7 Reasons Iceland is Quirky and Awesome


Bucket List Worthy  

The Glacier Lagoon

By Candice Walsh

Bubbling geothermal fields and massive glaciers aside, I fell in love with Iceland because of the quirkiness of its people and their cultural identity. It seems that when you put a tiny population on a large island filled with geological mayhem they end up developing a uniquely loveable national character.

1. There are virtually no fast food chains anywhere

One morning after a night out in Reykjavik, I could only think of one greasy, disgusting solution: McDonalds. Nay, no golden arches adorn the streets anywhere in Reykjavik, and certainly not anywhere in the countryside.

The only western food chains I encountered during my trip were Dominoes and Subway, and the Dominoes were few and far between. There is a selection of  Icelandic fast food joints, however, so it is possible to find hamburgers made from questionable meat-like products and deep-fried goodies when you need them. Hotdogs are particularly popular.

2. Almost everyone in Iceland is a writer or a literary connoisseur

With a literacy rate of 100% and a statistic that claims 1 in 10 people will publish a book in their lifetime, Iceland is a literary dream. Reykjavik itself is a UNESCO City of Literature, and you’ll find a bookstore on every corner. Even the gas stations have big displays filled with novels…and not the harlequin kind.

3. Many people believe in trolls and elves

Seeing as how Reykjavik is a City of Literature, it only makes sense that the country has huge storytelling roots. Trolls, elves, and faeries have long played important roles in Icelandic folklore and myth, and some areas of the country are even avoided by believers who don’t want to tick off any mythical folk. There’s also an Icelandic Elf School that specializes in teaching Icelandic folklore.

4. Reykjavik’s runtur is real and amazing

Also known as the “round tour,” this name is given to the hypothetical pubcrawl that takes place every weekend downtown in the city (especially Friday). Beer wasn’t legalized in Iceland until 1989, and people are now making up for lost time. Bars stay open until 4 AM, but you’ll often find people littering the streets until sun-up. Do NOT try to outdrink an Icelandic person. You’ll be sorry.

5.The prime minister’s phone number is indeed in the phone book

You can literally find Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson’s digits in the local phone book. The parliament doesn’t have a gate around it, and I was told if you were to pay the prime minister a visit, he’d welcome you with open arms. I didn’t test this theory, and maybe my Icelandic friends were pulling my leg…but I’ve heard that the parliament cooks up a mean pancake breakfast.

6. Iceland has no military, no navy, and no air force

Iceland has no interest in armed forces, nor do they need one. Perhaps it’s because their resources are so location specific (i.e. fishing and geothermal energy), but they seem to be doing quite well without it.

7. The Icelandic naming system is based on old Viking patronymics

Most Icelanders use the Viking system of family surnames with different forms for sons and daughters. Take this example: a man named Jon Einarsson has a son named Olafur and a daughter named Sigríður. Neither child will take Jon’s surname. Instead, Ólafur last name will be Jonsson, and Sigríður’s last name will be Jónsdóttir. Alternatively, the Matronymic tradition can be used. If  Ólafur’s and Sigríður’s mother’s name is Helga, Ólafur’s last name would be Helguson and Sigríður’s would be Helgudóttir.

Confused? To make matters more complicated, Iceland has a Personal Names Register that outlines a list of 1712 male names and 1853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules. Straying from these naming laws could even cause you to end up with a lawsuit.


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