Dive Right Into Icelandic Culture

My recent trip to Iceland proved to be one of the most interesting, intriguing, and extremely different locations I have ever had the opportunity to visit. For this reason, I feel compelled to write the following post which will highlight all of the interesting facts about the country, cultural aspects about the people, and geological features of the land, that I am pleased to have learned while traveling through the wonderful country.

The Icelandic People ~ 

A local child enjoying life, tossing bread crumbs for the ducks.

The Icelandic people are descendants from the Viking heritage, who settled Iceland around the year A.D. 870. Around the year A.D. 930, the Vikings set up a Parliamentary government which, in 1799, was briefly suspended before being re-established in 1845.  This Parliament is still alive and working today– the oldest working Parliament in the world, with an extensive history of over 1,000 years.

Icelanders are very close to their heritage, and do much to protect their history. For example, their native language, Icelandic, has barely changed throughout history, and is so close to the original language that the first Nordic settlers would have spoken, that every Icelander can still read the “Old Texts” of the country. Furthermore, the last names of the Icelandic people are still, to this day, patronymic– meaning that they directly reflect the first name of the person’s father and not the historic family lineage. However, every Icelander can trace their family heritage back to the original Viking settler.

Furthermore, during the month of February, a festival called Þorrablót takes place where all Icelanders consume traditional Icelandic foods. These include pickled ram’s testicles, charred sheep’s skull, rotten shark, blood sausage, blood puddings, and dried fish.

Icelanders also still hold true to some of the beliefs of the original settlers. For example, almost all Icelanders still believe in the existence of elves and trolls. To this day, construction plans have been canceled or altered in order to not harm an area in the volcanic rock where a few elves could possibly live. After “random failure” of construction equipment, an Icelander was quoted saying that, “Tomorrow [they] will see if [they] could come to some sort of terms with the Elves.” Furthermore, a true Icelandic myth is that the “Night Troll” roams the volcanic rock in the darkness of the night, and if caught out-and-about in the sunlight, it will turn to stone and become part of the volcanic rocky landscape.

The people of Iceland are considered to be some of the most equally gendered people in the word.

A university degree is not necessarily the most important thing to the people of Iceland. Currently, 30% of the population holds a university degree.   

The Geology of Iceland ~

Walking between two rock outcroppings, where the North American and Eurasian Continental Plates pull apart from each other.
Walking between two rock-outcroppings, the North American Continental plate and the Eurasian Continental plates.

 

The country of Iceland is located just under the Arctic Circle, directly on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge can be visually seen running through the center of Iceland and is where the North American and Eurasian Continental plates diverge, slowly tearing Iceland’s landmass into two pieces.

Due to the country’s unique location, volcanic activity is quite severe. In a country as small as the state of Kentucky, there are currently 130 active volcanos, the last to erupt was Mt. Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. Because of the volcanic landscape, Iceland’s most useful natural resource is natural steam, which is so powerful and so plentiful that it can be converted into electricity in order to power most of the country. For further and more in-depth explanations of this process, please visit my other post, Iceland Day 4– Reykjavik City

Furthermore, natural hot springs and geysers are plentiful across the landscape, which play a part in providing hot water to many towns and cities. In fact, the word “Reykjavik” literally means “smoky bay” in Icelandic– the city being named this because of the smoke (which is actually natural steam) that seems to rise up from the mountaintops that surround the city. 

Overall, because of its use of natural resources and the Icelandic ability to be completely aware of the natural world around them, Reykjavik is said to be one of, if not the cleanest cities in the world.

Interesting Facts About Iceland ~

Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park - Foundation site of the worlds longest lasting Parliament
  • Iceland is the only place in the world where homes have water coolers instead of water heaters.
  • Iceland is considered to be one of the most feminist countries in the world– prostitution is strictly illegal, and you will not find any strip-clubs in the cities.
  • Even the Prime Minister is listed in the local phonebook.
  • There are two volcanos in Iceland that usually erupt ever 80 years, however, both have not erupted for 85. If you live nearby, keep your eyes to the skies!
  • Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, the biggest danger to tourists being occasional accounts of pickpocketing.
  • The Icelandic horse (the same horse the Viking settlers brought with them) is one of only a few strictly pure-breed of horse left in the world. Icelanders protect this so much that if a horse rancher leaves the country to compete with his horse in a competition, he must agree that his horse will never be allowed access to the country again.
  • The Icelandic horse is not only a great friend and worker to ranchers, it is also a source of income via exportation for the country, and a source of food (that doesn’t have to be imported!) to the Icelandic people.
  • Icelanders reserve the right to hunt whale, usually Minke whale, which feeds on the fish that the Icelandic people fish for. The hunting of whale is done to control the population so that the fishing industry (the Icelander’s largest export) does not disappear. They make use of the whales via scientific research, perfumes, and food.    
  • The Icelandic life expectancy is 81 years for women and 76.5 for men, one of the highest in the world.

I’ll never forget my trip to this wild, desolate, and yet amazing country. I will always hang on to my experiences in Iceland and use them to better myself as a human being.

If this post has interested you, I invite you to please click on the links above, as well as below, to view my articles about specific experiences I encountered while in Iceland:

Access Why On Earth Would I Want to go to Iceland? here.

Access Iceland: First Impression here.

Access Iceland Day 5 — Blue Lagoon here.

Most facts featured in this article are what I learned while traveling and living with the people of Iceland, however, there are a couple interesting facts posted here of which I must give credit to http://www.visiticeland.com/

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15 thoughts on “Dive Right Into Icelandic Culture”

  1. I’m not too sure about the food (rotten shark? pickled ram’s testicles?… and I already know I don’t like blood puddings and sausages because I am adventurous enough to at least try things), but imagine having that kind of history, one that can be traced like that. Amazing. Now that I think about it, given how unusual Iceland is, I suppose unusual food is in order.

    Wonderful photos, Nate. And I enjoyed all the facts and tidbits you shared. Thank you for taking us along on your trip.

    1. The traditional food doesn’t sound too appetizing, does it? I was adventurous enough to try ram’s testicle while staying with a remote village in Southern Argentina where it is considered a delicacy. Let’s just say it is not something I’d like to eat for 30 days. Icelanders also have a blood cake called “Slater” which is pronounced “slaughter.” Google the recipe for that and see what you think!

      Thanks, Robin. I’m very glad that you enjoyed reading all of my posts while I went on this adventure.
      – Nate

  2. Hi Nate:

    I loved reading your Iceland posts! Wow, it looks so incredibly different in the winter. I went in early August. I almost think your winter pictures are more beautiful than it is there in the summer. Amazing! I’ll have to work on posting my pictures soon so you can compare the seasons and geography when it isn’t covered by snow. Great job!

    1. Hi Nicole,
      Thanks for the support! I would love to see your images from the opposite season if you get around to posting them. I have google image searched some of them, and they do look quite different but quite beautiful. Its hard to say which season I think I’d like better, although I tend to think I’d lean toward Winter because of the lack of tourists. Looking forward to checking out your photo!
      Nate

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