Icelanders Share Funny Facts about Iceland

The winters are long, cold, and dark in Iceland. As such, I had expected Icelanders to be a somber lot, patiently awaiting their few brief weeks of summer each year. I found quite the opposite – they were happy, upbeat, and kept me laughing with their unique self-deprecating sense of humor. The following are some funny facts about Iceland that were shared by locals during my stay in Reykjavik:

View over Reykjavik. I had expected Icelanders to be humorless, but they proved otherwise by sharing funny facts about Iceland
View over Reykjavik. I had expected Icelanders to be humorless, but they proved otherwise by sharing funny facts about Iceland

I never saw a single police officer or squad car during my week in Iceland. I was told they’re too busy with their Instagram page to patrol the streets. The truth is that crime is so low in Iceland that they could probably do without a police force, but it’s also true that the police department has more than a quarter million followers on Instagram.

Iceland has five prisons, but only one of them is guarded. Apparently the other four are considered more like rehabilitation centers.

Iceland has an average of 1.1 murders each year, and the prison sentence for murder is 16 years, which is considered to be a life sentence.

Food in Iceland is extremely expensive, so the most popular “restaurant” in Reykjavik is the hot dog stand in the city center, which sells cheap and apparently delicious hot dogs, slathered with Icelandic mustard. And speaking of this notoriously expensive travel destination, you may wish to check out this wonderful article about planning a budget road trip in Iceland from fellow travel blogger Norbert Figueroa at Globotreks.

Everyone ignores the law that prohibits carrying open containers of alcohol, but the temperatures is so cold for much of the year that it is impossible to carry a cold can of beer on the street. To solve the problem, Icelanders have invented a beer mitten. Instead of fingers, it has an enclosed loop. The thumb goes on one side, the fingers on the other, and the beer goes in the center (or down he hatch).

One of the funniest facts about Iceland - this mitten was invented to allow them to carry cold beer in an even colder climate
One of the funniest facts about Iceland – this mitten was invented to allow them to carry cold beer in an even colder climate

Icelanders are very proud of their savvy, independent women. Twenty-nine of the 69 members of Parliament are women, and the “Miss World” title has been won four times by Icelandic women. It was pointed out that with a population of only 332,000 people, 55% of which are female, the chance of winning this title as a woman in Iceland is one in 55.

The main fare in Iceland is sheep and lamb, which are delicious because they live outside all year long, eating grasses and herbs. Thus, they are said to be “self-marinating.”

Iceland is the only place in the world that heats an ocean beach with thermal water. Thousands of people flock to this beach for a swim every morning before going to work, and it is more popular in the winter than in the summer.

City Hall has an enormous multi-media sculpture of a vagina hanging on the wall

A sculpture in Reykjavik titled “The Unknown Bureaucrat” – a man whose head is encased in a block of granite – stands in front of City Hall

Sculpture titled "The Unknown Bureaucrat" stands in front of Reykjavik's City Hall
Sculpture titled “The Unknown Bureaucrat” stands in front of Reykjavik’s City Hall

There is no security presence at the Reykjavik City Hall, Parliament building, or at the offices of the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister’s office is in a building that was originally a jail. More than one Icelander commented how appropriate that is, given the recent revelations in the Panama Papers about their most recent Prime Minister, who was forced to resign.

Icelanders are crazy about licorice and put it into everything

Surnames in Iceland follow an unusual naming convention. The surname of a girl baby is the first name of the father followed by “dottir,” while the surname of a boy baby is the first name of the father plus the word “son.” For example, If Ingrid and Olaf Eriksson have a son and name him Jon, the child’s full name would be Jon Olafsson. Alternatively, if they have a daughter and name her Gretchen, her full name would be Gretchen Olafsdottir. As you might imagine, this can cause some confusion, so listings such as the telephone directory are alphabetized by first name rather than surname and also lists professions.

Ninety-four percent of the residents of Iceland are Icelandic by heritage. The University of Iceland created a mobile phone app called the Anti-Incest application which allows users to access a genetic and hereditary database that reveals whether any two Icelanders are related. Unfortunately, according to my guide on the free City Walk Reykjavik, it is most often used after the fact. Its highest usage is on Sunday morning.

Last but not least of all the funny facts about Iceland? It is home to the only known Penis Museum in the world.

Icelanders Share Funny Facts about IcelandIcelanders Share Funny Facts about Iceland

22 thoughts on “Icelanders Share Funny Facts about Iceland”

  1. Hi Barbara, Receive your weekly blog. Today, I am looking at your Destinations for articles on Iceland (going in May) and Sicily (going in Sept). I find your articles informative and have they aided me on some of my previous trips. Also by reading your articles I get another’s perspective on places I’ve been. Wishing you a healthy and happy 2019. Keep on travelling!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a nice comment, Mark. And a happy and healthy New Year to you and your family as well.

  2. I went through your article and is really interesting. So Simple and clear writing. I really appreciate, you gave your time and effort for writing this and then sharing with us. I also am a travel writer. I have written about Annapurna Circuit Trek in Nepal. Thanks again.

  3. Your bit about alcohol is untrue. Its actually illegal to drink on the street though very rarely enforced. Alþingi does has security both on approach and inside. No one uses these mitts you saw, I think they were just joking with you.

    • Hmmm…well, my information came from the person who did the official walking tour, so I assumed they would not be telling lies.

  4. I loved visiting Iceland. I felt they were so far ahead of their time for being such a small country. It reminded me of the perfect mix between Canada and Europe. Much like them we have the landscape, the amazing people ;), and the feminist mentality (thanks Trudeau) but they are advanced in many of their technologies and how they utilize the land.

    • I KNOW! Can you imagine a police department or fire department in the U.S. trying to do this? I loved Iceland and Icelanders, especially for their sense of humor.

    • Hi Lisa: You’re right about me missing the extra “s” in the son’s name; I made that correction. Thanks. However the female names don’t seem to have the extra “s” in most cases, though I’m sure there are exceptions. The daughter’s last name would still be Olafsdottir, since names in Iceland are patronymic, thus they use the first name of the father. Again, there are exceptions. If the mother and father wish to break social ties for some reason (divorce, etc.), the mothers can choose to use to use their first name for the last name of the child, followed by “son” or “dottir.” And since there is complete equality for women in Iceland, some use matronymic naming as a social statement.

      • The reason for the extra S is the possessive form. For example, jon’s son becomes Jonsson (remove the apostrophe and space)

        There are exceptions where that extra s is missing when the possessive form has irregular ending. For example, the possessive of Þórður is Þórðar – therefore the children of Þórður would be Þorðarson or Þorðardottir – no extra S.


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