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Betcha didn’t know that…

Icelanders hold the world record in the following:

  • Credit card usage
  • Cocoa Puffs consumption
  • Use of electricity
  • Sponsoring children in Third World countries
  • Internet penetration
  • The number of rules for writing poetry
  • Going to the cinema
  • Subscribing to Walt Disney picture books
  • Sales of the computer game Championship Manager

Yes, dear readers, YT is still preoccupied with the shocking bits of information gleaned from yesterday’s How Do You Like Iceland documentary.


One thing I was not surprised to hear foreigners rant about was the Icelanders’ appalling road manners. After almost 11 years of living in this country, I still cannot get over the complete and utter irreverence exhibited by Icelandic drivers. One of the interviewees commented that driving in Italy is a picnic compared to this place, something that YT has no trouble believing.

Icelandic drivers:

  • Park wherever they feel like it: in handicapped parking spaces, diagonally across sidewalks, with their rears sticking out onto the road
  • Drive at whatever speed they feel like, slow or fast
  • Use indicator lights very sparingly, if at all
  • Are always right on your ass, making parallel parking virtually impossible on busy roads
  • Will slow down and stop in the middle of a road if they feel so inclined, irrespective of the speed of surrounding motorists
  • If two people who know each other are coming from opposite directions they will almost inevitably stop their cars in the road to have a chat
  • Ignore zebra crossings and green pedestrian lights
  • In fact, ignore pedestrians in general

Was talking to a foreigner myself not too long ago – a guy who works at a foreign embassy here in town. Evidently the ambassador of this particular embassy refuses to drive in Iceland because he’s completely and utterly paranoid – and this is a man who has been posted to places like Greece and a couple of African states in the past (good thing he has his own personal Icelandic driver). The guy I was talking to – who happens to be French – claims that the most dangerous aspect of driving here is that it all seems so organized – but once you get out there it’s total chaos. ‘They think they’re alone on the road. They don’t see anybody else, and they don’t care. They just do what they want’. Precisely.

Incidentally, YT is particularly sensitive about this issue, having suffered whiplash injuries on two separate occasions since moving here. And whiplash injuries are a bitch – as anyone unfortunate enough to have experienced them will tell you.


Ventured out into the open air on two separate occasions today. First went out for a run as soon as it was light enough to see where I was going and boy, what a run it was! Headed down to my customary route along the seashore, but the waves were crashing over the embankment so wildly that running was impossible – had to keep to the opposite side of the street, about 15 metres from shore – and I still got sprayed! Unsuspecting motorists were getting their vehicles doused bigtime (rust alert!) – which was fairly harmless, considering the Big Rocks that were being tossed forth by those muthas. (youch!)

Having made it back safe and sound, I ventured out a little later to assess the damage. The whole (previously manicured) shore was all mangled – filled with seaweed and rocks and such, making it virtually impossible to get close. Bloody cold it was, too, and we’re in for a wicked storm tonight according to Mr Weatherman. People on the West Fjords are being evacuated due to avalanche threat and others are advised to stay indoors (in their warm inviting Icelandic homes, natch). Temps are currently –4 Celsius (24.8°F) with slight wind. Daybreak was at 9.44, sunrise at 10.59. Sunset was at 16.27 and nightfall at 17.33.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anonymous January 17, 2005, 8:28 pm

    Your account of Icelandic driving practise sort of begs the question “why?”
    I would have thought they would be a model of restraint and decorum. Maybe pent up SAD masquerading as road rage!
    Hope that documentary maker never comes down here and exposes all our (many) foibles.
    And yes, still rate John Cleese. He was most probably right 🙂

  • Michele January 17, 2005, 9:45 pm

    Oh my goodness, YOU have cars in Iceland?

    Yes, I am teasing. I thought Toronto had bad drivers, I shall complain no more, well untill the next time I drive that is.

  • Anonymous January 17, 2005, 10:01 pm

    I wonder if the Icelandic driver is as totally insane as the Turkish driver? I visited Turkey once, for three weeks, and in that time, was a party to THREE traffic incident while riding in taxis or buses. In fact, Istanbul taxi drivers have their BLOOD TYPES painted onto their bumpers, just in case, and the single most important word to learn in Turkish before you visit is “YAVASH!” which means “SLOW DOWN!”

    Still, they won’t listen.

    Thanks for more awesome weather and other news from Iceland!

    Crazy Jane

  • Denise January 17, 2005, 10:27 pm

    OK, first, to Michele’s comment, the Torontonian drivers seemed perfectly placid and restrained on the couple of occasions I’ve had to visit that city. Perhaps I only feel that way because I’ve always driven in southern California???

    To the weather report, I have this to say: are people really supposed to live somewhere that gets down below 32 degrees? Just a thought! 🙂

  • Alda January 18, 2005, 12:04 am

    I don’t know why they are the way they are, except what the Frenchman said – it’s a weird sort of provinciality, they haven’t had time to develop proper etiquette. It’s a kind of ‘every man for himself’ mentality, possibly left over from having to survive with the elements for so many centuries.

    Michele – I lived in Toronto for 6 years and driving there was piece of cake compared to this!

    Denise – lately, in the summer, this is about the only place left that has temperatures that are still bearable! So it’s a pretty good trade-off, I’d say.

  • Audur January 18, 2005, 7:43 am

    What is this, I hadn´t noticed it was this bad. I worked as a driver from august through december and yes, it bothered me alot how fast many drive and yes, what´s the problem with using indicator lights??? I don´t get it!?
    Still I think/thought that it was OK here, I mean it is certainly not as bad as in italy, that´s an overstatement!!! geeee, they certainly are CRAZY!
    My father is an italian and lives there. He and his wife drive very fast never using seatbelts and their daughter in the middle backseat never uses one either. Now that is insane. Then one time when I got in the car with my dad and I put on the seatbelt he laughed and said:” what, are you afriad?! Don´t you trust me?!” laughing!
    I very politely said:”Sure I trust you, but you never know what is gonna happen on them roads!!, I´m not taken any risks.”
    One funny thing, when I was in the driver job there was another one working opposite me. One day I was driving, giving him a ride.
    So, I was driving on the left side of the road on maximum speed, and this guy driving behind me blinks his light´s at me alot befor going ahead of me.
    It annoyed me, beacause I was driving as fast as allowed and this guy was bugging me about it, and i said so.
    Then the driver whom was with me in the car said:” You know, the left side of ther road is for those who wanna drive faster than allowed.”
    Ehemm, let me tell you, they don´t make roads for those!


  • Alda January 18, 2005, 10:44 am

    Oh yeah, that’s *another* thing! Icelandic drivers seem generally unaware that the left lane is the *passing* lane. They’ll mosey along in that lane totally oblivious to anything around them.
    Auður, maybe you only meet good drivers and if so, lucky you. Granted, most people here use seatbelts, although having said that the person who was driving in the second car accident I was in was not wearing a seatbelt and got mangled pretty bad. She *still* doesn’t wear one, which I regard as completely insane.
    I could go on and on, but I’ll stop myself now and turn my attention to more pleasant things…

  • Bluegrass Mama January 18, 2005, 12:58 pm

    Sounds like some wild roads up there! But I have to confess to LOL when I got to the part about the zebra crossings. “How exotic,” I thought. Then, “Wait, zebras live in Africa, not Iceland. She just means those stripey lines for crossing the street.” Silly me.

  • Alda January 18, 2005, 1:10 pm

    LOL! A classic case of UK vs. US English. Sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s the same language!

  • Annika January 18, 2005, 5:44 pm

    We have famously terrible drivers in Boston, USA..so maybe that’s why my husband and I didn’t think Icelandic drivers were sooo bad when we were there. But we only had a car for three days…maybe the really bad drivers stayed home those days. However! We did notice that when parking spaces were too small the Icelandic drivers just pulled headfirst into the space–going up on the sidewalk if necessary. If I could do that at home it would save me a lotta trouble parking.

  • Annika January 18, 2005, 5:45 pm

    We have famously terrible drivers in Boston, USA..so maybe that’s why my husband and I didn’t think Icelandic drivers were sooo bad when we were there. But we only had a car for three days…maybe the really bad drivers stayed home those days. However! We did notice that when parking spaces were too small the Icelandic drivers just pulled headfirst into the space–going up on the sidewalk if necessary. If I could do that at home it would save me a lotta trouble parking.

  • Daniel Hardarson January 22, 2009, 8:06 pm

    YES!!!! Icelanders are the worst drivers in any country i have ever been to or lived in.
    All your points are spot on, i found myself nodding in agreement to everything. it’s like they are driving around in golf buggy’s or something with the random stops, lack of indication, crooked parking etc. Unfortunately im starting to pick up some of their bad habits (like the diagonal shoddy park..it makes me feel like im blazing up on a horse).
    One thing i think deserves a mention is the PEDESTRIANS…again, worst of anywhere i have ever been….they just casually slump out in front of any car as if they were made of iron, no matter how fast it is going. Ive almost hit a few and they barely raise an eyebrow, let alone picked up the pace to get out of the way of the car. This happens all too often though it seems unintuitive in relation to your last point (the pedestrians should be *more* cautious over here if anything).

  • Jec March 5, 2012, 2:43 am

    Okay. You can all stop complaining now. I have lived in Vietnam for 3 years and let me tell you… Iceland sounds like a piece of cake in comparison! Hehe.

    Here, motorbikes (and pushbikes – which I enjoy riding) are predominantly used, but cars are starting to become quite popular as well. There are meant to be dedicated ‘motorbike lanes’ and ‘car lanes’ which of course aren’t used for their purpose – Cars and motorbikes trying to weave through small alleyways and streets… well… It’s not pretty!

    The rule is: Everyone defend themselves. Motorbike crashes happen almost everyday and you can see someone on the ground bleeding and one will even stop to help; if anything, they almost run them over or treat them as an obsticle.

    Be thankful to drive in Iceland, it seems wonderful.
    J, xxxx

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