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Thread: The 10 Weirdest Things About Icelanders

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    The 10 Weirdest Things About Icelanders

    Are the Icelandic people strange? What are the oddest things about them? The inhabitants of Iceland, like of any other country, have some distinctive, quirky traits that others around the world may find peculiar, but add to the charm of the people.

    Most of the time, when you read about strange things in Iceland, you'll notice that they mainly regard how many Icelanders still believe in elves, how they have thirteen terrifying trolls instead of one jolly Santa, and how they still eat disgusting food. Although it's all true, at least to a degree, these facts are becoming a bit clichéd.

    This list, therefore, will delve into some lesser-known, as well as some more recent, Icelandic oddities.

    It depends, of course, where you are from as to how weird you'll find some things on this list. When researching this article, I discovered people of different nationalities often have completely different concepts of what makes Icelanders unusual.

    This top ten, however, should serve to show the traits that make them odd the world over.

    1. There are No Surnames or Family Names in Iceland

    There are exceptions to this, as any who knows of Icelandic author Halldór Laxness can attest, but as a general rule, it is the case. There are a few family names in Iceland, mostly Danish, but they are rare and usually originate from foreigners marrying into an Icelandic family.

    For the majority, people have a last name that is a patronymic; that is to say, it is composed of their father's first name with the suffix of -dóttir (-daughter) or -son attached. For example, my father's first name is Gunnar, I am a woman, and thus my last name is Gunnarsdóttir (Gunnar's daughter).

    This means that a member of a family will have a different last name to both of their parents, and their siblings of a different gender. Women also do not change their name when they get married (because they obviously don't become the 'son' of their husband's father).

    Of course, in recent years, matronymic names have also become a thing; more and more Icelanders have a last name that tells who their mother is, rather than their father.

    In Iceland, we call everyone by their first name, be it our teachers, our doctors, our celebrities such as Björk (Guđmundsdóttir), or our presidents and prime ministers. While it lacks in formality, it does help foster a dialogue with a less stuffy hierarchy.

    Using titles such as Mr., Mrs., Miss or Dr. is not common either, even for foreigners. Don't get offended if an Icelander doesn't know your last name or calls you by your first name even if they do know it; we're just not used to anything else.

    2. Icelanders Elected Jón Gnarr as Mayor of Reykjavík

    If you haven't heard or read anything about Jón Gnarr, we encourage you to do so. This former comedian/actor/punk-rocker formed the Best Party in 2009 and won Reykjavík's mayoral elections in 2010, defeating the established Independence Party government.

    Since then, he has been featured and written about all over the world, for his eccentric and fun style; he particularly used to draw attention at Gay Pride, when he would always wear full drag. Jón had no background in politics when he became mayor, but that did not stop him from winning hearts while he was in office and after.

    3. Icelanders Banned Beer

    For a country where the inhabitants really do seem to love their alcohol, its a surprise even to younger residents that beer was banned in the whole country up until the 1st of March 1989. The end of this darkest chapter in Iceland's history is celebrated annually; on the first day of the third month, it seems everyone is hitting the town for a few pints of liquid gold.

    Alcohol can still only be purchased at Keflavík International Airport and in Víbuđin, the state-run alcohol store, often given the Orwellian nickname 'Ríkiđ', or 'the government'. Beware that the only traffic jam you will find in Iceland nowadays is in front of Ríkiđ on late Friday afternoons.

    4. Icelanders Love Sauce... As in, Really Love Sauce

    Icelanders coat all of their food in sauce. Gravy, dipping sauces, condiments... Basically, there is a unique sauce for everything. Even though the meat, fish and vegetables are to a great standard, they're only going to be better when slavered in your favourite dressing.

    Icelanders have a specific sauces for pizza, pita, fries, chips, vegetables, hamburgers, hot-dogs, and various different ones for fish, meat and poultry. But a few types are brown, cheese, mushroom, coca-cola, bernaise, paprika and tomato. As for sauces on ice-cream, the list goes on further: chocolate, luxury chocolate, caramel, liquorice, and one for every fruit.

    People do this in other countries, but not to the same standard; even the Brits, who love their gravy and ketchup, will find the choice overwhelming.

    The toppings for a mere hot dog in Iceland includes three different types of sauces: ketchup, hot-dog mustard (different from other mustard) and remúlađi (mayonnaise-based sauce, almost exclusively used for this meaty treat). In addition, we put two types of onion with it, raw and crunchy. For a traditional Icelandic hot dog, or pylsur, simply answer 'everything' when asked about garnish.

    5. Icelanders Speak on the In-Breath

    Perhaps not particularly Icelandic, as it is done in other Nordic countries, this quirk is something most foreigners will notice and mention when they come to the country. It is common to hear the words 'Já' or 'Jćja' spoken on the in-breath. There is no need to act surprised if you hear it; it is just a way of the tongue, not an offended gasp.

    For people who have never spoken this way, it is surprisingly challenging, although that is hardly unusual for a facet of the Icelandic language.

    6. Icelanders Have Barbecues All Year Round

    It may be freezing and stormy outside, but Icelanders are known to have a barbecue in any kind of weather, acting like they live in the blistering Australian sun. Come rain, come shine, we still want to have our lamb, fish and kebabs grilled over proper coals. And then, of course, smothered with sauce.

    Strangely enough, we can also eat ice-cream all year round. When the weather is as volatile as it is in Iceland, there is no point waiting until a nice day in July for your favourite treats.

    7. Parents leave their babies sleeping outside

    It's a common sight to see mothers or fathers meeting up with their friends in cafés, catching up on the latest gossip, and leaving their baby in the pram outside when they do so. It is just as common to see babies left in open gardens, or on porches. That way the baby can sleep in the fresh air, which can only do it good, and the parents can get on with what they want to without waking them.

    For countries with higher crime rates, or at least more sensationalised media, this may seem neglectful and terribly unsafe, but the truth is, the babies are at virtually no risk in Iceland. The crime rates, even in Reykjavík, are incredibly low, particularly violent crime rates (and ignoring financial crime rates).

    Abductions and the like are therefore almost unheard of.

    The tradition originates from when Icelanders lived in turf houses, which were mainly buried beneath the earth. They were very unpleasant places within, filled with filth, cluttered with people and often animals, and had terrible ventilation, so would get very smokey. Keeping your baby outside, therefore, was beneficial for its health.

    8. Iceland is the Best in the World, Per Capita

    'Per capita' is one of the most used phrases in Iceland. Icelanders, with just over 300,000 people, suffer from a small nation complex, and to make up for it, we claim we are in fact 'The Best Country in the World' for a number of reasons. People will claim this to be true and get mockingly upset if you disagree, reciting one article or another where Iceland comes out on top, always citing statistics 'per capita'.

    Icelanders have the most beautiful women in the world per capita, because we won Miss World four times. Icelanders also have the strongest men per capita, having had two individuals win the World's Strongest Man. Icelanders even have the world's most Noble Prize winners per capita, in spite of only having one, as one in 300,000 is still the world's best ratio of Nobel laureates compared to normal people.

    Thanks to Halldór Laxness for that.

    Icelanders have the best handball team in the world per capita, produce most music and bands in the world per capita, and read and write the most books per capita.

    The list goes on and on. It's even a catch-phrase: Ísland, best í heimi (Iceland, best in the world).

    Though largely said in jest, there are ways that Icelanders can say their nation is the best in world, without needing to add any rushed per capita under their breath. Iceland regularly tops lists for the most gender equal country in the world, and fights with just a few other nations to be the safest, most LGBTQ+ friendly, the cleanest, and the most naturally beautiful.

    9. Icelanders Have a Lot of Monster Trucks

    Foreigners that come to Iceland seem to be very perplexed over the scale of many of the vehicles. While of course, you have many little two-wheel-drives skirting through the streets, there are a disproportionately large number of massive super jeeps, with enormous tyres, you may usually expect to see only in places like Greenland and Alaska.

    These monster trucks are not due to inferiority complexes of their owners (although for those who keep them just to travel around Reykjavík, I have my suspicions). They are, in fact, needed to cross the harsh terrain of Iceland's rugged landscapes, particularly in winter.

    If you leave the paved ring-road in Iceland, you might find yourself on a dirt track littered with pot-holes, glazed in ice, or broken up by glacial rivers; here, you will see the value of a super jeep. In summer, they are essential for getting into the Highlands and travelling along F-Roads.

    Many are owned by individuals, but more by tour operators. Super jeep tours are very popular in Iceland, heading to otherwise inaccessible places such as Landmannalaugar, Ţórsmörk and Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that erupted in 2010.

    But it's not only the size of the cars around Iceland, however, that visitors notice; it's also the fact that people seem to park everywhere and anywhere. While many locals would like to blame the worst of this on tourists, it's actually a problem that comes from all corners. Maybe it is because Icelanders are used to having a lot of space, but they are also notoriously sloppy parkers.

    There is even an Icelandic Facebook site that posts pictures of the worst parked cars around the country on a daily basis.

    One place you will not - or should not - see super jeeps is off-road. Off-road driving in Iceland, across the lava, moss, and even the snow and black sands, is illegal, with enormous fines and a possible prison sentence attached. Ensure you never leave the track that you are driving on, lest you take a massive hit to your wallet and have to endure a thorough shaming from any Icelander who sees you.

    10. Icelanders are Naked and Unafraid

    Nudity is a very normal thing in Iceland. This may not come as a scary surprise to other Northern Europeans, particularly Nordic, Baltic or German readers, but others, particularly those from North America, should be given fair warning.

    While showering before swimming is a normal exercise around the world, few places insist you do it naked and, in some cases, publicly. This is because most of the pools in Iceland are not chlorinated, so fellow bathers and swimmers need to be confident that the waters they will be entering are clean.

    There is nothing sexual or perverse about it; most people just get naked, showered, and on with it. If the thought of it embarrasses you, the best course of action is definitely to simply grit your teeth, close your eyes and do it, as there are few things less humiliating than an Icelander demanding you take your clothes off and wash more thoroughly in front of a room of strangers.

    Thankfully for the reserved, in the most popular pools such as the Blue Lagoon, there are places you can wash and dress privately.

    The inhibitions of Icelanders are not only absent in the changing rooms. Many people also bathe naked in certain hot springs, or jump naked in the sea.

    If you want to immerse yourself in the culture and do the same, make sure that the hot pool you are going to doesn't have anyone else in it (you can't expect everyone to be as free-spirited as yourself), and that is safe to bathe in. Some geothermal waters have bacteria that are harmful to your health, while others, such as Grj´´´´otagjá, have an unpredictable temperature and entry is forbidden.

    Of course, sea-swimming should only be done in safe areas, as the waters of the North Atlantic are treacherous. Think about heading to Nauthólsvík in Reykjavík, rather than Reynisfjara on the South Coast, the waves at which have taken many a life. Again, if there are strangers also trying to enjoy the area, it is best to keep your clothes on.

    Nudity in Iceland also has a political bent. In 2015, on March 26th, there was a big 'topless revolution' under the hashtag #freethenipple (which originated in the USA), which swept across the country.

    Sick of images of breastfeeding and innocent nudity be censored, and of female nipples only appearing in the media in gratuitously sexual and/or violent situations, thousands of women walked through the streets and took to social media with their chests bare, as confidently as men, who can show their respective parts almost anywhere at almost any time.

    Though it was a contentious campaign, it was successful, and continues every year.

    If coming to Iceland, therefore, it may be best to leave any excess modesty at home. You may well have to accept the fact that in your travels through the incredible Icelandic nature, you may have to endure seeing an exposed breast or two. It's hardly the worst concession one can make while travelling.
    https://guidetoiceland.is/history-cu...out-icelanders

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    Oh how I love these clichées.

    Yes, there are family names. Not that common though. The mentioned Halldór Laxness is a nice example.

    "Monster trucks" is a an overly dramatic word for big jeeps that can plough through the snow in winter. Please check on other areas of the world with bad winter weather.

    There is actually ONE WORD on in breath - Já -yes- and its variations.

    Icelanders didn't vote for Gnárr - Reykjavík people did. The rest was rather suspecious.

    The "bad parking" FB page shows nothing you wouldn't see elsewhere in the world. Have a look for yourself: https://www.facebook.com/groups/vers...inn/?ref=br_rs
    Lík börn leika best.

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    Iceland is an epic sounding country. They've got some nifty traditions with the scary Yule Cat, when kids are terrified of being eaten at Christmas if they don't get anything new to wear. Or is that presents with clothes? If they don't get clothing as presents, Yule Cat will be after them.
    Imagine seeing the Northern Lights.
    If Icelanders are weird then it could be down to their volcanic landscape.
    I want to visit Iceland one day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fire spirit View Post
    Iceland is an epic sounding country. They've got some nifty traditions with the scary Yule Cat, when kids are terrified of being eaten at Christmas if they don't get anything new to wear. Or is that presents with clothes? If they don't get clothing as presents, Yule Cat will be after them.
    I've never heard of the Yule Cat (the legend sounds fascinating) before, but the tradition sounds similar to that of Krampus or Zwarte Piet.
    “She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.”
    ― Flannery O'Connor

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    As a Wodenist I regard Iceland as having a certain holiness for it is the land where the Eddas were committed to writing as well as Sagas which give us valuable information about our Germanic deities.
    On the issue of surnames this is an ancient Germanic practice and one still carried out by some of my ancestors in 17th and 18th century North Meols, Lancashire in northwest England, an area that was uninhabited until the arrival of Viking colonists. So my ancestors' surnames changed every generation.

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