8 Things You (Maybe) Didn’t Know About Iceland


July 2019

I am currently in Iceland for a few weeks, doing research about various things. So far, I have learned lots of entertaining and fun facts; here are 8 Things You (Maybe) Didn’t Know About Iceland

1. The phone book is organized thus: first name, last name, street address, occupation, phone number. Last names are patronymic – they use the father’s first name with the suffix -son, for a boy, and -dóttir, for a girl. So the island pretty much operates on a first name basis (even for schoolkids addressing their teacher, or fans chanting for an international music star – Björk! Björk!), and first names not previously used must get the official approval of the Icelandic Naming Committee.

2. Imports were severely restricted until 1931, and even beer (beer!) wasn’t permitted until 1989. This is why licorice is the default chosen sweet – they didn’t have a lot of stuff like chocolate (and when they got it, they added it to licorice).

3.Is Icelandic the hardest language in the world to learn? It’s up there. Partly because it’s hard to pronounce, and those quote-unquote letters don’t help. Fortunately almost everyone speaks English. (Still, the least you could do is end queries and convos with a simple Takk.)

4. There’s a volcanic eruption on average every four years. Most are small, but in 2010 Eyjafjallajökull sent a stream of ash right into the jet stream, massively disrupting air travel. (This event also inspired a new palette and pattern design for Icelandic sweaters.) They have the original geyser – Geysir, in the south.

5. Reykjavik is the most northern capitol city in the world. It’s not as cold as you might think though, winter temps are on par with New York. About 130,000, more than a third of Icelanders, live there.

6. Famously, the nation of 300,000 fielded a World Cup soccer (football) team in 2018. The official national sport though is actually handball.

7. The stunning, soaring, and originally controversial Hallgrímskirkja took over 40 years to build (completed in 1986). Architect Guöjón Samúelsson, who set out to create a national style inspired by Iceland’s volcanic thrusts and pourings, died years before it was finished. The church is visible for 20km.

8. Police in Iceland do not carry guns. Only the special Viking Squad are permitted to. In 2013 they shot and killed an armed man – the first time such a thing had happened there. (The 59-year-old was barricaded in his house, and fired at them.)

I am also recording my adventures in Iceland via Instagram, check them out @newfoundlandquarterly. The snippits will continue into next week.



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