10 Typical Things About The Icelanders

06. March 2017
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Jordi runs a Spanish blog about Iceland, and he has been in Iceland for a while, going on four years! In this time, he has noticed a few things about the Icelanders, cultural habits that mark their interactions with each other. So he whipped up this little list. If you want to put yourself in the shoes of the Icelanders, these ten habits will get you off on the right start!

By Jordi Pujola, Spanish writer and blogger in Iceland. 

Leaving the heating on and opening the windows

People don’t lock their doors in Iceland, and energy is so cheap that if you need to change out the air a little, people just open their windows. The heating is never off! People even leave their car keys in their ignitions! It is also customary to leave baby strollers (including baby) out on the balcony even when it’s snowing!

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Small windows to let in cold air in Icelandic houses

Take off your shoes! 

People always remove their shoes before entering another persons house, it keeps the house clean!

Drinking lots of coffee

In contrast, there is little wine culture. They drink little alcohol (not a drop, if they drive) and when they do drink it is with intent. Frequently, the beer or the cava at the parties is served warm but no one cares. Alcohol is only sold at the Government alcohol monopoly Vínbúdin.

Swim, swim, swim!

Iceland is blessed with an abundance of geothermal energy, and it is used to heat the water, making it possible to have a pool at a constant 28 Celsius while at the same time it could be below freezing outside. Icelanders go to the swimming pool (called ‘Sundlaug’ in Icelandic, which translates to ‘swim wash’) after work or after dinner (dinner is always between 6 and 7 PM; in Spain dinner is from 9 to 10PM!). 

It’s essential for tourists to visit pools as an insight into Icelandic culture. There are hot tubs of various temperatures and many have bubbles. They are less busy and less expensive than the Blue Lagoon too. It is mandatory to have a shower from top to bottom without a bathing suit with soap before entering. How do you think these pools stay so clean? It’s not by magic!

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Swim Wash That Way!

Nobody uses cash

People pay for everything with a card and rarely carry a single króna of cash in the wallet. A little strange when you consider that banks charge fees per transaction, but there you go…

They love cod liver oil!

Taking Lysi (cod liver oil) every day is quite common. It is said that from this comes the longevity of the Icelanders (also from sleeping outside when they are babies!). There are special ‘children’s flavors’ with reduced taste to make the oil more palatable.

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Þetta reddast!

Making jokes about (bad) weather and showing patience and resilience (they always say: Þetta reddast that means everything will turn out OK), sighs, (yes) with an inhalation are common sounds you will hear in conversation between Icelanders. 

Patriotic, competitive and resourceful 

Euro 2016 was epic for the Icelanders. They are very few, but they are patriotic and competitive when it comes to sports. They even cheer on the karaoke team. They grow excellent cucumbers, strawberries and tomatoes and even roses in geothermal greenhouses. 

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Icelandic National Soccer Team at the Euro 2016 Championship

Summer houses!

Traveling all over the island, stocking up on wooden houses (sumarbústaður) in the middle of nowhere and camping (in summer). No one walks the street and families have cars for each member.

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Icelandic Summerhouse

Why have one Santa when you can have 13?

At Christmas, they do not expect Santa Claus. Actually, they have thirteen, who are pretty mischievous and arrive 13 days before. Gifts are opened on Christmas Eve. Oh, and if you do not wear new clothes, Gryla’s cat (the ogress mother of the 13 Yule lads) will take you to hell. I admit being taken several times. 

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Icelandic Yule Lad greeting Children at a School

About the Author

Joseph Mattos-Hall

Hailing from London and born into a British/Brazilian/Italian household, Joseph came to Iceland originally to complete a master’s degree in Environment and Natural Resources from the University of Iceland: the rest is history.

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