Countries in Countries in Countries

When pride and national identity trump logic.

Hi guys, this is Elana from Datawrapper and I’m making a guest appearance here in Lisa’s absence. We at the Datawrapper office are really excited right now because yesterday we released an awesome new mapping feature: Locator Maps! Well I guess it’s no surprise that this week’s Weekly Chart had to show it off. If you want to read more about their functionality, take a look at the dedicated locator map blog post. Or if you feel like it you can just go ahead and make one yourself.

Thoughts on Borders – a short intro

Whilst it was nature and millions of years of natural history that defined the natural borders, boundaries and shapes of the world we know today, it was human history – characterised by all its distinctly human foibles – pride, violence, competitiveness and territoriality (to name a few) that defined the administrative borders that really frame our world.

Now pretty often people can get very upset about these borders. In fact, isn’t almost all news these days somehow related to these invisible lines?

Well for this Weekly Chart I decided to turn this on it’s head for once. Let’s take a look at a case where borders, rather than being surrounded by difficult topics instead shed a light on a more comical side of our human idiosyncrasies.

And what better way to do this than to make use of our awesome new feature! Locator Maps!

Inspired by this collection of unusual country borders. Let me present to you. The Netherlands inside Belgium inside The Netherlands! Yes. It’s Netherlands inception.

So what’s going on here?

Well, without going too deep into the complicated and winding history of past allegiances to dukes, lords and kings – suffice it to say that the land was bought, sold, and loaned through many generations to the point where the current land owners felt allegiance to either the Dutch or the Belgian side of the border. When the official borders were finally laid down in the 1843 Treaty of Maastricht, 5732 separate parcels of land had to have their nationality laid down separately – resulting in this bizarre, disjointed jigsaw puzzle that we have today.

Now thankfully these borders are friendly, and actually have some pretty funny repercussions. Due to the fact that some of the borders actually pass through buildings things can get pretty complicated when it comes to tax. In an attempt to solve this issue the Dutch government decided that taxes should be paid according to the country that your front door opened out to. However due to tax differences on either side of the border, some innovative business owners were known to simply relocate their front door so that it opened to the other country!

Making the Map(s)

Ok… So I cheated a bit. This isn’t one Weekly Chart, strictly speaking it’s three. Three perspectives on the same story, all made with one tool – our brand new Locator Maps! (did we mention those yet?) Anyway I wanted to take this as a chance to use and show off as many of its awesome features as possible.

So here you have it – the features that made it possible to create this map:

  • Region highlighting! Without which none of this would have been possible. So far we support more than 400,000 administrative regions.
  • Markers! With our marker editor I was able to position and style annotations and symbols with huge flexibility, allowing me to tell the story exactly how I wanted. By the way I only used a few, pretty basic symbols. We actually have a collection of 99 different ones (and counting)
  • Map key! I didn’t want the map to get all clogged up with text, so I put all extra information in the key below the map. This nicely divides up the visual and textual elements of the story whilst simultaneously containing them within one unified piece.
  • 3D Buildings. Ok, so strictly speaking I could have shown that the border goes through a buildings using a 2D version of the map. But the extra dimension definitely makes it cooler. And more tangible.
  • Inset Map That little globe on the bottom right that gives a map context. For those not so familiar with the Belgian/Dutch border.

Your Turn

Ok, now that I’ve got your interest, how about you try making your own locator map?

Want to read about all it’s features in more detail? Take a look at the dedicated blog post.

Need help with the tool? We’ve got you covered with a bunch of tutorials in our academy. And if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for there, just shoot us over a mail at

Ok people. That’s all. Lisa will be back with us next week!

Shoutout to Andy Proehl for compiling this awesome collection of bizarre country borders and his research on their origins. Sources: