Software and Computer Engineering

Countries and Currencies According to the ISO Standard

The real world is complicated. Standard bodies such as ISO (International Organization for Standardization) attempt to encode all the particularities into a single language, facilitating understanding and interoperability across globally connected systems.

Country Codes: ISO 3166

One might not think that as simple as question as “what are the countries exist?” might be contentious. Well, in some parts of the world, using even the word country itself to refer to a region might be considered too strong of a word (of course, depending on who you're asking).

Nevertheless, for the purposes of information systems, the ISO 3166 is the well-adopted standard which lists all the countries.

It provides two-letter and three-letter codes (in the A-Z 26-letter Latin alphabet -- you can't assume anything) for each listed country, and there are currently 249 such entities.

Here are some examples drawn from the list in no particular order:

Brazil                    BR  BRA
United States of America  US  USA
Canada                    CA  CAN
United Kingdom            GB  GBR
Mexico                    MX  MEX
Germany                   DE  DEU
France                    FR  FRA
Norway                    NO  NOR
Switzerland               CH  CHE
Liechtenstein             LI  LIE
El Salvador               SV  SLV

Languages: ISO 639

Of course, these countries all talk some language. The ISO body has a two-letter code for every spoken language in the standard ISO 639. Note that we must consider that a single language might be spoken in different countries (and might present localized particularities); and that a single country might have multiple official languages.

Brazil                    pt  Portuguese
United States of America  en  English
Canada                    en  English
Canada                    fr  French
United Kingdom            en  English
Mexico                    es  Spanish
Germany                   de  German
France                    fr  French
Norway                    no  Norwegian
Switzerland               ge  German
Switzerland               fr  French
Switzerland               it  Italian
Switzerland               rm  Romansh
Liechtenstein             ge  German
El Salvador               es  Spanish

Note that a market, for the purposes of product commercialization and customer segmentation, is usually denoted by the combination of the two-letter ISO codes for language and country. For example:

pt-br  Portuguese-speaking Brazilians
en-us  English-speaking Americans
en-ca  English-speaking Canadians
en-fr  French-speaking Canadians
es-mx  Spanish-speaking Mexicans

Currencies: ISO 4217

Finally, all these countries also talk money, and the unit of money is a currency. The ISO body has standardized a set of three-letter codes for each currency in circulation in the ISO 4217.

Once again , a slight, but important, detail: a single country may have multiple official currencies; and a currency might be used by multiple countries (sometimes surprisingly).

Brazil                    BRL  Brazilian real
United States of America  USD  United States dollar
Canada                    CAD  Canadian Dollar
United Kingdon            GBP  Pound sterling
Mexico                    MXN  Mexican Peso
Germany                   EUR  Euro
France                    EUR  Euro
Norway                    NOK  Norwegian krone
Switzerland               CHF  Swiss franc
Liechtenstein             CHF  Swiss franc
El Salvador               SVC  Salvadoran colón
El Salvador               USD  United States dollar