Iceland is such an interesting place, so many quirks and filled with character. I learned so many random things about this little country, and here are top ten random things you don’t know about Iceland.
NUMBER ONE: Elves
This is my personal favourite and I can’t hold out till the end. Elves. Icelanders love elves. And not in a fantasy creature type of way: as in, most people in Iceland truly believe in elves. Now the official number of people seems skewed from one source to the next, but according to various sources, 60-80% of Icelandic people do believe in these fantasy creatures. This belief is not to say it replaces religious values, as 90% of Icelanders are also Lutherans. Not to mention the belief in elfism(?), it has been taken quite seriously throughout society and has even affected road construction due to “disruption of elf inhabitation”. I don’t even find this bizarre, more so charming. After all, Iceland really is a magical place, and who’s to say elves are no more real than many other beliefs people share. I bet you think I’m joking. Go ahead… look it up!
NUMBER TWO: Approved Names
Although Icelandic names are incredibly unique to any visitor, to residents they are a very systematically made decision. Unlike North Americans who can name their child “Lollipop Dragon Doodle”, there are strict rules when naming a child in Iceland. For starters, there is a name list. You are meant to choose a name from this selected approved names list. If the name you like does not appear on the list, you must get it approved. As well, only girls may have female approved names, and boys the male approved names. Also, if choosing a name not on the list, and the selected name is deemed to bring the child embarrassment, the name will be rejected. Oh, and there are no surnames. If you need to show a distinction, you will go by your first name, followed by your father’s first name. A rather tedious process, so it is no wonder that Icelandic children typically go unnamed for 2 months.
NUMBER THREE: It’s not so icy
Most people really envision Iceland to be a frozen tundra with sub-zero temperatures, and in some ways it can be. However, Icelandic temperatures are not so far off the other parts of Europe or Canada, especially during the winter. Take this past winter (2014) for instance. The Northern East Coast of America is going through one of the worst winters in decades, and taking a quick weekend away in Iceland, you can easily stroll about in fleece sweaters and windbreakers. As a Canadian, this may have well been a sun holiday. Don’t be afraid to visit this lovely little country, it’s a lot warmer than you think, and a lot less icy too.
NUMBER FOUR: Are we related?
Iceland is a teeny tiny country, with a teeny tiny population of just over 320,000. With that can come a little bit of complication. In Canada, I don’t think I’d ever ask a perfect stranger if we were related. As far as I understand, in Iceland, it is a very common question to ask. So common in fact, that there is a phone app, specifically designed for you to be able to detect if there is any relation between you and said stranger. You simply bump phones, and a little alarm goes off if you have some kind of genealogical relation. Curiouser and curiouser! And here I though dating in Canada was tough! PS- This is a real app, I’ve seen it in action, but it is only available in Iceland!
NUMBER FIVE: Fresh air for babies
Although I feel it was too cold for me to witness this. I have been told that it is incredibly common to leave your baby outside in your stroller, unattended, while you sat in a café, or had a meal at a restaurant. While here that seems unfathomable, it is quite the norm there. I suppose with some of the lowest crime rates in the world, it may not be so crazy. With the wide belief that the outside and fresh air is good for you, perhaps it isn’t such a bad idea. Although I don’t think I’ll be testing out this theory in Toronto any time soon.
NUMBER SIX: Best Christmas EVER!
What is better than Santa? 13 Yule Lads! I know. You’re wondering what are these “Yule Lads” I speak of. Well as far as I can understand they are equivalent to 13 trolls- friendly ones of course. Now unlike Santa, who just visits you once a year, the lovely Yulelads each visit you once during the 13 days leading up to Christmas, leaving treats and presents (or a rotten potato if you’re bad). How fun! As far as I can see, Santa has some catching up to do!
NUMBER SEVEN: No mosquitos here!
This I just learned. There are no mosquitos in Iceland. Like Ever. That’s awesome! I suppose most times its too cold for them to thrive, but still- That’s just awesome!
NUMBER EIGHT: A Wizard?
Because Iceland is fairly different when it comes to names, obviously there will be some confusion when looking a name up in a phone book. Unlike here where names go by Last, First name basis. In Iceland it is listed by first name, followed by fathers name, followed by profession. Only issue with that, is you can list the profession to be whatever you want it to be. So turns out Wizards, Jedi Masters and Dream Weavers can be fairly common.
NUMBER NINE: Hail Beer!
It is rather surprising that for a country so liberal to learn that beer was banned up until 1989. With that said, every year there is a celebration on the day it was legalized yet again! That is definitely a reason to raise a glass and celebrate! But then again, it seems as though there is a celebration everyday in Iceland. I wish we had a day dedicated to beer!
NUMBER TEN: Coolest Mayor in the World
Although our lovely Torontonian Mayor is getting quite the acclaim on this side of the pond; in Iceland, Mayor Jón Gnarr is the Best Mayor ever! Especially considering that back in 2009 he created the political party “best party ever”, and won, he deserves the title as its leader. Comedian, rocker and now politician- he leads Reykjavik’s government. Strong supporter of gay rights- even dressing in drag during the parade, previously being a lead singer in a punk band and occasionally dressing like a Jedi, What’s not to love!