"Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map," begins the now-famous question posed during last weekend's Miss Teen USA pageant. "Why do you think this is?"

That is when 18-year-old Lauren Caitlin Upton came undone, rambling on in a train wreck of a response that makes Boom Goes the Dynamite and Merry Miller's interview of Holly Hunter seem like articulate nuggets of live broadcasting history.

The rudderless response, which really works a lot better with the clip itself, goes:

I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps and I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and the Iraq everywhere like such as and I believe that they should our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for.

In Upton's defense, she did appear on NBC's Today show this week, providing a more coherent answer when given a do-over by the show's hosts. I know. It couldn't have been any worse.

Then again, how many of us out there are geographical flunkies when it comes to international investing? It's more than just barren passports or clueless expressions while staring at a Kamchatka on a "Risk" playing board. If your portfolio doesn't have a little international seasoning, you just don't have a globally diversified portfolio.

Say what you will about Upton's coherence under pressure, but at least even she knew that a question about the United States is incomplete unless you sprinkle in a few global territories for good measure.

Invest like a U.S. American
Taking Upton's lead, I'm going to go ahead and explore some of the intriguing Asian and South African companies that trade on the stateside exchanges. Sorry, Iraq. Maybe next pageant.

New Oriental Education & Technology Group (NYSE:EDU)

China's largest private education provider is an easy story to sell. You have an economy that is growing at a better than 10% annualized clip, and here is a company that is enriching the minds of an enriched country. It's the biggest gainer in the relatively new Global Gains newsletter, up a snappy 42% since being recommended earlier this year. (The company also reported earnings just last month.)


Often referred to as South Korea's eBay, Gmarket is a fast-growing online marketplace. You could see that in the company's latest quarterly report. Second-quarter earnings soared 178%, powered by a 51% top-line advance.

Naspers (OTC BB: NPSNY.PK)

The South African media giant may have changed its ticker symbol, but it's still a force. Beyond its homeland television empire, Naspers has also collected stakes in promising Eastern hemisphere companies like instant messaging masters MXit and Tencent. You may not be familiar with Tencent's QQ, but it's the most popular IM platform in China, enough to make QQ the second-most popular site in the country and the 12th-most popular website in the world.


Taiwan's GigaMedia -- which is another Global Gains pick -- is a global leader in online gaming software. I'm not talking about the multiplayer fantasy games that some may associate with Chinese online gaming stocks like NetEase.com (NASDAQ:NTES). I'm talking about actual Web-based gambling here. This is a sector that has been crushed legislatively stateside, but GigaMedia's emphasis on non-U.S. markets has served it well. Need affirmation? Glance at last quarter's earnings.

Baidu.com (NASDAQ:BIDU)

China's leading search engine -- the only site with greater traffic than Tencent's QQ.com -- is a pretty amazing growth stock. The company blew past analyst expectations in its latest quarter, on the heels of domestic juggernauts that pulled up lame over the same three months. With the copany commanding roughly two-thirds of the search queries in China, the stock isn't cheap. But you don't expect a bargain when looking at company whose second-quarter revenue more than doubled, and whose bottom line is growing even faster.

A basket of stocks in different baskets
If you're shocked to find that 20% of the country can't find the United States on a map, what percentage do you think fails to maintain a globally diversified portfolio?

I don't have the answer, but anything greater than 1% is a travesty. It is naive to limit your investing choices to domestic companies, when the hottest stocks typically spring forth from faster-growing foreign economies.

The Global Gains newsletter service specializes in international stocks, but you will find several foreign stocks in many of the Fool's stock and mutual fund investment newsletters.

Upton got a second chance to get it right. As fate would have it, so do you.  

NetEase and Baidu are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. GigaMedia and New Oriental Education are Global Gains stock picks. You won't need a passport -- or a beauty pageant sash -- to make the most of a free 30-day trial to either newsletter service.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has said plenty of stupid things in his life. Really. As the best man at his best friend's wedding, he even toasted to the groom and the groom's ex-girlfriend. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy, "so we will be able to build up our future for."