The evolution of travelling over the years has led to some negligence when it comes to small anecdotes that a lot of people, including us at times, don’t take into consideration. Sometimes these things are pretty meaningless, but in other instances, they can be pretty fun. We’re here to let everyone know that while it may seem nerdy, and while it may seem like something only people like Sheldon Cooper do, investigating the intricacies behind flags of the world can be incredibly fun and exciting to do.
Sure, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it can certainly start a discussion regarding how we format these kinds of things. After all, some of the meanings that we’re going to delve into are questionable and others are downright bizarre - but it all comes down to personal preference. We aren’t people in positions of power and we aren’t able to really change what it is that makes these flags unique, so instead, all we’re left to do is examine and marvel at the beauty of these colour-coordinated pieces of national symbolism.
In reality, every single flag has an interesting and surprising fact behind it, but for the sake of time, we’ve narrowed it down to twenty of the most intriguing from around the globe. It doesn’t matter if their population is 500 million or 500 thousand because one way or another there are a group of individuals who will raise their hand to their head in honour of their flag and the patriotism such an act represents.
19 South Africa - A symbol of unity
While there are many negative connotations you could come up with to describe South Africa as a nation, there are equally as many, if not more, good things that you can say too. They have a fascinating history that goes back over hundreds of years, and as seen in recent times, they’re starting to develop an identity that is completely separate from anything we’ve seen from them in the past.
In regards to their flag, they have an interesting combination of the African National Congress (yellow, green & black) alongside the Union Jack (red and blue). Not only does this compliment the idea of diversity amongst South Africans, but it also showcases the unity which they’re desperately trying to put across in the light of darker days.
18 United Arab Emirates - Honesty, Bravery, Hope and... Defeat?
The luxury of the United Arab Emirates as a nation speaks for itself. Thousands upon thousands of wealthy individuals fly there on a year by year basis in order to experience how the other half lives. From Dubai to Abu Dhabi, the seven emirates are each as fascinating and mystical as the last - which can only be a good thing for their tourism board.
Their flag, as jumbled as it may seem on the first view, also represents a variety of different ideologies. The white symbolises honesty and peace, red highlights bravery and courage, green showcases hope, and yet the black represents the defeat of their enemies. From light to dark, the UAE certainly send some mixed signals with their offering.
17 Brazil - There's a meaning behind those stars
When you think of Brazil you often think of many things: football, culture, beaches, and a whole lot of noise. There are other attributes that come alongside that but for the most part, nobody can deny that the hub of South America lives in the heart of Rio de Janeiro.
On top of that, the first glance of the Brazilian flag is likely to be met with one word - “wow”. The yellow represents the golden wealth of the nation as a whole, and the stars showcase the states of the country in the pattern of a beautiful night sky. Their forest area gets some love, too, in the shaded green section.
16 Botswana - A reliance on water
While we aren’t here to send people packing on their holidays at the drop of a dime, it’s difficult not to recognise the allure of Botswana as an African country. The wildlife alone is enough to appeal to even the most cynical of individuals, and more people are starting to appreciate what they have to offer on a day by day basis.
The flag, as simplistic as it may seem on first sight, actually possesses an interesting colour scheme that holds a major purpose. The white and black represent both harmony and the national coat of arms, which is always nice to call back too, and the blue is an iconic symbol of the country’s reliance on water.
15 Nigeria - A vital industry to the nation
The trials and tribulations facing Nigeria as a nation have been well documented, and our job isn’t to highlight those trepidations any more so than many others already have. Instead, when you look on the opposite end of the spectrum, you see a collective group of colourful, inspirational and vibrant individuals.
The shade of green seen here on the flag may not indicate that straight away, but that’s because it represents the industry of agriculture which helps to keep Nigeria ticking along. The white showcases their desire for unity, in an age where that can often be hard to come by.
14 Malaysia - Traditional religious symbols
There are plenty of obvious traits that Malaysia, as a nation, possesses. It’s considered to be a vibrant country in parts and not so in others, but on the whole, the architecture and scenic beauty on display are enough to sway most high-flying travellers to visit there.
Their flag, on first view, reminds many of the United States of America courtesy of the stripes. Ironically enough there’s a very different reason for their presence on the flag, with the arms and stripes representing the 13 member states and federal districts of Kuala Lumpur. They signify equality, whereas the yellow is a traditional royal colour. Meanwhile, the crescent moon and star are both symbols of Islam - Malaysia's official religion. Simple, really.
13 South Korea - heaven, sun, moon and earth
The public perception of South Korea can often be summed up in a stereotypical way: it’s the more accessible side of Korea. But that's a rather naive viewpoint. When you go deeper into the nation, you’ll soon see why it’s such a popular tourist destination amongst those who are looking to sail and fly their way across Asia.
The white on display in their flag is a symbol for purity and peace in its finest form, and weirdly enough, the blue and red in the centre form the ‘yin and yang’ forces that highlight the balance in the nation. Interestingly enough, as most people know, the majority of ‘yin and yang’ signature pieces from around the world often come in black and white. The four black trigrams (assortments of rectangles) represent heaven, sun, moon and earth.
12 Argentina - Blue skies galore
While their soccer team may not have too much to shout about right now, Argentina will forever be seen as a country of great appeal - based on reputation alone. In parts, you could argue that it’s a hidden gem within its own continent, although others may choose to see it as a ‘hype train’ of sorts, albeit we argue those with that viewpoint are mistaken.
Nevertheless, their flag, in short, is absolutely gorgeous. The delicate shade of baby blue is a symbol for the country’s often clear skies that are on display every minute of most days, with the white actually being a portrayal of the snow found in the Andes. We can’t forget the Sun Of May, either, which has some interesting religious connotations to go alongside the celebration of their independence.
11 Bangladesh - Clever placement of the sun
Whether it be through cricket or daily life, the people of Bangladesh know how to stand out amongst the crowd. They’re full of light and colour, which is often misrepresented in the media.
Their flag holds up to that in a unique way too, with the red circle on a green background denoting the rising sun that fills so many with hope and promise. The eagle-eyed readers will notice that it’s placed slightly to the left, which is done so that when it’s flying on a mast, it appears as if it’s in the centre. Not all heroes wear capes, folks.
10 Austria - Red and white is not what you think
Austria is a nation that has always been held in such a high regard for the architectural splendour and historic value that it brings to Planet Earth, and while it may sound like it, we aren’t being hyperbolic with the way we describe it now or in the future.
The flag looks very run-of-the-mill, but when you delve deeper, the meaning is somewhat haunting. According to legend, in the wake of a battle during the Third Crusade, the Duke of Austria's (Duke Leopold V) white tunic was soaked in the red of others. As the tale goes, that served as the inspiration behind the pattern to this day.
9 Canada - It's not actually for maple syrup
Ah, Canada. A country so well known for being polite and courteous, yet once that famously plays host to some of the greatest fighters known to man. It’s a complex nation for reasons that we don’t have time to get into, but beyond that, they certainly know how to make a statement with their representation.
Lester B. Pearson campaigned valiantly for the flag of Canada to feature a maple leaf. Why? Because during times of conflict throughout Pearson’s life, he noticed that battalions included a maple leaf on their uniform. As such, the historic symbol still remains in 2018.
8 Germany - simple, elegant and effective
When it comes to variations and major changes, few flags, and countries as a whole, have gone through the mill more than Germany. As a European powerhouse their story has been told multiple times over, and because of that, we want to focus on the elegance and effectiveness of their flag in its current form.
The colour scheme may not jump off the page, but there’s no denying that you know what nation you’re dealing with when you first glance over at it. Some would say that they’re common colours and there’s nothing more to be said on the matter when in reality, they were the colours located on soldiers’ uniforms during the Napoleonic era.
7 Philippines - The unique sun represents more that just sunshine
The Philippines may bring with it an ever-changing series of weather variations, and it may consist of more than 7,000 islands, but we find the flag of The Philippines to be as unusual as it is aesthetically pleasing. Is it the greatest thing we’ve ever seen? That’s debatable, but in our optimism, we shan’t rule it out.
The sun rays symbolise the eight provinces that stood up and revolted against Spanish ruling, which actually led to the uprising. The consistency of that is the nicest thing of all, with the other colours that make up the flag being seen as beacons for justice, equality and courage.
6 Bahrain - 5 pillars of islam
Dependant on your own personal preferences, Bahrain could be viewed as one of the finest nations to visit for a week-long celebration or one of the worst. It’s viewed as one of the focal points of the Persian Gulf, and with that kind of reputation comes a great responsibility.
The flag of Bahrain actually had eight points once upon a time, although in a move that we still can’t quite wrap our heads around, it was altered and reduced to five in order to avoid any kind of confusion with Qatar’s flag. The five points are seen as the pillars of Islam, but let’s not forget that Qatar’s flag is a completely different colour.
5 Vatican City - Keys to Heaven
The chances are good that if you’re reading this, then you’ve heard of Vatican City for one reason or another. Whether it be courtesy of the Pope’s rule or the fact that it’s the smallest state in the world by population and area, you aren’t ever likely to forget about it.
On top of that, VC has a thoroughly pleasing flag. The two crossed keys are the Keys To Heaven, that were given by Jesus to St. Peter. The gold key represents spiritual power, while the silver one represents worldly power. The three-tiered papal tiara, for those of you who are wondering what that means, was worn by Popes from the 8th century all the way through until the 20th century.
4 Nepal - the world's only non-rectangular flag
Nepal is a landlocked nation in South Asia that is found in the Himalayas, possessing eight of the ten tallest mountains in the world. But as you’re reading this and thinking about Nepal in the realm of flags, you’ll probably have clocked that it’s a little bit unusual when put alongside its counterparts.
It is the only national flag on Earth that isn’t rectangular in shape, and the constitution actually has instructions for the geometric construction. The triangles link back to popular religions in Buddhism and Hinduism, with the moon and sun showcasing the population’s desire to live as long as, well, you know, the moon and the sun.
3 Mexico - Look closely for the rattlesnake
The Mexicans are a proud people and their patriotism truly knows no bounds. While they may border the United States their exuberance and culture are wildly different from their neighbours, and their larger than life persona as a nation draws in many tourists every single year.
The story behind their flag is a fascinating one, and unless you actually look closely, you can’t truly appreciate it. The gods advised wandering Aztec people to settle upon seeing an eagle feasting on a snake, on top of a cactus. This image became the country's coat of arms and sits in the middle of the flag. As for the colors, nobody really knows the symbolism behind the red and green shades.
2 Ethiopia - the first independent African nation
Unfortunately, when the world thinks of Ethiopia, there’s a stigma that comes in to play courtesy of the poverty found across the country. There isn’t enough of a focus on the fact that some of the oldest skeletal evidence for modern humans were found there, where humans supposedly first began their journey towards the Middle East.
Their colourful flag is made up of the primary colours green, yellow and red, which symbolise African independence. That’s particularly important for Ethiopia as they were the first African nation to receive independence, setting a benchmark for generations of Africans to come as they appreciate the efforts of their founding fathers. The emblem in the centre is made up of a star, which represents Ethiopia's bright future, and yellow rays (of equal size) that represent the equality of all Ethiopians.
1 Vietnam - A struggle for independence
If you’re off on your travels with friends, family or just on your own, then the chances are that Vietnam will pop up in the conversation if you decide to venture across Southeast Asia. It’s an extremely popular destination for gap years and things of that nature, and rightly so.
Events through history have formed an unfortunate level of bias towards the nation when in reality, its beauty is what should shine through above all else. Alas, the true meaning behind their flag is perhaps the most telling of all, as it represents the struggle during their pursuit for independence. Furthermore, the gold star refers the the five worker groups of socialism: peasants, soldiers, workers. youth and intellectuals.