Have a look at this map of the world. Like many other maps, it omits one very special country – a country rated as the most honest in the entire world by Transparency International, and the country the World Bank rates as the best in the world to do business in.
Can you guess which country it is?
To be sure, it is a small country, but it is larger than the UK and almost the same size as Italy – and maps never omit either of those countries. It is an island nation, but has more than three times the coastline of Iceland, and maps never omit Iceland. Perhaps because of its coastline, it has an abundance of fish and seafood, some of the greatest sailors in the world and is the current holder of the America’s Cup. It is very prominent in other sports it favors, and overall came 18th in the count of medals earned at the 2016 Olympics, even though it is only the 125th largest country in the world.
It is not a recently formed country. It has a long history of stable western style democracy, and a positive economy. It was the first country in the world to give women the vote (27 years before the US), and has English as its main language.
It has held a rotating seat on the UN Security Council, and a former leader headed the World Trade Organization for three years. Along with the UK, Canada and Australia, it is one of only four countries in the world to have a special intelligence sharing relationship with the United States, even though it has almost no military capability whatsoever.
Although often obscured or omitted, people who visit report it as one of the very best countries in the world to visit or live in, as do surveys of such places. The Legatum Prosperity Index shows it as being the second best country in the world (the previous year it came in at the very top position), and the free-est country.
Getting there can be a pleasant experience, because its national airline was recently deemed the best airline in the world as a result of Conde Nast Traveler’s reader poll, and rated as “Airline of the Year” by airlineratings.com – for the fifth year in a row.
Talking about air travel, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it was the first country in the world to see a powered airplane fly, beating the Wright Brothers by nine months. More recently, and although a small country, it has a space program and recently had a successful launch, putting a payload into orbit, with an ambitious plan to progress to weekly launches in the future. Only ten other countries have succeeded at launching satellites into orbit.
It has quirks, of course. It has the longest placename of anywhere in the world. One of its cities features the world’s steepest street. And while many map-makers try to relegate the country to one of myth and mystery rather than substance, perhaps that is understandable, because its burgeoning movie-making industry has seen it star as the location of various mythical countries and worlds, such as Narnia, and the film series ranked tenth most popular, ever, in the entire world. No wonder that for some long time, it even had a National Wizard.
The country has an abundant range of natural wildlife, but no snakes. The only other countries to be snake-free (Iceland and Ireland) appear on just about every world map, why not this one too?
Blind taste tests have several times suggested wine from this country is better even than the finest big-name French wines. France is commonly found on world maps; but perhaps the mapmakers had been enjoying too much wine from this other country, and noting how the average wholesale price per gallon of wine from this other country is higher than that from France, decided to try and depress the wine prices by omitting mention of where the best wine comes from.
In addition to fine wine, this country exports more milk products than any other – Germany is the world’s second largest, but this country exports 70% more milk products than Germany. Have you ever seen a map without Germany on it? The country also is a major wool producer, the fourth largest (after Australia, China and the US). The next largest country – Argentina – is invariably featured on maps.
The country (which, not coincidentally, and in case you haven’t already guessed, happens to be where I come from) has finally decided to respond to its repeatedly being obscured, releasing a video featuring a well-known comedian and the nation’s political leader (see if you can decide which is which).