Learning Countries of the World, Facts, & Location: A Step by Step

Hi all,

Long time lurker first time contributor here. I’ve gotten a lot out this forum over the last while and love the discussion that takes place so I wanted to give back a little bit.

I find or have found when i was starting out that the step by step instructions/ examples on how some people implemented their Memory Palaces were very informative so I just wanted to outline how I tackled facts about the countries of the world.

The first thing to mention for any ‘beginners’ (I put in quotations because I very much see myself as a beginner as well) is that setting up a Memory Palace can be very straightforward and easy but sometimes it requires a little bit of forethought about how you will structure it to make things easier for yourself in the long run. That is to say that you may read this and think there is too much ‘work’ involved before you even get to the memorisation part of it, but you can make it as simple as you want, I was just trying to categorise everything in a way that would make it easy for me in the long term to revisit.

Step by Step
Here is my Memory Palace and description of how I learned all the Countries of the World, Capitals, Currency, and Languages and also their location on the map.

Here is my google doc: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1dPShgYrBfy8o09POKTiG7nesnelu80rS9Ae_91AOhT4/edit?usp=sharing

I wanted to store the countries in my Memory Palace in accordance with their ‘location’ on the map so I broke the countries down by their United Nations Region and created a separate palace for each continent as I potentially plan on expanding the information at a later stage so i want lots of room.

image

So in Africa for example there are 5 regions so I need to pick a Palace that has 54 loci spread across 5 distinct areas (eg. 5 different rooms in a house) and in Oceania I need a palace with 4 distinct regions for 14 loci.

Once I had my Palaces chosen I then started on a Continent. I’ll start with South America to just give an example of how I do each country.

Individual Countries


When starting an area i will look at a map and trace my finger across the region (SA only has 1 region but i would do this exercise on a region basis rather than a whole continent) in a way that would capture all countries and it gives a nice S shape. In my memory palace I have laid them out as if they are all in front of me and as I enter i can see them all so i enter with Chile and Argentina as the first countries and I can ‘see’ Venezuela and Guyana at the far end of my palace as i follow my ‘trace’ through the palace so to speak. Very intuitive for me.

For Argentina I have an image of an Army Sergeant (Argentina) perfectly dressed up. He has a big industrial fan as a weapon and the fan is blowing cupcakes (cupcakes are called buns in my country) at me like bullets (Buenos Aires- Buns + Air (fan)). In each of my images the population is always underfoot so i know where in each image to find that fact. In this case the population is 45 million and my image for 45 is RaiL so there is a little toy train track that is going around the sergeant’s feet. The currency is the Peso and I have the train carrying a brand of crisps called Tayto (pronounced Tay-toe which sounds a bit like Pay-so which is how Peso is pronounced). I know immediately that relates to currency as I imagine bandits trying to rob the train of its gold like an old western movie. I can skip the language in this instance as i know Argentinians speak Spanish.

For Bolivia I have an image of a massive Bowl (Bolivia). Bolivia has 2 capitals, La Paz is the Government and Sucre is the Judicial capital so i have one person sitting on the rim of the bowl and their lap (la Paz) acts as a diving tower into the bowl and i have an image of a judge inside the bowl standing up but covered in a kind of sugary water (Sucre). The bowl is balanced preciously on a massive Ton weight which is my image for 12 (population of 12 million). Bolivia have 3 languages but i know they speak Spanish so i have left that out. For the other 2 i imagine my 2 people each saying something. One of them starts to speak and Ketchup comes out of their mouth (Quechua pronounced Ketch-oo-a) and the other starts says the words AY—MAAAA (Aymara) like Will Ferrell in Wedding Crashers shouting to his mother for meatloaf. Currency is the Boliviano so I imagine the bowl losing its balance on the weight and spilling its contents of Olives (Boliviano) on the ground and the olives rolling around as if the contents of a purse had just been spilled.

How to ‘Locate’ a country in your palace
To showcase exactly how i work with location I’ll show Oceania. According to my table it has 4 regions. Australia/New Zealand, Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia.
My Particular Palace for Oceania is a Caravan park and i have 3 distinct images here. One is a hill that encloses the caravan park, 1 is the outside of the caravan itself and then the inside of the caravan handles 2 regions.


I look at this image and imagine myself walking into the caravan park with everything in front of me so according to the picture it makes sense that i walk in through Australia/New Zealand as that is at the bottom of the picture (imagine putting this image on the ground and walking through it, you would walk into Australiasia first.

On the top of the hill getting into the caravan park I have Australia and on the bottom of the hill I have New Zealand. One region done, easy.

As im walking towards the caravan I come into Melanesia and this region is outside of the caravan. If we look at the countries in Melanesia and imagine ourselves looking at the Caravan then we can see that Papua New Guinea is on the left, then Solomon Islands, then Nauru and then Vanuatu (Fiji is actually in Polynesia so this image is a little off) so just place the countries in that order in my palace. As i walk up to the caravan on my left is Papua New Guinea (i’ll do one last example of my country logic) and that is my father surrounded by pet Guinea pigs. Beside him is Ted Mosley from How I Met your Mother driving a bottle of Port (Port Moresby). He is sitting on a massive bar of soap (my image for 9, the population in millions) and struggling to stay on (maybe because its soap or maybe because hes drunk, every detail makes the image stand out more). The guinea pigs are eating Quinoa (Kina- Currency) off the ground. My father speaks to me in English to get the guinea pigs off him. Ted Mosley starts to taking a pee on a clock on the ground (Tok Pisin- langauge) and while shouting at my friend Harry who rides by on a motorcycle (Hari Moto- language). The image of a drunk man pissing while shouting helps solidify that its a language aspect of my facts.

The other countries are then either in front of the Caravan as i stand outside it or to the right of it but they are laid out in the order they appear on a map.

To finish out Oceania then when I enter the caravan there is a sofa and table to my left (Micronesia- i lay the countries out here from left to right as well according to their position on the map) and the hallway to the bedroom and toilet on my right (Polynesia- same logic here with positioning) and i just space those countries out accordingly.

Conclusion
It’s a lot of detail but you can see how the images are quite distinctive and each aspect plays on each other to reinforce the image. For languages the aspects of my image are speaking to me or making noises that reflect the name of the language. For population i always have it as something on the ground and for currency i have it as a briefcase that spilled open or some concept of lots of little things in the scene like they are coins. Having common themes like that help me instantly know what im looking for in the image.

It does take quite a while to create these images and to really make them vivid in my mind but consider that its 4 images per country minimum (if they only speak one language or have one capital) which makes close to 800 images for the whole world so if you want to try something similar I would accept the fact that it won’t be a speed exercise you undertake. I really like the idea of breaking the countries down into their regions so we have an easy way to locate a country to a particular part of the globe and then you can instantly ‘see’ it in your palace.

Hopefully this will give someone clarity on how exactly to go about creating their own palace and find ways that work for them. When i started out i was so focused on finding the ‘best’ way that someone else had done but reading other peoples guides really helped me figure out what worked for me and how to engage with the process.

14 Likes

Thanks very much for this, David. I like your idea of using regions, and the ‘S’ shape tracing through South America is a great way to connect them all. I’m going to do this. Might try to tie it in with Jonas’s thing of turning the shape of the country into an image. Like a chilli pepper for chile, or your sergeant idea - seeing the map shape of Argentina as an image of a sergeant shouting hot air or something.

Thank you so much for sharing your method! I had started learning the countries in order of population, as Lynne Kelly mentioned in her book, but I found it a little bit random and I wanted to learn the location of the countries as well, so I quit. Your post may be the inspiration I needed to start again!

It helps so much to see the hard work others have put in to a memory palace. I love the idea of learning the languages as well.

That sounds like an interesting way to imprint the countries. I know I’m definitely not creative enough to come up with an image for each country based on their shape and it would only add those as extra images in my palaces to learn (a.k.a I’m too lazy to try that approach). I’m not quite sure it would help me solidify the location of the country either as I imagine a lot of countries look quite similar? Best of luck with it.

1 Like

Hi Lauren,

Hopefully you stick with the endeavor this time around. I struggled for a long time with the location of the countries but breaking it down into the UN regions and placing the countries in my palace in order of how i would walk through that region if the map was on the floor has really made it so easy for me to remember the locations. Best of luck.

Anybody have any suggestions for adding flags to this? I’d like to be able to identify a country’s flag as well as the name and the capital. Personally I’m not as interested in the population or currency so for me that could be swapped out.

Hey Snowdog,

That’s actually what got me started on learning these facts about the world because I LOVE flags. I just learned the flags through Sporcle and repetition though as there is a lot going on in flags to try and make a palace out of them, especially as so may flags are the same.

My suggestion would be something along the lines of this as a starter (Perhaps I could try and write a guide for the flags of the world and what cues are helpful.) If we take South America for example:
Note: I also assume that in recalling these flags it would be a case of looking at a flag and assigning it to a country, if you wanted to recall the flag purely from memory you would have quite a lot of work to do to recall the specifics of the insignias.

Bolivia- Image for the country is a bowl of olives (green) so the olives are at the bottom of the bowl. You want to mix up the flavour a bit so you put some sweetcorn on it and cover everything in ketchup (or blood) if that makes the image more vivid. Floating right in the centre of the bowl on top of your ketchup is the sticker from the bottle of Heinz (representing the flag has a logo). (Bolivia has a pretty cool dual flag for the country so look that up).

Argentina - Image for the country is an Army Sergeant and so you can imagine them fighting a war against the sun so they are trying to trap the sun but normal weapons arent enough so they are moving 2 oceans in on either side (this army sergeant has superpowers) to trap the sun, As the water gets close to the sun it steams resulting in the white band.

Guyana - My image for this in my Palace is Guy Pierce and to me his face seems quite angular around his nose so this is just him with an extra long nose.

Chile - This flag looks exactly like the state flag of texas (the lonestar state) so i just have that link in my head. Otherwise you could imagine a long red chilli on your plate and then receiving a star for being able to eat it?

Suriname- My image is me as a child spelling my surname with fridge magnets. So I could imagine receiving a star for being able to spell my name. Suriname was one of the Dutch colonies so the red and yellow of the suriname flag would make up the orange of the dutch flag. (For this and Guyana i’m leaving out some details but over time just by seeing the flag your mind will automatically fill these in).

Uruguay- This is extremely childish but my image for Uruguay is a Pride parade based on the playground interpretation of the syllables in the name which can be said as ‘Ur Gay’. So the stripes on this flag would be similar to the stripes on the Pride flag. The sun could be thought about in a number of ways. If you have a solid image of the location of the countries in your mind then you can ‘see’ uruguay as a smaller argentina and so the sun is smaller. Alternatively to follow the Pride analogy you can see it as that community beginning to flourish and shine and so the light starts in the corner and will slowly start to spread.

Paraguay - My image is someone Paragliding. Can imagine them being hit by a bird while in the air and getting some part of their body blown off resulting in a lot of blood and then they crash land into the ocean. Your mental image can be an aerial shot of the place they landed in the ocean and the paragliding equipment just floating in the ocean to represent the logo.

Brazil - Image for this could be the mother from the show Dinosaurs wearing nothing but her Bra and with curlers in her hair and shes in a really bad mood (reflecting the ‘Zil’ ending like Bride-zilla). The globe and stars in the flag could represent the meteor that came from space and hit the earth (green) to make the dinosaurs extinct.

Peru- For this i just think about Coca Cola. The colours of Coca Cola are inspired by the Peru flag as they based their original recipe on very heavy use of cacao leaves which come from Peru. For the logo i just think of a coke can with the logo.

I left Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela as they are all based off the original Gran Colombia flag so they have the same colours. To differentiate them I could think that the Colombian country was left trying to rebuild from a blank slate after their wars with the drug cartels (apologies if this is insensitive), Ecuador i think about the Condor bird which can be a representative for the bird in the logo and also just sounds like the last syllable in Ecuador. For Venezuela it can be just knowing that its not the other two.


Hope that helps somewhat in knowing how you can proceed. There will be a lot of tricky ones especially once you get to the Pan-Arab and Pan-African countries but just repetition will have you getting over them no problem.

3 Likes

Thanks. I’ve gone through a quiz app with flags and route memorized them before. But if I don’t keep up with it I find that I forget a lot. Whereas with a memory palace I find that I only need to refresh once every couple of months.

The difference with flags is that they’re images so other than just trying to drop the flag into a memory palace I don’t know what to do.

Your suggestion of tying an image in a memory palace to a description of the flag is a new idea to me. I’ll have to try that.

I found this thread while I was looking for information on how to build my first Memory Palace.

I’d like to thank you because your post solves a lot of my questions. But I have one more doubt that I don’t get yet. How do you remember where you place a specific region?

I mean, for example, how do you remember that Melanesia is outside of the caravan?

I don’t understand how to “label” a group of hierarchical data. :confused:

I try to give you an example of my trouble: I would like to memorize regions of Italy with their provinces in a MP created from my house. There are 20 regions in Italy so I was thinking that I had to divide each region in a different room, but:

  1. I don’t have enough rooms in my house (only 11)

  2. Some regions have less than 5 provinces (for example Aosta Valley has 1 province, Molise has 2 provinces) and I feel like I’m wasting loci if I reserve an entire room for a region with only two or four provinces

  3. I’d have to scan some rooms to find more loci than other rooms, and it seems unbalanced to me. The provinces are rarely a multiple of 5; I saw many times in this forum that people write only about a MP with rooms of 5-10 loci.

  4. I’ve no idea on how to associate a specific room to a region. I think that I have to put something related to the name of the region somewhere, but where? If I have the door as the first locus I have to “burn” this locus ad assign the image for the region?

I’m struggling a lot with my first Memory Palace. :exploding_head:

I hope you can help me, I didn’t want to open a new thread because I think this thread can be the right container and I don’t post a duplicate.

Thanks again for your post, it was inspiring :muscle:

And thanks to all in advance for any suggestions.

Hi abbone,

Disclaimer right from the start is that I’m only really a beginner in all of this and perhaps what im doing above is too much work and over thinking things. My theory is that the more i do the more i will figure out what works best for me and what doesnt. I’m starting to think that my loci are too detailed with extra details to remember and i need to rely more on my brain forming natural connections. that is to say take my advice with a pinch of salt. what im saying mightn’t work for you, and it may not work for me in future as I realise what i prefer. its so individual.

How do you remember where you place a specific region?

I mean, for example, how do you remember that Melanesia is outside of the caravan?

At the beginning, assuming 0 knowledge of what you are trying to learn, there are just some things that you need to work at for it to stick. So in my post the very first thing i do is imagine my walking route through the region as if the map was laid on the ground. So when i am picturing my MP and i go past Australia, my image is inherently tied to the top of the hill and New Zealand is tied to the bottom of the hill. Melanesia is obviously outside because I know that i just walked past New Zealand and to get into the Caravan I need to be outside the Caravan. As i walk through my palace the items that represent the different loci are interacting with their environment (Ted Mosely sitting on a bar of soap for example will have the backdrop of the caravan behind him. Its an image tied to its surroundings and not in a vacuum).

The knowledge of where a location is can come to me in a number of different ways once I have my palace. If i am walking through it then it will kind of come as an automatic trigger once i pass the image before it. If i am thinking of a country in isolation and wondering where its location is then the image of that country will place me a particular area of my memory palace and that will tell me the location. if it doesnt then i can very quickly just scan the loci beside me and maybe they will trigger my memory. Eventually though certain things will just become things you know rather than have to remember and given the location of your loci in your palace is the very fundamental start of your MP, i imagine those things will just become things you know rather than have to remember very quickly. If that doesn’t make sense then please feel free to keep asking until I can phrase it in a way that helps you. Essentially a MP will just help you remember things easier but there is still some work in remembering the things, even meta things like the location of your loci.

I don’t understand how to “label” a group of hierarchical data

Definitely don’t beat yourself up about this as it seems to be one of the more difficult things to do. I say that not as someone who knows (I’m very much a beginner in all of this) but because in reading a lot of posts in this website it just seems to be difficult. it would inherently involve loci stacked on top of loci which just gets confusing. Rooms in a house make sense for 1 level of hierarchy but going above that might be difficult. You could say something like the houses of this group of friends will give me 3 levels (the grouping of houses, the houses themselves and then the rooms inside the houses. ) There are many ways you could do it but it just requires a bit of forethought, which is why i probably overexplained in my post.

There are 20 regions in Italy so I was thinking that I had to divide each region in a different room, but:I don’t have enough rooms in my house (only 11)

Don’t get tied into thinking a whole room needs to be a whole region. Rooms can be subdivided, hallways, doorways, stairs, elevators, windows to the outside all can be different areas (maybe if you live in a high rise apt the view from your window shows you 6 buildings across the street, those can be individual loci in the area of your ‘window’). Get creative. See below for examples.

  1. Some regions have less than 5 provinces (for example Aosta Valley has 1 province, Molise has 2 provinces) and I feel like I’m wasting loci if I reserve an entire room for a region with only two or four provinces

I see that Aosta Valley is in the top left of Italy. Perhaps on your route you decide to ‘enter’ Italy through Aosta and so Aosta Valley can be your front door signifying thats where your journey through your MP begins. The door can be the whole region. Maybe if you enter Italy through the bottom then Aosta can be your final loci so it might be your back door or it might be the wardrobe in your very last bedroom that you visit on your journey.

Molise is somewhere in the middle so perhaps that could be your stairway as that would signify a transition from downstairs to upstairs (Southern Italy to Northern or vice versa) or if you live in an apt/ bungalow it could be as simple as the fridge in the kitchen. You enter the kitchen and maybe your view is immediately to the right where the sink and countertop is so that area of your kitchen could be a whole region with the microwave, countertop, knife block, sink, drying rack all being indiviudal provinces, you then have to turn to move to where the table and chairs are and that could be a whole other region with the head of the table, on top of the table, the cupboards in the background and under the table (all being different provicnes) and then Molise is the fridge, or the dishwasher with the 2 provinces being inside that. The region of Molise could be the corner of your kitchen and the 2 provinces could be the dustpan and the brush that you place there. It could be anything.

I’d have to scan some rooms to find more loci than other rooms, and it seems unbalanced to me. The provinces are rarely a multiple of 5; I saw many times in this forum that people write only about a MP with rooms of 5-10 loci.

I wouldn’t worry too much about that. That could apply to things like learning the digits of pi where having an ordering to your MP allows you to easily remember where you are in your list ie. im in my back bedroom in the MP so i know i must be somewhere between digits 150-160, or something like that. Your MP will have an inherent ordering to the things you are remembering so let that guide you. If a region has 30 provinces then its definitely worth maybe using 2 rooms but i see that 12 is the most. you should be fine. pick the biggest room in your house for that one.

I’ve no idea on how to associate a specific room to a region. I think that I have to put something related to the name of the region somewhere, but where? If I have the door as the first locus I have to “burn” this locus ad assign the image for the region?

So in my fridge example above I might have molasses )Molise) running down the front of the door making it hard for me to open because it is sticky. Then when i open the door (inside the region so it will be provinces) i have my images for the 2 regions. perhaps one is on the inside of the door and one is on the shelves or perhaps its a fridge freezer and one is in fridge and one in freezer. If it was your front door then the region could be a sign over the door and the door itself could be the region. Or the door could be the region and the doorknob and the doormat could be provinces. Or the wood in the door could be the region and the windows in the door could be the provinces.

I wouldn’t worry too much about getting your first one perfect. You’ll get better when you realise what works for you and what doesn’t. My whole South America MP is a 2 room apartment. I’m realising now that it’s probably too crowded but I’ll get better. Just give it a bash and see how you get on.

1 Like

First of all, I thank you so much for the detailed answer and the precious concrete examples. Sometimes a beginner can teach another beginner better then an expert :wink:

Then, if I got it right with the sentence below you mean that, for the fridge/Molise example, after a while if someone ask me in which region is “Isernia” I won’t need to go outside the fridge (once I’ve recalled the image connected to “Isernia”) to see the molasses on the fridge to recall Molise, but probably it will be a natural thought?

Finally, I agree with you in saying that errors are a good way to learn something, so I’ll try to do my first step with MP without expecting to be perfect on the first try. :smile:

Thanks again for sharing your experience!

Exactly that, eventually it will be just a natural thought. You will be so used to visualising it in your head as something you see once you open the fridge that you will know its there automatically. Although that kind of question will probably make you hesitate the most because you will be working in reverse. You will learn the provinces as a by product of entering into each region (entering into your MP room) and so it may take a bit longer to reverse it but in that way you can always tie your imagine to the item you place it on (molasses dripping down the fridge making it hard to open is an example). Isernia could be something related to Ice which makes you think of cold = fridge.

1 Like

You can create an object and then change its shape into the shape of another type of object from an object type list,

For Example - For rememering the name of a person Smith who is a baker you can think of an axe and change its shape to that of a chef’s hat(**An object in my object type list encoding the catagory of the information retrievable from the object,Here that object catagory is a hat for baker which is exagerated to become a chef’s hat for the ‘Baker’ profession :relaxed:)**while retaining it’s colour, texture etc with freedom as long as it works for you most or all of the time and that was just an example it is not necessary to even retain its texture but it may reduce the results which you will get by following the text that is written

And with this method even if a person forget the text(ex-name etc) that has been associated with an object he will be able to recall the catagory of that person because he will be able to see it’s image just like it happens in PAO you can convert the objects to numbers and a person does not usually forget the number that has been associated with the object otherwise the chances of that person of being able to type even 5 consecutive and correct numbers in any memory games without using short term memory(which is less than 40 digits) is very small(0.01% only with guessing),and some memory athletes can remember 24 digits in less than 3 seconds with some extra time taken to press the finish button of the Memory League appears at or after 2.00 seconds)

And with spaced practice with spaced repetition with this method it is impossible that the information will be forgotten and I do not know about others but I can forget the text associated with pictures in my memory palaces but I usually do not forget the pictures in my memory palaces if I keep them simple and try to remember them which I think is done by the best memory athletes,This is for an example only I do not claim to be one of the best memory athletes in the world by my statistics in good memory games)

And if it happens that somehow a person still forgets the text(catagory) associated with an image then effective use of a memory technique called “Magnetic Compunding” will certainly help and I found this technique on YouTube by Anthony Metivier(And I believe that @metivier is the creator of that technique)

And I think that the capacity for fuzzy memory in the human brain is unlimited,For example- A person can read a page and remember a one or two complete sentences from that page but a person can read a book and remeber 2 or 3 pages of fuzzy or partial sentences which would have been more if due to the lost words some grammar of those sentences would have not been lost,letting those sentences retain their importance and preventing them from being forgotten by the brain as they are less important information and it does not have the capacity to process all the information that comes to it)

Going by the usual rate of forgetting and the time it takes to read a 300-360 page book we should have forgotten most if not all if the pages only remembering a few(2-3) or 2 sentences from the last 2-3 pages but we do not instead we can consiously remember 3 pages,

And it has been proven by a study that after reading a book even without knowlage that we will be tested 12 days later we can remember about 33% of the text uncounsiously verbatim along with their positions which is 100 pages of a 300 pages book instead of the normal 10% mostly without verbatim and if you do not believe me then I am posting the link of that below and it has been published in a reputed journal-

Imaginge what would happen if the text that they would have read would have been a textbook containg questions that would have been asked before their final class 10 exams and they would have been told that they would have to give a memory test on that book after their exams and that they would be allowed to read it with a little more than their average reading time(+8 minutes) I think that you can expect to see 95% unconscious recall after that if they are motivated and its satisfying to imagine how much power that they will have in their exams! if they will use a simple memory technique(s) like the Peg System(with practice after with priming for reading speed and recall) while reading due to their average time constraint,

And,

Have a Great Day.