Listenbourg: What is it? And why is Ryanair promoting this imaginary EU country ?

Listenbourg, Europe’s newest and most fictional member state. Photo / Twitter, gaspardooo; Dall E

Listenbourg has much to celebrate.

In a remarkably short space of time, it has garnered diplomatic and celebrity support, and an airline has announced plans to open a new crew base in the scenic European country. It’s the kind of viral tourism campaign that money can’t buy.

Particularly impressive when you consider that it doesn’t exist.

Just seven days after joining the European Union – via Photoshop – an internet injoke went viral.

Imaginary countries are nothing new. From Rurutania to Westeros, popular culture is full of it.

But this one started out as a joke on French Twitter and somehow grew into something bigger.

“I’m sure Americans don’t even know the name of this country,” wrote meme artist Garspardo.

A red arrow pointing to the outline of a mysterious country pinned ad hoc to the side of a map of the EU.

As the 28th EU member state, Garspardo invented the digging at the geographical knowledge of tourists. He urged tourists to name it.

An answer came immediately: “Who doesn’t know Listenbourg?”

The name stuck.

What is Listenbourg

With over 120,000 likes, the joke only got more polished.
French social media was full of the meme.

GPS route-finding app Waze announced it would bring support to the country.
“Listenbourg, at least we know how to get there!” it tweeted.

Famed sports commentator Julien Febreau also got involved, as did the French national ice hockey team.

Then the joke jumped the language barrier and was picked up by low-cost airline Ryanair.

READ :  WhatsApp launches proxy tool to fight internet censorship

“Proud to announce our new base in Listenbourg!” said Ryanair this weekend.

The result of this was further French merriment and confusion outside the Francophone network.

A photoshopped image of Fox News host Tucker Carlson also made the rounds, adding to the meme and question: what and where is Listenbourg?

A fake screenshot from Fox News that appears to have been talking about the fictional country perpetuates the joke.  Photo / Twitter
A fake screenshot from Fox News that appears to have been talking about the fictional country perpetuates the joke. Photo / Twitter

The TikTok hashtag #Listenbourg spread across the internet far more successfully than any tourism campaign, garnering over 75 million views.

French geography YouTuber and content creator What’s Up World added to the confusion with a parody video of 10 interesting “facts” about the fictional country.

Pranksters have continued the joke by registering internet domains and launching social media accounts for the fake country’s ministries.

There is even a weather forecast for Listenbourg. Essential for anyone planning an imaginary trip to la pays qui n’existe pas.

The very plausible-sounding country — a mishmash of Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and other tiny European principalities — is real enough to fool AI.

Fed only with the prompt “Listenbourg”, Dall E generates quite plausible – but forged images of Central European buildings. Welcome to Listenbourg.

AI generated images from command prompt "Hoerburg".  Photo / Dall E, Creative Commons
AI generated images from the Listenbourg prompt. Photo / Dall E, Creative Commons

Why did France fall for Listenbourg?

Europe has fallen victim to its own complicated geography and the ignorance of international reporting.

In 2005, a CNN report accidentally redrawn Europe’s borders, placing Toulouse and Strasbourg in Switzerland and Germany, respectively.

Recently, the news channel had to make an embarrassing apology for putting Ukraine alongside Pakistan, a mistake the news outlet blamed on “human error.”

READ :  NCC, group celebrate rural women farmers, encourage ICT for production

Before the internet, the term “Yugoslavakia” was coined as a joke by American travelers in the late 1990s. The country, which mingled a number of Slavic states, summed up the confusion over the seemingly constant redrawing of Eastern Europe’s borders and the gaps in their geographical knowledge.

No wonder pranksters have been re-drawing the map of Europe to see if anyone notices.