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The Difference Between a Nation and a Country

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Although people often talk about nations when speaking of countries, the two terms don't mean the same thing. Nations can also refer to ethnic groups living within a country.

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The key difference between a nation and a country is that the word nation refers to a group of people who share the same race, culture and background, whereas country refers to a grouping of people, possibly of different nationalities, united under one government.

Nations
Nations have nationalities. In Europe, the Dutch are recognized as a nation, even if they don't live in Holland. A contemporary example is Formula 1 racing driver, Max Verstappen, who is regarded as Dutch even though he grew up in Belgium and has a Belgian passport. He is considered to be Dutch because his father is Dutch. Nations are regarded as groupings of people that have a specific ethnic identity that can be traced back in time. Examples of nations include indigenous Native Americans, the Welsh, Scottish and English. While people of many nations live predominantly in their own country, other nations like the Kurds have no country at all but are spread out over Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.

Historically, many nations formed countries that were based on their nationality. In this way, France was born out of people who were largely French and Italy was birthed by Italians. These countries are known as nation-states.

A nation, then, can be considered a loose grouping of people who share the same background, are of similar descent and generally speak the same language. However, as a nation, they have no legal power to form a government. This right is reserved for countries and states.

Countries
The right and ability to form a government and to have legal recognition as an independent and sovereign state are two key distinctions between a nation and a country. A country generally has the right to become a member of the United Nations and is recognized as a country by other countries in the world. Countries have the duty and obligation to provide services to people living in their countries. They have constitutions, laws, a legal system, and their own currency as well as a police force and military. They are considered sovereign states because they are not controlled by, or in submission to, another country or state. They can enter into treaties with other countries and have the right to protect their borders.

While some countries are nation-states, others compromise of several distinct nationalities, all under one government. The United Kingdom is a good example of a country that was formed of four different nationalities, the English, Welsh, Scots and Irish. Another example is Canada, which consists of English and French-speaking Canadians as well as First Nation people. Yet another is Switzerland, which comprises of French, German, Italian and Romansh cultures. Contrary to what might be expected, countries change. Some collapse, such as the USSR. In others, nationalist movements are continually agitating for greater freedom and recognition, and this has led to the collapse of countries such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia into smaller separate countries, often based on ethnicity and religion. Therefore, while there is a significant difference between a nation and country, there is also a strong national influence on countries that has an influence on the future of countries.

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