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Do you really know the nicknames of the countries you visit?


Japan, Finland, United States... These countries are often designated by circumlocutions referring to their history, culture or geography. Everything you always wanted to know about their meaning (but were afraid to ask).

The land of the rising sun




The Japanese call their country 'Nihon' or 'Nippon' using the Chinese characters 日本 meaning 'origin of the sun' (日 = day, sun + 本 = origin, source), from which we derive the famous

expression 'Land of the rising sun'

, writes Angelo Di Genova, tourist guide in Osaka, in

Something from Japan

(Nanika editions).

It is also this rising sun that we see on the Japanese flag, the Hinomaru.

The sun is also the symbol of Amaterasu, the goddess from whom the imperial dynasty descends according to Shintō legends.

Another recognized origin for this periphrasis, a missive addressed in the 6th century by Prince Shotoku to his Chinese counterpart in which he writes:

The emperor of the country where the sun rises sends a letter to the emperor of the country where the sun sets

” (China being west of Japan).

Read alsoJapan: how to behave in an onsen and what gestures to avoid?

The Land of the Morning Calm

South Korea.

From the 14th to the 19th century, Korea was called Joseon (or Chosŏn), literally "cool morning".

Nevertheless, the term "calm morning" is the most commonly used.

A translation error perpetuated in particular for the needs of the tourist industry which wished to praise the framework resting the dream landscapes of the country.

Note that the paraphrase appears in the first line of the North Korean national anthem: “

Land of the Morning calm, full of sunshine, full of gold, silver.

Less common, the nickname "hermit kingdom" refers to the political and commercial isolation that characterized the end of the Joseon dynasty in the early 19th century.

Read alsoSouth Korea, this destination driven by K-culture

The land of smiles

The paraphrase "land of smiles" refers in particular to the smile at the Buddha.

Here the reclining Buddha in the temple of Wat Pho in Bangkok.

STANISLAS FAUTRE / Le Figaro Magazine



A stay in Thailand makes it possible to realize that it is displayed everywhere on the faces of its inhabitants.

The smile (


) is a language in its own right, to the point that it should rather be spoken of in the plural.

There are about fifteen smiles, each designating an emotion (embarrassment, admiration, sadness...).

The paraphrase can also refer to the smile at the Buddha, an expression of wisdom that adorns the statues of some 37,000 Buddhist temples in the kingdom.

Note that neighboring Cambodia is also sometimes referred to as the “land of smiles”.

Read alsoWhere to go in Thailand in 2023?

Our travel guide from Bangkok to the islands, via Chiang Mai

The kingdom of a million elephants

In Laos, the Pak Ou cave, along the Mekong.

STANISLAS FAUTRE / Le Figaro Magazine


When the kingdom was founded by the unifying King Fa Ngum in 1353, the figure of one 'million' was intended to mark the spirits and did not reflect any reality.

It was above all a question of symbolizing the power of the army and therefore of the country

”, underlines the travel agency Laos Otherwise.

In reality, the country, located between Thailand and China, has only 800 elephants, including 400 in the wild and as many in captivity.

The Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) founded in 2010 in the province of Sayabouy (west) is the only pachyderm sanctuary in the country.

Read alsoWhen to go to Laos?

Climate, weather… The best periods by region

The middle Empire



The Chinese call their country Zhongguo (“the Middle Country”).

Tradition knows five orients, five cardinal points: four hostile margins populated by threatening barbarians who, more than once, broke in savage hordes on the domain of the ancestors, and the fifth orient, the 'Center of the world' where the earth had to live in harmony with the celestial sky by the propitiatory virtue of its emperor

”, explains Jean-Pierre Respaut, historian and former general manager of the cultural travel agency Clio.

Read alsoWhen to go to China?

Weather, climate, seasons… The best period by region

cedar country



This conifer is so symbolic that it strikes the red and white flag of this Middle Eastern country.

It was once found in abundance from 1500 meters above sea level, especially on Mount Lebanon which gave its name to the country.

Majestic, it can reach up to 40 meters high and live for hundreds or even thousands of years.

But the cedar of Lebanon is now in danger, first because of deforestation and urbanization, then now because of insect pests and global warming.

Good to know: a cedar from Lebanon, planted in 1734, still sits in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

Read alsoWhen to go to Lebanon?

Weather, climate… The best period by region

The Rainbow Nation

Cape Town, South Africa.

ERIC MARTIN / Le Figaro Magazine

South Africa


It is only since very recently that the country bears this nickname.

It is traditionally attributed to Nelson Mandela who, on May 10, 1994, pronounced this term during the investiture ceremony: "

We are committed to building a society in which all South Africans, white or black, can walk heads held high (...) a rainbow nation at peace with itself and with the world.

In reality, we owe this paraphrase to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner.

In 1993, the man of faith spoke of the "

Rainbow Nation

" at the funeral of Chris Hani, a hero of the fight against apartheid.

Read alsoWhen to go to South Africa?

Weather, climate… The best period by region

Uncle Sam's Country

The figure of Uncle Sam was popularized by this propaganda poster released in 1917, when the United States participated in the First World War.

James Montgomery Flagg

United States


This symbol finds its origin in the second Anglo-American war of independence (1812).

"Sam" is the nickname given to Samuel Wilson, an entrepreneur who, at 23, created a meatpacking company for the American army.

Asked about the meaning of the initials "EA-US" displayed on the cans of meat, a worker at the plant in Troy, New York, "replied that the initials EA stood for Elbert Anderson, the name of the partner

of the society.

Jokingly, he added that the US initials stood for 'Uncle Sam Wilson'

, recalls the US Embassy in France.

The anecdote caught on and by the end of the War of 1812, the nickname was adopted.


The figure of Uncle Sam was popularized during the First World War with the famous propaganda poster "I Want You for US Army" where he is represented as an old man pointing his finger with a stern look.

Read alsoParis-New York flight: which airline to choose?

Our comparison

The land of a thousand lakes

Finland does not have a thousand lakes, but nearly 188,000!

Here, Lake Kallavesi.

Visit Finland



This is a grossly underestimated figure.

The Nordic country actually has 188,000 bodies of water, an average of 30 per inhabitant!

They are mainly concentrated in the southeast, in the aptly named Great Lakes region.

Whatever the number, this paraphrase illustrates the attachment of the Finns to the aquatic element which is an integral part of their way of life.

Fishing or canoeing in summer, snowmobiling or bathing in ice water in winter... Not for nothing has the country been named the happiest in the world.

Read alsoFinland in search of French people in search of happiness

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-03-31

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