Facts about the Icelanders

About the Icelanders: making up words

June 22, 2015

As many of you no doubt know [especially if you have read this], the Icelanders have a language committee that makes up new Icelandic words for things or concepts that pop up. By which I mean that Icelandic doesn’t just take the word, say, “computer” and call it “kompjúter”. Instead they submit the object “computer” to the language […]

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About the Icelanders: Elves as Prozac

June 5, 2015

According to the old folk stories, the Icelandic population had a curious relationship with the elves or hidden people [terms that are used interchangeably in Icelandic and mean the same thing]. The hidden folk were, obviously, hidden [read: invisible] to humans, yet they could see the humans without any difficulty. Which is kind of unsettling when you think about […]

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About the Icelanders: those beguiling creatures known as elves

June 1, 2015

When non-Icelanders hear about the Icelanders’ belief in elves, they usually picture us believing in the existence of little leprechaun-like creatures with pointy hats, or tiny fairies that flit among the flowers like butterflies. The “belief” aspect notwithstading [personally I don’t know anyone who believes in the existence of elves, though certain sections of the Icelandic […]

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About the Icelanders: of laufabrauð and rotten flour

May 29, 2015

For centuries, Iceland was an oppressed colony. Among other things this oppression took the form of a trade monopoly, in which the Icelanders, by law, were only permitted to trade with Danes – our colonial overlords. All merchants in Iceland were Danish, or Danish proxies, and the merchandise they profferred in return for Icelandic wares […]

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The Icelanders: exchanging one set of oppressors for another

May 25, 2015

I am perpetually fascinated by people’s histories and how they inevitably manifest in their present circumstances. The same goes for nations. A nation’s history tends to manifest in its present, just like an individual’s does. Take Iceland. For several centuries we were oppressed by our colonial overlords. Iceland became an independent republic in 1944, just over 60 […]

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About the Icelanders 9: Traffic culture

May 22, 2015

Earlier this week I wrote a brief rant treatise about the Icelanders’ irreverence when it comes to other people’s cars, and their motoring skills in general. I was not kidding about this. Once I had a conversation with someone who was working at one of the embassies in town. He told me that the ambassador […]

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About the Icelanders 8: the ubiquitous practice of dooring

May 18, 2015

Not all of the Icelanders’ quirks are as endearing as their phone book shenanigans. Take their treatment of car doors, for example. If you live in Iceland you will undoubtedly soon notice that most cars more than a year old have numerous small-ish dents and scratches on their sides. This is because the people who […]

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About the Icelanders 7: weird phone book professions

May 15, 2015

Speaking of the phone book: did you know that, in Iceland, your profession is listed in the phone book, and you can make that profession be whatever you want? By which I mean: you don’t have to show up with proof of your profession if you want it to be listed in the phone book. […]

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About the Icelanders 6: on a first-name basis

May 11, 2015

Did you know that the Icelanders address everyone, from the president to the local garbage collector, by their first names? Children even call their teachers by their first names, and the Icelanders are listed by their first names in the phone book. The only slight deviation from this is that the head of state [a.k.a. […]

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Factoids about the Icelanders 4

May 4, 2015

Even though it was the law to have a place at a farm, sometimes people were not able to secure a place for themselves because no farm wanted to take them in. [This was especially true when times were hard and farms just couldn’t take on more mouths to feed, like after a volcanic eruption.] […]

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