As a European, when it comes to dates, the American date writing style nearly always confuses me.
Like Europeans, I am used to writing the Date-Month-Year format, yet, the Month-Date-Year format leads me to make mistakes.
When traveling to America, it is not uncommon that dates are understood wrong. Recently one of my friends booked a hotel for April 2 (04/02) but accidentally got confirmed as February 4 (02/04).
This is because Europeans write differently than Americans, Japanese and Chinese.
European countries write the date in the DD-MM-YYYY format or, in other words, the Date-Month-Year format.
Also, instead of using slashes in between the numbers, Europeans use dots to separate day, month, and year.
Additionally, the Year-Month-Date format is used as a secondary format in formal European writing.
On the other hand, Americans mainly use the Month-Date-Year format, and Chinese and Japanese mainly use the Year-Month-Date format.
In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know to form, read, and write European dates correctly. It’s a simple yet very useful thing, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Here are the most used date formats in the world.
|European date format||American date format||International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 8601, Japanese, Chinese date format|
|7 January 2022||January 7, 2022||2022-January-07|
1. How do Europeans write dates?
The most widespread date format in Europe is the day-month-year format. This date format is also called “Little-Endians”.
day-month-year style is not only used in most parts of Europe but also by the majority of the world.
This is the part where Americans get puzzled because of the switch between day and month.
Moreover, unlike Americans who add slashes (/) or a hyphen (-) to separate the numbers, Europeans use dots (.) or commas (,) instead.
Let’s say you were about to write the fifth day of April.
While Americans would express the date as 4/5/2022 or April 5, 2022, Europeans would write it as 5.4.2022 or 05.04.2022.
In more formal writings, the date can also be written as 5. April. 2022
2. Why do Europeans write the date differently?
Europeans and most other countries in the world are classified as Little Endians.
When writing dates, Europeans start with the smallest value and end with the biggest. Therefore, Europeans write the day first, then the month, and then the year.
But why do Europeans write dates like that? The answer is relatively simple.
The European way of writing the date in the day-month-year format is just more rational.
Everyone knows what month and year we are in. Therefore, it is only logical to go from the more specific day to the more general one when it comes to writing dates.
The way European countries and most places of the world write the date in the DD-MM-YYYY format. This format is simply a logical progression from smaller to bigger.
3. Writing & Reading European Dates
Since European dates are written a bit differently as compared to American dates, it is important to know how to spot this difference.
3.1 How to write dates in European format
Let’s say you are planning a trip to France and need to book your flight for 8/7/2022 (August 7, 2022).
Always remember, the European format is either written in the international standard of yyyy-mm-dd or in the most commonly used dd-mm-yyyy format.
As a rule of thumb, the first number indicates the day, followed by the month and year.
3.2 How to read dates in European format
Reading European dates is exactly the same as you’re writing them. First, you mention the day, then the month, and lastly, the year.
So instead of saying August (the) seventh, 2022, you would say the seventh of August 2022.
4. Types of Date Format Variations
Depending on what region you live in, dates are written in a different order. This change in format is what you call “endianness”.
Endianness can be further subdivided into “Big Endians”, “Middle Endians”, and “Little Endians”.
Big-Endians use (YYYY-MM-DD) and start with the biggest or most significant value and end with the smallest. That means that dates in this form start with the year, followed by the month and day.
Some Asian countries like China and Japan are Big-Endians and use YYYY-MM-DD date format.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an organization that aims to achieve standardization around the globe, and also embraced the Big Endians format.
Many European countries accept ISO’s date standardization (ISO) 8601. For this reason, (YYYY-MM-DD) format is the second most used date format in Europe.
For this reason, Big-Endian date formats are also commonly used on an international level by governments, businesses, and organizations.
The middle-endian date format is written in the month-day-year format and the standard date format in the US as well as in some US territories.
Nonetheless, several US-based organizations like to use the international format (year-month-day) or even the little-endian format (more on that below), which is used by the US Military.
The Little-Endian date format begins with the least significant value and ends with the biggest.
Little-Endian is the most commonly used and standard date format in Europe and most countries of the world, and it uses the day-month-year format.
5. How are dates written in different countries?
Whatever country of the world, it writes its dates in one out of three ways.
It’s either in the little-endian format dd-mm-yyyy, the middle-endian format mm-dd-yyyy or in the big-endian format yyyy-mm-dd.
Depending on where you live, these formats can vary slightly when it comes to the separation of numbers.
European countries like Germany, for example, use dots for separation, while the United States uses either slashes, hyphens, or even commas.
However, keep in mind that the ISO standard uses hyphens (-).
Interestingly, Asian countries like China don’t use anything for separation. They would write their date like this: 2022 January 5.
Hungary, on the other hand, writes its dates in an even more peculiar way.
Example: 2022. január 5
As you can see, a dot is placed after the year, and the month is not capitalized.
Some of the regions that write their date in the Day/Month/Year format include countries from
- Central America (except Belize)
- South America
The date format of Month/Day/Year is unique to the following countries.
- United States
- Canada (sometimes)
Regions that write their date in the Year-Month-Day format are countries from
- Asia (especially China and Japan)
The international standard for writing dates is YYYY-MM-DD, yet, the most common way in the world is the exact opposite and goes DD-MM-YYYY.
If you want to find out the date formats of every specific country of the world, follow the link to Wikipedia’s listing