Icelandic Culture and Interesting Facts
Despite having one of the world’s smallest populations — 338,349 people — Iceland has a rich and diverse culture that has influenced the world in its own way for many centuries. Icelanders are proud people, and for good reason. With a flourishing education system, low levels of poverty, and above-average life expectancy, life in Iceland is often touted as among the best in the world.
According to the Global Peace Index, Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world; Iceland has no army, navy, or air force, and the police don't carry guns due to the notable lack of crime and lack of public conflict. It continually ranks near the top of surveys on the world's happiest countries, so what makes Iceland unique?
The history of Iceland’s culture
Much of Iceland's cultural history is based on Norse myths and legends. Current literature and popular sagas are still rooted in antiquity and tales of "hidden people," like fairies and trolls, that remain part of the lexicon of children's literature today. These stories are most prevalent around Christmas, when a child-eating hag is said to prowl the landscape with her troll husband. Despite being an exceptionally modern country, traditional crafts such as ironworking, silversmithing, woodworking, and weaving are still greatly valued in Iceland and bear equal weight with the country's burgeoning tech start-up scene and other modern industries.
Social culture in Iceland
Iceland’s small population and comparative affluence result in a lack of social stratification. Iceland’s culture has always put a strong emphasis on egalitarian values, reflected in the equality that prevails in society. The country is one of the world's most progressive when it comes to gender equality and gay rights, and was the first country in the world to elect an openly homosexual prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.
Quirky Icelandic cultural facts
Icelanders put serious emphasis on self-sustainment and value their local produce. There are, for instance, no McDonald's restaurants in Iceland. The country rid itself of the last franchise in 2009, with locals preferring to opt for regional bakeries and burger joints over large international chains.
In Iceland, surnames simply don't exist.
While there are a few traditional examples, these tend to come from Danish immigrant families. The normal process of creating a surname in Iceland occurs by adding the suffix of "son" or "daughter" to the end of the father's first name. This means that siblings have different surnames and women don't take their husband's name, as this would make them the son of their father-in-law.
Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country
An estimated 10 percent of Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime. This staggering figure is a reflection of the society’s emphasis on education and creativity.
Nudity - no problem!
If you spend time in Iceland, you'll quickly find out that Icelanders have no problem with getting naked, and that bathing in spas together is part of their everyday lives. In 2015, the locals started the #FreetheNipple campaign, which swept the world.
This small but vibrant country has a distinct cultural heritage, much of which dates back to the era when Norse legend prevailed. Today, Iceland's small population still manages to make its mark at the world stage and continues to attract millions of visitors every year.