Iceland has an interesting history and is an interesting country as well. So, of course, that would make the culture of Iceland interesting. Everything about Iceland is intriguing, from the people, to the landscape, to the food. It’s a unique place, but just hearing that might not convince someone. Here’s a few facts about Iceland that shows just how unique a place it is.
Fun fact, marriage isn’t nearly as popular in Iceland as it is in other parts of the world. More than half of all babies in Iceland are born to unwed parents. In comparison, only 32 percent of babies in the US are born to unwed parents. And that’s not to say parents are just having extra-marital affairs. The institution just isn’t as popular, and couples decide to raise families without getting officially married.
There are some exceptions to this, but generally speaking Icelanders don’t have surnames in the traditional sense. Most of them have a patronymic last name, meaning that their name is their father’s first name with the suffix “daughter” or “son” at the end. Women don’t change their last names when they get married either. People are always called by their first name anyway, even when you’re talking to a figure of authority.
Speaking of names, naming babies in Iceland is actually very serious. It’s actually regulated by the official Icelandic “Naming Committee”. They have strict rules on naming to ensure all names conform to the Icelandic language. They need to check the official register of approved names.
An App For Checking Who’s Your Relative
Since Iceland’s more densely packed than most countries, being on an island and all, some people are bit worried about dating. Namely, they’re worried about accidentally dating someone they’re related to. That’s why a group of college students made the app ÍslendingaApp, or “Book of Icelanders”. It provides information on Icelandic genealogy so you can find out if a potential date is your cousin or not.
Babies Sleep Outside
In a lot of Scandinavian countries, babies are taken outside to nap outside. This might seem strange to a lot of westerners, but it’s completely normal there. Parents believe the fresh air helps to ward away illness. Some sleep experts even claim that the cooler air helps to induce a deeper slumber.
The beaches of Reynisfjara are blanketed by striking black sand. And laying right by its side is the unusually geometric basal cliffs. This strange beach is in Vík, the southernmost village in Iceland.
Iceland is already a country of great beauty, so the rivers there are no exception. These rivers originate from Icelands glaciers, appearing almost bejeweled due to their intricate flow. One glacial river in particular travels all the way to Thórsmork, Highlands.
The Most Visited Geyser In The Country
Iceland is actually home to the first geyser recorded in a printed source. It’s located at a hot spring in southwestern Iceland and is the most visited geyser in the country. It was the first one known to modern Europeans after all. Of course, it’s also home to boiling mud pits and exploding water spouts as well. That’s why there’s a sign around the area giving you plenty of warnings of what not to do to stay safe. Although, Iceland, itself, absolves itself of all liability.
The Many Volcanoes
Iceland’s located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, sitting right on the tectonic plates that separate Eurasia and North America. Of course, since the plates are in constant motion, the spaces fill with magma and cause volcanoes to erupt. There are actually 130 different volcanoes in Iceland. And of that number, 30 of them are currently active.
Polar Stratospheric Clouds
Have you ever heard of polar stratospheric clouds? They’re incredibly mesmerizing. Their rare clouds that only occur at high altitudes when the temperatures are lower in the winter. Their appearance creates an iridescent pastel hue across the sky. Seeing them is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, they’re just so rare.
Northern Lights Alert
Everyone knows of the magnificence of the Northern Lights, but not everyone has a chance to see them all the time. Well, if you’re staying in Iceland, some hotels have a service wherein the hotel staff wakes up guests if the Northern Lights appear. It’s perfect if you want to see them, but are afraid you might sleep through their arrival.
Women Business Owners
A much higher percentage of business owners in Iceland are women in comparison to other nations. Iceland fares very well in terms of gender equality. Women are supported by a progressive-right movement that helped get the country recognized as the best country for gender equality nine years in a row.
Opening And Closing Stores
When closing time is varies a lot depending on where you live in the world. In Iceland, that closing time is very early. And the stores open very late as well. Most close around five pm, but they’ll be open at nine pm. If you look for a place open outside of those hours, you’ll probably be charged a lot of money for their services.
Working Multiple Jobs
In Iceland, many people work up to two to three jobs in the frigid winter. But it’s not exactly for monetary benefit. In the winter, daylight hours can be for as few as four a day. It’s very easy to get seasonal depression, so they keep themselves busy by working multiple jobs.
The Largest Banana Plantation In Europe
Technically the largest European-owned banana plantations belong to Spain and are in the Canary Islands. But those aren’t actually in Europe. The Icelandic Agricultural University uses geothermal energy to help grow their plants. They’re capable of growing up to 4,500 pounds of bananas a year.
Keeping The Sidewalk Snow Free
Iceland doesn’t just use geothermal heating for its homes, but also parking lots and sidewalks to keep them snow free. That helps to prevent them from needing to shovel snow, making things a lot simpler whenever they get snowfall. And it’s all done with natural resources.
The Blue Lagoon
And, of course, geothermal heating isn’t just used for living as well. It’s also used to make hot springs. There’s a place called the Blue Lagoon Spa, famous for its soft white silica mud and mineral-rich water. These even have healing effects on the skin.
McDonald’s is the most prominent fast food place in the world. There are over 38,000 locations in more than 100 countries. But Iceland, despite having a good population of 370,000, doesn’t have a single one open. The last one closed in 2009. But it’s not as though the Icelanders didn’t enjoy the food and they dine out quite often. A new location hasn’t opened in the country since then.
Scandinavia often conjures thoughts of the Vikings, who settled Iceland in the 9th Century. To celebrate their ancestors, the people built the “Sword Road”. It’s set on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, north of Reykjavik. Its a popular site. And, of course, it does look like a sword.
Reykjavík is a very modern city within Iceland. But in the city, there’s an Elf school that gives lectures and guided tours on Icelandic mythology and folklore. Over 60% of Icelanders actually believe Elves of are real (of which there are 13 different kinds). Regardless of your belief system, it’s nice that they keep these lessons alive, as it teaches people about their unique culture.
A Book-Buying Christmas Tradition
Icelanders have a tradition called Jólabókaflóð. It means “Christmas book flood”. It refers to how everyone in Iceland receives a book for Christmas. A lot of people in Iceland are massive bookworms. The country actually has the highest rates of books per capita in the world.
A Comedian Was A Mayor
Jón Gnarr is an Icelandic comedian and in 2010, he decided to run for mayor. He founded the Best Party with a number of people who had no background in politics. Despite what you might think, the campaign wasn’t actually a joke. And he actually won. He served for four years as mayor from 2010 to 2014.
The First Female President
Since 1944, Iceland has been a democracy. And in 1980, Iceland elected Vigdís Finnbogadóttir as the country’s fourth president. She wasn’t just the first female president in Icelandic history, but the history of the world as well. Not only that, but she was incredibly popular. After her first term ended, she was reelected three more times, winning the election in 1988 with 94.6 percent of the vote.
Despite its frigidness, that doesn’t mean Iceland isn’t home to any insects. As a matter of fact, it has over 1,300 different insect species that inhabit it. However, there are no mosquitoes. The low temperatures simply can’t accomodate a mosquitoes life cycle. Instead, they have to deal with midges.
In Iceland, every year, a small town called Seyðisfjörður has been painting its roads to resemble rainbows as part of a festival. They’ve been doing it since 2014. The purpose of this festival? To celebrate their LGBTQ+ residents. Reykjavik, another town in Iceland, also has its own Pride parade, painting a different street each year in rainbow colors.