It started as a fictional country on Reddit, and remains a fictional country on Reddit. But New Zanada has some really committed fans.
The nicest country in the world is planning a renaissance.
It’s not New Zealand. It’s also not Canada (sorry). Welcome to the Dominion of New Zanada: a fictional country borne of Reddit, sprouting from a shared culture of mountain-climbing, apologising, and finishing sentences with “eh”.
The country’s concept has existed since at least early 2013, in response – according to Redditors – to the founding of “Ameristralia”, a nation purportedly overrun by racist dudebros and very deadly animals.
Split between Upper New Zanada (New Zealand) and lower New Zanada (Canada), the friendlier landmass spans 10m square kilometres, with a population of 39.9 million, and dual capitals in Ottawa and Wellington.
There’s a flag that’s far better than either of the Kyle Lockwood designs, a coat of arms, a national animal – the fearsome kiwoose (a kiwi with moose antlers that stands as tall as a man and presumably never sleeps) – and a currency, the New Zanadian Dollar (ZAD).
The official languages are English, French and te reo Māori, and given its motto is “The Nicest Country in the World”, old white men probably don’t get upset about hearing any the non-English languages on the radio.
The idea of a union is deeply rooted in cultural, political and social commonalities: free healthcare, out of control house prices, Canadians are effing obsessed with Flight of the Conchords, we love mocking Ameristralians, and both countries have an ongoing history of oppressing their indigenous peoples.
There’s even an anthem mashup.
Since 2013, New Zanadians, also known as “Caniwis”, have collaborated on a shared vocabulary, swapped recipes, and even held their own bloody flag referendum. Ameristralians popped by to say hi, and sometimes threaten war.
But by 2015, everyone started to lose their enthusiasm for New Zanada.
Ambitious plans to connect the two with a Keystone Maple Syrup Pipeline stalled amid indecision over whether it should run across the Pacific, or be built upon the “Ameristralia Superhighway” (a crude MS Paint concept image appears to show the superhighway running from New Jersey, across North Africa, through Yemen, curving down to the middle of absolutely nowhere in Queensland, Australia, and onto Greymouth, of all places).
The boom in interest from both upper and lower New Zanada fizzled out, and its future looked lost.
That is, until recently, says Ian Cooper, the 18-year-old administrator of the Dominion of New Zanada’s Facebook page.
Cooper, from Victoria, the island capital of British Columbia on Canada’s west coast, was just 14 when he embraced the first wave of New Zanadianism.
By day, he’s a merchandising assistant, unboxing stock at an upmarket department store. By night, he’s brainstorming ways to revive the New Zanadian dream with “a new direction”. There’s lots of work to be done. “It’s been pretty barren for at least a couple of years,” he says.
Cooper walks The Spinoff through a brief (and disappointingly humourless) history of New Zanada – colonialism, “nice mountain ranges”, and nice people.
Straight off the bat, Cooper admits New Zanada is “definitely” a satirical idea, dashing hopes that the aspirational union could one day be cemented over Steinlagers and poutine.
Members from the 2777-strong Reddit community of New Zanada offered more enthusiastic explanations of the country’s origins. “Stormkiko” said “a fair portion” of the Dominion’s history stems from being “mistaken for the larger country we’re ‘attached’ to”.
They added: “Obviously not literally, everyone knows New Zealand is in the sky.”
“Margatron” said it was “only natural that after Ameristralia formed, that the ‘smaller sibling’ countries would also form a new alliance. I think we’re very alike.”
And “takuyafire” chipped in: “Australians: Dickheads. Americans: Dickheads. Canadians: Pretty alright actually. So we made friends with them. The end.”
Part of the challenge of keeping the New Zanada community alive stems from the seasonal divide: while Lower New Zanadians are freezing their butts off in the snow, Upper New Zanadians are outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and secretly tending their illegal gardens.
There are cultural challenges, too: New Zealanders love good coffee, Canadians love Tim Hortons coffee; Canada’s English has been bastardised (or “bastardized”) by its proximity to the United States; and Lower New Zanadians drive on the wrong side of the road.
However, there’s been a recent upswing in traffic to New Zanada’s Facebook, after fresh media coverage (by a Canadian journalist who appears to have thought Jacinda Ardern and Justin Trudeau having a “yarn” meant one had borrowed wool from the other).
Cooper, for one, would like to see more collaboration between the two countries – though, in his (unironically) dry style, he suggests it could centre on resources and naval cooperation, rather than, say, working to promote the fearsome national winter sport of rugby on ice.
He has plans to gather writers to tell stories of New Zanada, with a mix of news, opinion, and “kind of absurdist” satire – “kind of like The Onion, if you’ve heard of them”.
Cooper has also just launched an official New Zanada website. When it’s pointed out that the “.ca” suffix might offend 4.4 million or so New Zanadians, Cooper apologises – of course he does – and says he’ll look at changing it.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.