When buying a world map here, we have Middle East (and Europe) in the center with Bering straight and Alaska at the edges. In America, I suppose you have America in the center with the cut being through Asia.

I wonder, in which countries they adopt each variant of the cut as predominating.

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    "In America, I suppose you have America in the center with the cut being through Asia." doesn't seem true at all, America-centered maps seem to be exceptions or novelties. – Peteris Aug 21 '14 at 12:57
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    @Peteris: No, the maps cut through central Asia are not marketed as novelties at all. Being towards the center of the map, in many projections, means less distortion. Also, the west coast of the US has strong ties to other Pacific Rim countries, and they are thought of as being to the west, not to the east. Searching for America world maps yields many joke maps, but splitting the map through Asia is never part of the joke. Many serious maps are split there. – Matt Aug 23 '14 at 1:47
  • @Matt you're arguing against something I don't claim. If you go into a random USA bookstore and pick a random world map, is it really likely that you'll get one that won't have the prime meridian in the middle? I'm not claiming that America-centered maps don't exist, but I'm claiming that they aren't the commonly used maps even in American countries. The question is about the predominating usage. You can make an America-centered map because of the reasons you state, but that would be an exception, not the default option. – Peteris Aug 23 '14 at 2:01
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    @Peteris: Sorry, I thought you were saying that America-centered maps are novelties. I think they are (or used to be) common. Although I can't go back and check, my recollection is that the world maps hanging in classrooms when I grew up (in the US) typically cut the world through Asia, not the Pacific. I know I was surprised to see, in Eastern Europe, a (non-novelty) map that made the cut through America. Unfortunately, both bookstores and maps are much less common (in the US) than they used to be. Looking through US school supply sites, most maps do cut through the Pacific now. – Matt Aug 23 '14 at 2:20

I'm not sure where "here" is for you, but the map you have is the standard way of drawing a map no matter where you are in the world. See here for example.

There's three good reasons for this.

  1. Land Layout. The continents are not equally distributed across the globe. The land hemisphere has 7/8 of the world's land area, while the water hemisphere is 89% ocean. Since the Pacific is wider than the Atlantic, and (in general), no one is interested in wide swaths of empty blue, it makes more sense to cut the map such that the land area is roughly centered.

  2. Division points. Related to #1 above, there's only one good spot that you can draw a line from the North Pole to the South Pole and cross as little land as possible - the Bering Strait. Anywhere else, you're going to be cutting across a large land mass (as you pointed out). That makes reading that area of the map much harder than it needs to be. The one other point you could make a cut would be down the middle of the Atlantic (avoiding Greenland), but then the center of your map will be in the middle of the Pacific, which isn't very useful.

  3. History. Historically, Europe and the Americas have had much more interaction than Asia and the Americas have. Thus it made sense in the past to show the Atlantic as a whole, with Europe and the Americas on either side. And since maps are made for people used to maps already, they keep preserving the same features, even though the standard Mercator projection that everyone knows greatly distorts the size of countries.

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In about 20 different countries I've been, including the USA, almost all the maps I've seen have the intersection of the Prime Meridian and the Equator as the center. I don't think there are many maps where the country is the center, except of course for things like aviation magazines.

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  • What about maps in Antarctica? I suspect they put Antrctica in the middle. – Anixx Oct 18 '14 at 20:07

Well, I think the main option by far is the Prime Meridian and the Equator in the middle of the world map. There are two other options involving the America in the middle and Asia centered.

Using another center point than the Prime Meridian could also be useful when making thematic maps. Let's say for instance you focus on a subject that mainly involves interaction between America and Asia. It would be difficult to draw these intersecting lines between Asia and America on a standard Europe centered map. It would be far better to use a map where for instance America is centered.

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