seen from outer space, the only man-made structure that can make that claim. The remains of Peking Man, the earliest human find that proves human ability to control and use fire at will, were found in China; the archaeological site where he was found is dated to between 300,000 and 780,000 years ago. The fascinating Terra cotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty, dating to 210 BC, are mesmerizing museum audiences as they tour the world. Noodles, Confucianism, silk, porcelain, and the adorable panda all originated in China. It’s easy to believe that as long as there’s been time, there’s been China. Today, the People’s Republic of China is home to more than 1.3 billion people but people have called China home much longer than most other places on earth.

China - Visit the land of ancient civilization, friendly people, and some of the world’s most revered treasures.

Cuba

Capital CIty: Havana

Type of Government: One-Party Socialist Republic (Communist State)

Population: 11,451,652

Area: 42,803 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: European, African, Mulatto and Mestizo

Languages: Spanish

Religions: Catholicism, Protestantism, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Santeria

Unit of Currency: Cuban Peso, Cuban Convertible Peso

Description of National Flag:

Date of Independence: January 1, 1959

Cuba may be famous for cigars, Castro, and communism but there’s so much more to explore on this Caribbean island nation. Baseball is the favorite national pastime but volleyball, cricket, and boxing are met with enthusiasm by Cubans from one end of the island to the other. So are barbecued pork, plantains, habanero chile peppers, and tropical fruits. One of Cuba’s signature dishes, Platillo Moros y Cristianos, represents the nation’s history; it’s black beans (Moors) and white rice (Christians). American literary icon Ernest Hemingway called Cuba his home from 1939 until 1960, when an American attempt to overthrow the Castro government made life dangerous for all American citizens enjoying life in Cuba.

Cuba - Cuba’s capital city, Havana, is the largest city in the Caribbean Sea.

Egypt

Capital CIty: Cairo

Type of Government: Semi-Presidential Republic

Population: 77,420,000

Area: 387,048 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Egyptian, Nubian, Greek

Languages: Arabic

Religions: Islam, Christianity

Unit of Currency: Egyptian Pound

Description of National Flag: Horizontal triband with a red stripe across the top, white stripe with the Eagle of Saladin centered horizontally in it, and a black strip across the bottom

Date of Independence: July 23, 1952

The pharaohs, the pyramids, the Sphinx, the Nile - it’s almost impossible to think of Egypt without first imaging the splendor of its ancient past. The Nile is still the desert nation’s primary source of fresh water, a highly efficient inland transportation corridor, and its fertile basin the seat of the nation’s agriculture industry and the pharaohs, the pyramids, and the Sphinx are still big business but there’s so much more to discover about modern Egypt, too. Geographically situated at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, where Asia meets Africa, it’s quite easy to understand how Egypt has become a gateway nation that connects the two continents and Europe, too. The Suez Canal is instrumental to global commerce, bringing cultural influences from the four corners of the earth. With all this intercontinental cultural diversity, Egypt has somehow managed to incorporate those influences while maintaining a national identity as strong and solid as the pyramids themselves.

Egypt - A walk through antiquity with all the world’s most modern conveniences.

England

Capital CIty: London

Type of Government: Constitutional Monarchy

Population: 51,446,000

Area: 50,346 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: White, South Asian, Black, Mixed Race, Chinese

Languages: English

Religions: Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism

Unit of Currency: Pound Sterling

Description of National Flag: A red cross centered over a white background

Date of Independence: N/A

From the perspective of size alone, England appears rather small but its impact on global history has been tremendously large and impressive. From its earliest days, England was the home of Stonehenge, the Druids, Angles, Saxons, and other clans that shaped early European history. In more recent times came the Magna Carta, the British monarchy, the American colonies, Chaucer, Dickens, and the Beatles. Cheddar, Stilton, Cheshire, and Gloucester, each one a village, township, or county in England, are some of the most succulent cheeses gracing dinner tables around the world today. They’re wonderful with tea, bangers and mash, fish and chips, and as part of a full breakfast fry up or alongside a hearty pint of ale at the local pub.

England - There’s plenty to do in England, city or countryside, all year round.

France

Capital CIty: Paris

Type of Government: Unitary Semi-Presidential Republic

Population: 65,447,374

Area: 260,558 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups:

Languages: French

Religions: Catholic, agnostic or atheist, Muslim, Protestantism, Buddhism, Judaism

Unit of Currency: Euro, CFP Franc

Description of National Flag: Vertical triband with blue, white, and red bands running from right to left

Date of Independence: N/A

France is home, of course, to the best wines produced in the world. It’s also home to Paris and the Eiffel Tower, Bastille Day, Napoleon Bonaparte, Marie Antoinette, the bikini, the French Riviera, Cannes Film Festival, and world-class pastries that are simply to die for. France gave us the French Foreign Legion and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). It was Auguste Escoffier and his fine attention to regimented detail that gave order to professional cooking and ignited the fever for cookbooks in every kitchen; Le Cordon Bleu taught Julia Child everything she knew about food so she could, in turn, teach it to those barbaric Americans. It’s all these things, and so very much more, that make France the number one tourist destination in the world, year after year.

France - Discover France, its people, and their very French way of life.

Germany

Capital CIty: Berlin

Type of Government: Federal Parliamentary Republic

Population: 81,757,600

Area: 137,847 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: German, Turkish

Languages: German

Religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, no religion

Unit of Currency: Euro

Description of National Flag: A horizontal triband of black, red, and yellow in top-to-bottom order

Date of Independence: October 3, 1990

Beer and sausages, the Volkswagen and the Porsche, the Autobahn and Einstein, kindergarten and Kafka: these are just a few of the notable contributions of Germany to world culture. Notable Germans include composers Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms; writers Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, and the Brothers Grimm. Famous Germans of today’s popular culture include the model, Claudia Schiffer; Formula One’s most successful driver in history, Michael Schumacher; and German Olympic athletes who have collectively amassed the third largest number of Olympic medals in history.

Germany - Experience the vacation of a lifetime in historic Germany.

Greece

Capital CIty: Athens

Type of Government: Parliamentary Republic

Population: 11,306,183

Area: 50,944 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Greek, European Union, Cypriot, Albania, Bulgarian, Romanian, Georgian, Russian, Ukrainian, Moldavian 

Languages: Greek

Religions: Greek Orthodox

Unit of Currency: Euro

Description of National Flag: Nine horizontal stripes, alternately blue and white, with a white cross on a blue canton situated at the upper hoist corner

Date of Independence: June 11, 1975

Their ancient mythology is still being scrutinized today. Some of the majestic buildings they built to immortalize their mythical gods still captivate the imagination. Their explorers, such as Alexander the Great, lived real lives of mythological proportion. Their Olympian games are of equal significance today as then. The building blocks of many modern languages originated in theirs. The ancient Greeks left their mark on history and set the tone for a civilization that remains dynamic, alive, and vibrant today.

Greece - Step into a land where heroes never die.

Haiti

Capital CIty: Port-au-Prince

Type of Government: Parliamentary Republic

Population: 9,035,536

Area: 10,714 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Black, Multiracial, White

Languages: Haitian Creole, French

Religions: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Haitian Vodou

Unit of Currency: Gourde

Description of National Flag: A blue rectangle atop a red one of equal size forms the background; centered in the flag is a white square panel that contains the Haitian coat of arms: a fan of weapons ready for defense, with a palm tree topped with the Cap of Liberty in the center of the fan; below the weapons is a white banner inscribed with the national motto: l’union fait la force

Date of Independence: April 17, 1825

Haiti, the “Land of High Mountains,” occupies the western half of the island of Hispaniola, the first New World island discovered by Christopher Columbus. Haitian Creole shares official language status with French and French influences intermingle with those of life in the tropics to make Haiti one of the more unique Caribbean islands. Vibrantly colorful Haitian art is enjoyed around the world as is the nation’s music, which draws on influences from the island’s indigenous populations, France, and Africa. Just like its art and music, Haitian cuisine is bold and spicy. Chile peppers are used in abundance to flavor beans, cabbage, fish, pork, and goat. 

Haiti - Visitors are always welcome in Haiti, the land where “l’union fait la force” (unity creates strength).

Ireland

Capital CIty: Dublin

Type of Government: Constitutional Democratic Republic and Parliamentary Democracy

Population: 4,460,000

Area: 27,133 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Irish, White, Asian, Black, Mixed

Languages: Irish

Religions: Roman Catholic, no religion, Church of Ireland, Protestant, Islam

Unit of Currency: Euro

Description of National Flag: Three vertical stripes of equal size, green, white, and orange from left to right

Date of Independence: December 29, 1937

The Emerald Isle has made a truly unique reputation for itself. Just a short list of local people, places, and things illustrate the point perfectly: shamrocks, St. Patrick’s Day, and all things Celtic. There’s Bono and U2, Sinead O’Connor, The Pogues, The Corrs, The Cranberries, Enya, and Van Morrison. Irish literary giants include James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, and Samuel Beckett. Kiss the stone at Blarney Castle then enjoy a meal that includes a generous portion of potatoes or colcannon. Wash it all down with a pint of Guinness or a hearty black and tan. Entertain with a few limericks, the bawdier the better.

Ireland - Expect 100,000 welcomes in Ireland.

Italy

Capital CIty: Rome

Type of Government: Parliamentary Republic

Population: 60,231,214

Area: 116,346 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: 

Languages: Italian

Religions: Roman Catholic

Unit of Currency: Euro

Description of National Flag: Three vertical stripes of equal size, green, white, and red from left to right

Date of Independence: June 2, 1946

From the Roman Emperors of old to today’s Vatican, the seat of government and the spiritual center for people far and wide has been the city of Rome, founded in the 8th century BC. Italy was the birthplace of the Renaissance and some of history’s greatest intellectual and artistic talents. Their many creations live on in today’s Italy as do the foods they ate - pizza, pastas, lasagna, focaccia, and sublimely luxurious gelato. Italy claims world-class status in viticulture, too, with Chianti perhaps its most well-known wine. Italian style is characterized by sleek elegance, as evidenced in its fashion designs by Valentino, Gucci, and Prada as well as the Ferarri, Lamborghini, and Maserati, each one designed to take driving to a thrilling new level. Italy gave us the opera, the orchestra, Pavarotti and Puccini and, in cinema, Roberto Benigni, Fellini, and Sophia Loren.

Italy - From the highest Alps to the dazzling Mediterranean Sea, Italy has something for everyone.

Iran

Capital CIty: Tehran

Type of Government: Islamic Republic

Population: 74,196,000

Area: 636,372 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: 

Languages: Persian

Religions: Islam

Unit of Currency: Rial

Description of National Flag: Three horizontal stripes of equal size, green, white, and red, from top to bottom, with a red coat of arms in the center white area; just outside the center white stripe the takbir is inscribed 22 times on both the red and green stripes

Date of Independence: April 1, 1979

For almost three thousand years, the land of Persia was a world power, well known and respected for its political influence, its mathematic and scientific breakthroughs, and the beauty of its land and its people. That reputation lives on in the land known today as Iran. The birthplace of Zoroastrianism, Islam is now the predominant religion. Poetry is important in Iran, where the works of many poets are celebrated; outside Iran, the works of Omar Khayyam and Rumi have earned high acclaim. Persian rugs are prized by collectors everywhere. Iran’s Treasury of National Jewels houses one of the largest and most valuable collections of gems and jewelry in the world.

Iran - There’s much to see in Iran, where history extends nearly 6,000 years.

Iraq

Capital CIty: Baghdad

Type of Government: Parliamentary Republic in the development stage

Population: 31,234,000

Area: 169,234 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Arab, Kurds, Assyrian, Iraqi Turkmen

Languages: Arabic, Kurdish

Religions: Islam

Unit of Currency: Iraqi Dinar

Description of National Flag: Three horizontal stripes of equal size, red, white, and black from top to bottom, with the takbir in green in the center of the white stripe

Date of Independence: October 15, 2005

Iraq is known as the Cradle of Civilization and in times past has gone by the names Babylon and Mesopotamia. It’s been occupied for more than eight thousand years and, over time, its peoples have developed the concepts and practices of law, literature, mathematics, philosophy, science, and writing. Some Biblical scholars claim the triangular area of land where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers converge is where the Garden of Eden once was. That rich history is evident in Iraqi culture today.

Iraq - Discover where the past meets the present in this virtual museum of the country.

Israel

Capital CIty: Jerusalem

Type of Government: Parliamentary Democracy

Population: 7,465,000

Area: 20,770 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Jewish, Muslim, Arab

Languages: Hebrew, Arabic

Religions: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism

Unit of Currency: Shekel

Description of National Flag: A white background with a blue Star of David in the center with two blue stripes at the flag’s top and bottom borders

Date of Independence: May 14, 1948

The Biblical Land of Israel has been in existence for thousands of years but the official independent state known as Israel today was established in 1948. Israel, an integral part of the Holy Land, is the only nation populated by more Jews (75%) than other ethnicities; Hebrew and Arabic are the two official languages. Jewish tradition guides everyday life in Israel but pilgrims of Christianity and Islam are frequent travelers to the country to pay tribute to the holy shrines that are shared by all three religions. Traditional Jewish folk music is enjoyed locally but world-famous musicians, including Itzhak Perlman and the conductor, Zubin Mehta, call Israel home. The Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls, is a popular tourist destination as are the Red Sea Jazz Festival, and Masada National Park in the Judean Desert.

Israel - Get a sense of history in this land of passionate people, magical markets, and natural wonders.

Jamaica

Capital CIty: Kingston

Type of Government: Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy

Population: 2,825,928

Area: 11,100 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Black, Mixed, Other

Languages: English, Jamaican Patois

Religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism

Unit of Currency: Jamaican Dollar

Description of National Flag: A gold saltire separates two green triangles that border the top and bottom edges of the flag and two black triangles on the left and right borders

Date of Independence: August 6, 1962

The native Taino name for the island is Xaymaca, which translates to Land of Springs or to Land of Wood and Water. For people today, Jamaica means reggae, Rastafarians, and a rollicking good time. Errol Flynn spread the beauty of life on the island when he moved there in the 1950s but Bob Marley’s music escalated the island’s popularity more than any other influence. The lovely island, with the Blue Mountains in its center surrounded by lush jungles and white sand beaches, is the birthplace of reggae music and its musicians, like Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer. Popular bands and other celebrities of Jamaican origin include Third World Band, Black Uhuru, and Grace Jones. Movies that portray the Jamaican way of life include Cocktail and Cool Runnings.  Ian Fleming, the creator of the phenomenally popular fictional character, James Bond, loved living in Jamaica and used the island as the setting for much of the activity in his series of Bond novels; so did the producers of the movies adapted from the books. No trip to the island is complete without trying foods seasoned with the traditional Jamaican jerk spice blend and drinking some Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee and cool, refreshing Red Stripe beer.

Jamaica - Once you go, you know.

Japan

Capital CIty: Tokyo

Type of Government: Parliamentary Democracy with Constitutional Monarchy

Population: 127,470,000

Area: 145,825 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Japanese, Korean, Chinese

Languages: No official language but Japanese predominates

Religions: Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity

Unit of Currency: Yen (International), En (Japanese)

Description of National Flag: A white background with a red circle in its center

Date of Independence: April 28, 1952

Interestingly, Japan is known as Japan everywhere except in Japan, where the official name of the country is Nippon. Its 6,852 islands are home to more than 127 million people, 98.5% of whom are Japanese of true Japanese ancestry. Since people have been living in Japan for more than 30,000 years and the nation as it’s known today was founded in 660 BC, Japanese culture has developed over a tremendously long period of time. Tradition runs deep. Some of the long-standing traditions that make Japan unique among nations include the tea ceremony, origami, sumo wrestling, and kabuki. From the tradition of woodblock printing came today’s popular manga and anime art forms. Must-see sights include Mount Fuji, the Shinto Itsukushima Shrine, and the many exquisite Japanese gardens throughout the nation.

Japan - The Land of the Rising Sun is one of the most beautiful in the world.

Lithuania

Capital CIty: Vilnius

Type of Government: Semi-Presidential Republic

Population: 3,341,966

Area: 25,173 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Lithuanians, Poles, Russians,Belorussians

Languages: Lithuanian

Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodox

Unit of Currency: Lithuanian Litas

Description of National Flag: Horizontal triband with gold, green and red spanning its width from top to bottom

Date of Independence: March 11, 1990

Cottage hotels dot the lush, green Lithuanian countryside and world-class hotels are available in the major cities, making Lithuania a great way to enjoy the best of both worlds. In this northern European country, almost 80% of the population is Roman Catholic and this faith is represented in many of the populations activities. Large, ornate churches are in every town and village and the Hill of Crosses is an awe-inspiring testament to the nation’s collective religious devotion. Lithuanian folk arts are enjoyed by all and there are several important museums already well established. The Vilnius Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, in the nation’s capital city, has a 2011 opening scheduled.

Lithuania - Celebrate the year 2010 as it commemorates Lithuania’s 20th year of independence from Soviet Union rule.

Morocco

Capital CIty: Rabat

Type of Government: Constitutional Monarchy

Population: 31,993,000

Area: 172,414 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Arab-Berber, Jewish

Languages: Arabic

Religions: Islam, Jewish

Unit of Currency: Moroccan Dirham

Description of National Flag: Green interwoven pentagram (star) centered on a red field

Date of Independence: April 7, 1956

Casablanca, Berber carpets, the fez, and earthy spices that delight the senses - these things come to mind when thinking of this ancient land on the northern coast of Africa. The country’s major cities - Rabat (the capital), Fez, Casablanca, and Tangier - seamlessly mix the old with the new. Cultures are intricately woven, too, thanks to Morocco’s importance as a centuries-long center of commerce linking Africa, Europe, and Asia. Morocco was the first of all nations to acknowledge the USA as an independent nation in its own right, back in 1787.

Morocco - In Morocco, the sun shines 300 days of the year.

Mexico

Capital CIty: Mexico City

Type of Government: Federal Presidential Republic

Population: 111,211,789

Area: 761,606 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Mestizo, Amerindian, White Mexican / Criollo, Jewish, Afro-Mexicans, Asian

Languages: No official language but Spanish predominates

Religions: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Evangelicalism, Judaism

Unit of Currency: Peso

Description of National Flag: Three vertical stripes of equal size, green, white, and red from left to right, with the coat of arms centered in the white (center) stripe; the coat of arms represents the Aztec legend for Tenochtitlan (modern-day Mexico City)

Date of Independence: September 27, 1821

Beautiful Mexico’s cultural influences range from the ancient Aztec and Maya to the Spanish colonization to an eclectic blend of even more cultures today, making modern Mexico a truly cosmopolitan nation. Its capital, Mexico City, is one of the largest in the world but its remote deserts and mountain ranges are home to people practicing a way of life that’s changed little in centuries. Traditional Mexican music styles such as the mariachi, corridos, and ranchera influenced the Latin sound so popular in today’s music industry; Carlos Santana was born in Mexico. Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo represent Mexican arts and movies including Como Agua Para Chocolate, Babel, and Y Tu Mama Tambien have received high acclaim in recent years. On the dinner table, delicious Mexican influences include tomato, avocado, sweet potato, limes, tamales, barbacoa, pozole, margaritas, and perhaps the single most-favored food in the world today - chocolate.

Mexico - From ancient ruins to world-class resorts, Mexico is a land of many personalities.

The Netherlands

Capital CIty: Amsterdam

Type of Government: Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy

Population: 16,590,075

Area: 16,033 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Dutch, Indonesian, German, Turkish, Surinamese, Moroccan, Caribbean

Languages: Dutch

Religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism

Unit of Currency: Euro

Description of National Flag: Horizontal triband with a red stripe across the top, blue across the bottom, and white in the middle

Date of Independence: January 30, 1648

The Kingdom of the Netherlands includes North and South Holland, perhaps one reason the nation is sometimes referred to as Holland. The official language is Dutch and English-speaking people outside the kingdom often refer to the people as Dutch. From the Netherlands come iconic inventions such as the windmill, wooden clogs, dikes, the bicycle, and Gouda cheese. The tulip, a natural native of the Kush Mountains in western Asia, was once so highly valued it was used as currency and is firmly associated with the Netherlands today. Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and de Kooning are famous Dutch artists. 

The Netherlands - This jewel of Europe houses two museums for every square meter of space.

Philippines

Capital CIty: Manilla

Type of Government: Unitary Presidential Constitutional Republic

Population: 91,983,000

Area: 299,764 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Filipino, Mestizo, Arab, European, Asian

Languages: Filipino, English

Religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Folk Religions

Unit of Currency: Peso

Description of National Flag: Two horizontal bands, blue and red, with a white equilateral triangle bordering the hoist side; inside the triangle is a gold sun radiating eight rays; in each vertex of the triangle is a small five-point gold star

Date of Independence: February 2, 1987

From the Republic of the Philippines come influences that include native Indonesia and South Sea islands, Portugal, Spain, and Japan. Arabic and Spanish are the official languages, reflecting the importance of the nation’s main religions - Islam and Christianity. The folk arts are the predominant form of entertainment in the Philippines and its cuisine is a blend of its historical influences - American, Asian, Chinese, and Hispanic.

Philippines - Its motto says the island nation is Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Makakalikasan, at Makabans (For God, People, Nature, and Country).

Poland

Capital CIty: Warsaw

Type of Government: Parliamentary Republic

Population: 38,130,302

Area: 120,726 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Polish, 

Languages: Polish, Eastern European, Vietnamese

Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim

Unit of Currency: Zloty

Description of National Flag: Two rectangles of equal size, white on top, red below

Date of Independence: January 30, 1990

Its strategic location at the base of the Baltic Sea has made Poland a prized territory for thousands of years. Its current system of government, the Third Republic, was founded in 1990 as a parliamentary republic and it’s a member of the European Union. Astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus and composer Frederick Chopin are two historically famous Poles and Pola Negri and Roman Polanski are famous today for their work in the film industry. Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel is celebrated for his work depicting life in Nazi concentration camps and his political activism regarding the Holocaust. Some delicious Polish contributions to world cuisine include the pierogi, kielbasa, and gingerbread.

Poland - The Polish tourist bureau labels it the natural choice.

Romania

Capital CIty: Bucharest

Type of Government: Unitary Semi-Presidential Republic

Population: 22,215,421

Area: 92,043 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Romanian, Hungarian, Roma

Languages: Romanian

Religions: Romanian Orthodox, Christianity, Islam, Judaism

Unit of Currency: Leu

Description of National Flag: Three equally sized vertical stripes, blue, yellow, and red, left to right

Date of Independence: December 1, 1918

Romania’s most famous contribution to the world mixes history with pure legend from a time a thousand years ago when the region was known as Transylvania. Bran Castle was built in 1212 by Teutonic Knights but its fame came later, when Vlad III the Impaler (Count Dracula) moved in. Today, “Dracula’s Castle” is a national monument and one of Romania’s busiest tourist attractions. Olympic gold medal gymnast Nadia Comaneci and tennis player Ilie Nastase represent formidable opponents in the sports arena. Romanian cuisine borrows from historical influences that include the Ottoman Empire, Hungary, Germany, France, and Greece.

Romania - Romania provides a rich tapestry of experiences unique to Central-Eastern Europe.

Russia

Capital CIty: Moscow

Type of Government: Federal Semi-Presidential Democratic Republic

Population: 141,927,297

Area: 6,592,800 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Russian, Tatar, Ukrainian, Bashkir, Chuvash, Chechen, Armenian

Languages: Russian

Religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism

Unit of Currency: Ruble

Description of National Flag: Three equally sized horizontal bands, white, blue, and red, from top to bottom

Date of Independence: December 26, 1991

This, the largest country in the world, covers almost one-tenth of the land mass of the Earth. The Russian penchant for standard-setting greatness has given us Tzars Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. Lake Baikal is the largest body of fresh water in the world. Siberia is one of the coldest spots on the planet. The first human in space was the Russian, Yuri Gagarin. Dmitry Mendeleev was first to present chemical elements in a Periodic table and he perfected the distillation of vodka, too. Moscow’s Triumph Palace is the tallest residential building in all of Europe. Artistic greatness is very Russian, too - Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein, Rachmaninoff, Pavlova, Nijinsky, and Stravinsky. Literary greats include Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, and Tolstoy. The magnificent State Hermitage Museum is one of the oldest and largest in the world and a great Russian feast is likely to include such delicacies as black bread, blini, borsch, and cutlets in the style of Chicken Kiev.

Russia - It’s impossible to gain a full understanding of the culture of this vast nation in one quick visit.

Scotland

Capital CIty: Edinburgh

Type of Government: Devolved Government in a Constitutional Monarchy

Population: 5,168,500

Area: 30,414 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Scottish, English, Irish, Welsh, Other

Languages: English

Religions: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism

Unit of Currency: Pound Sterling

Description of National Flag: A blue field with a white saltire (Saint Andrew’s Cross) anchored in al four corners

Date of Independence: Traditionally recognized year of establishment is 843

Taking up roughly half the northern end of the island of Great Britain, Scotland is where people have been settling for 9,500 years. During that time, golf, the kilt, Scotch whisky, and the bagpipe were invented. Scotland is home to the Shetland pony and sheepdog, the Loch Ness Monster, and Sean Connery. Their Scottish roots are evident in the writings of Sir Walter Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and J. K. Rowling. The athletes of this robust Celtic nation make headlines in their vigorous pursuit of rugby (football) championships. Haggis, cock-a-leekie soup, kippers and kedgeree, the Scotch egg, neeps and tatties, scones, fattie cutties, shortbread, petticoat tails, hatted kit, and tipsy laird grace the tables when traditional Scottish meals are served.

Scotland - Off the mainland, there are more than 790 islands that are a part of Scotland territory.

Switzerland

Capital CIty: Bern

Type of Government: Federal State with Parliamentary System and Direct Democracy

Population: 7,771,600

Area: 15,940 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Swiss, Italian, German, Serbian, Montenegrin, Portuguese, Sri Lankan

Languages: German, French, Italian, Romansh

Religions: Christianity, Judaism

Unit of Currency: Swiss Franc

Description of National Flag: A red square with a white equilateral cross in the center

Date of Independence: September 12, 1848

If hills could truly be alive with The Sound of Music, Switzerland would be the place. This mountainous country includes some of the highest peaks in the Alps, including the famed Matterhorn, and the Jura mountains pick up where the Alps leave off. World-class downhill skiing is a given here but so are other winter sports, including bobsledding and ice hockey. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose philosophical writings strongly influenced the forces behind the French Revolution, was born in Switzerland as was Johanna Spyri, who wrote the classic children’s books about the life and adventures of Heidi. Swiss cheeses and cheesy dishes, including Gruyere and Emmental, fondue, and raclette are enjoyed the world over. Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate and the Swiss techniques of conching and tempering chocolate have made the sweet delicacy a world favorite.

Switzerland - Switzerland represents a living example of the term, winter wonderland.

Saudi Arabia

Capital CIty: Riyadh

Type of Government: Islamic Absolute Monarchy

Population: 28,686,633

Area: 1,071,000 square miles

Major Ethnic Groups: Arab, Asian, African

Languages: Arabic

Religions: Islam

Unit of Currency: Riyal

Description of National Flag: A green flag with a white inscription and a white sword below it; the inscription is religious, the sword represents justice

Date of Independence: September 23, 1932

This devoutly religious country is home to both Mecca and Medina, the two most sacred cities in the world of Islam. Saudi culture is a blend of tribal tradition as well as Islamic values. Native attire is dictated by Islamic devotion to modesty and the need for

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