While travelling abroad, you may have found yourself questioning the need for different plug sockets in different countries. Wouldn’t it be easier if every nation used the same kind? It would certainly be simpler for you to charge your phone and laptop, making the need for clunky adapters redundant.
Well, it turns out that the variety that we see in methods of mains electrical distribution across the continents is there for good reason. So, just why are there different sockets around the world? And what are the different types? We’ve written this short guide to explain all!
Why are there different sockets around the world?
Though there’s some debate on the topic, many people claim that Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity while flying a kite during a thunderstorm.
Yet, regardless of exactly how our use of electricity came to begin, thousands of people have worked on the systems through which we deliver it to people’s homes ever since. They’re still working on these systems to this day – which is fortunate considering that more than 700 million people didn’t have access to electricity in 2021.
Yet, since the implementation of this electrical infrastructure has always been an evolving process, different countries – and even continents – have often come up with different ways of doing it.
And it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a universal plug socket. It would take huge amounts of money to swap out the existing infrastructure just to make it possible. Fortunately, USB ports are universal and can be incorporated into many of the different types of sockets around the world, mitigating this problem.
So, now that we’ve explored why socket differences exist in the first place, let’s dive a little deeper into the types of sockets that are available.
What are the different types of sockets?
There are two main types of sockets in the USA, called type A and type B sockets, that house their corresponding plugs. They both supply AC electricity at 120 Volts and a frequency of 60Hz.
Type A plugs have two flat, parallel pins. It’s mainly used in North America, yet you can also find it in Japan and China.
Type B plugs feature these sane parallel pins plus a third “grounding” pin. Interestingly, you can successfully connect a type A plug to a type B socket.
Plug sockets in the United Kingdom feature three rectangular holes in a triangular pattern. These holes facilitate the insertion of the famous British 3-pin type G plug, which transports electricity to connected electrical appliances at 240V.
The type C electrical socket is widespread throughout Europe – so much so that it’s often referred to as the “Europlug”. It has two parallel pins, similar to America’s type A socket. However, type C pins are cylindrical rather than flat.
On top of type C sockets, many European countries feature alternative plug sockets, meaning that there’s a wide variety in use across the continent. Notably, Cyprus and Malta both use the type G sockets usually associated with the UK.