The Economist has come up with a novel way to determine this.
Most people have, at one time or another, had a look at Google Street View. It lets users explore cities and towns around the world via panoramic street-level imagery, and it offers dozens of applications, from house-hunting to holiday planning.
Arguably the most entertaining use of the service is a product called “Geoguessr”, a game created in 2013 by Anton Wallén, a Swedish IT consultant. The premise of Geoguessr is simple: players are dropped at random places in Google Street View, without any information about their locations. They are then scored based on how well they guess where they are.
Geoguessr is a fun way to kill time on a rainy day. But it also offers a clever way to determine which parts of the world are the most recognisable, and who can recognise them best.
With this in mind, The Economist obtained some 1.2m guesses from the online geography quiz, submitted by 223,942 people in 192 countries and territories between January and August 2020. They then used this data to compile a “recognisability index” for each country, defined as the share of players who guessed correctly where they were dropped minus the share who guessed incorrectly - and excluded games in which a player was dropped into his or her own country and countries that appeared in the dataset fewer than 20,000 times.
It turns out that Japan is the most recognisable country. Followed by the USA, Russia, Italy, Brazil and Britain.