For those of you who have travelled between countries before, you might have felt some significant jet lag before. If you like planning ahead a lot, you might try to offset your schedule by the time zone to get around some jet lag. Or you tried that and it made it way worse. Either way, wide countries can have quite a few time zones in them. But what country has the most time zones?
Why Do We Even Have Time Zones, Anyway?
Well it’s quite simple. The Earth is round, and it rotates on an axis. Because it’s spinning around on an axis, the relative time of day at any given point on Earth is different at any single moment. When it’s day in America, it’s probably closer to night in Australia. On a larger scale this goes for seasons too–when you throw in Earth orbiting around the Sun. Summer in North America is Winter in Australia.
So time zones keep things consistent for people, especially when you’re communicating with people around the world. You wouldn’t want someone to call you at 2 in the morning because it happened to be lunchtime for them.
Honestly you probably don’t want phone calls at all. It’s 2021, you could probably fit your voicemail into a text.
Because Earth rotates around its poles, time zones are separated by longitude. You can think of it as a bunch of bands laid across a map vertically, where each band is a time zone. To keep things consistent though, time zones tend to move around national boundaries. This helps prevent a situation where you can bounce between time zones all the time. You know, like Arizona during daylight savings time.
Time zones are noted based on how close they are to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). It’s calculated by mean solar time at zero degrees longitude. The zones range from UTC-12 to UTC+14. UTC-12 is 12 hours behind UTC, while UTC+14 is 14 hours ahead. Same applies for anything in between.
Further Reading: What Is the Difference Between Latitude and Longitude?
So Who has the Most Time Zones?
Well now that you know time zones are separated by longitude, you’ve probably figured that the country with the most time zones would be the one that’s the longest from east to west.
If you guessed “Russia,” you’d be right. Sort of. Mainland Russia contains 11 different time zones, from UTC-12 through UTC-2, all in sequence. While Russia doesn’t have the most time zones, it does have the most consecutive ones, by virtue of all its time zones being on the mainland.
The US is also tied with Russia’s 11 time zones–though only six are consecutive, and two of them have yet to actually be adopted as official for the US. That’s because the two non-official time zones cover unincorporated areas–essentially meaning they’re part of the US but not really.
But there is one country that beats both the US and Russia. It’s France. France has the most time zones coming in at 12. This is because France has a bunch of national territories–specifically in French Polynesia. France’s time zones are UTC-10, UTC-9:30, UTC-9, UTC-4, UTC-3, UTC+1, UTC+3, UTC+5, UTC+11 and UTC+12. Despite nobody owning Antarctica, France did claim the Adélie Land on it. If you did that, France actually gains an additional time zone–clocking in at 13 (UTC+10).
Speaking of America and Russia, they each own two small islands that are about 2.4 miles from each other. One is named the Big Diomede Island (owned by Russia), and the other is the Little Diomede Island (owned by the US). Despite being only 2.4 miles apart, Little and Big Diomede are actually 21 hours apart–Big Diomede is ahead by 21 hours. This is because the International Date Line passes through the 2.4 mile gap, so time cycles between UTC-12 and UTC+14 by virtue of the Earth being a sphere.
So there’s a bonus trivia fact for you, you can jump 21 hours by moving between two little islands just 2.4 miles apart.
Second bonus trivia fact, the Diomede Islands make Russia the closest country to America–without actually sharing a land border.
You might know some countries by time zone, but see if you know populations by time zone here.