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Interesting Facts About Iceland

  • Most Icelanders do not have a family name (such as Johnson, Smith, etc).  So children have a given name and then father’s-name-son or father’s-name-daughter. Thus:
    1. Jon has a son named Thor Jonsson and a daughter named Hafdis Jonsdottir.
    2. Thor Jonsson has a son named Bjarni Thorsson and a daughter named Frida Thorsdottir.
    3. And so forth.
  • Icelandic women don’t take the husband’s name when they marry, chiefly because the husband doesn’t have a family name to take.
  • Because they don’t have surnames, Icelanders are listed in the telephone directory alphabetically by first name.
  • Because they don’t have surnames, it is not appropriate to call an Icelander by Mr. or Ms.  Almost all Icelanders use the first name with everyone, including the president of Iceland.
  • The English word geyser comes from Icelandic (perhaps the only Icelandic word imported into English). Geysir is the name of a famous geyser in Iceland (which, sadly, no longer erupts).
  • The Icelanders speak the Icelandic language, which is used only in Iceland and among Icelandic expatriates chiefly in Scandinavia and North America. Icelandic is very similar to old Norwegian of about 1,000 years ago.
  • There are only about 270,000 Icelanders in the country. About half of them live in the capital Reykjavik and its suburbs.
  • Iceland is the world’s oldest democracy. Its parliament (Althingi) was founded about 1,000 years ago.
  • Iceland has vast amounts of water because it rains so much. Icelandic water is so clean and pure that it is piped into the city and to the kitchen taps in the home without any treatment (no chlorination needed).
  • Urban Icelandic homes do not need a water heater or a furnace for heating. Steam and hot water are piped into the city from natural geysers and hot springs for use in homes and buildings.
  • Because of its bountiful water supply and many rivers, Iceland has vast reserves of hydroelectric power. Electricity is so inexpensive that aluminum ore (bauxite) is shipped in to the country, made into aluminum, and the aluminum ingots are shipped out again. (Smelting aluminum requires vast amounts of electricity.)
  • The weather in Iceland is not as cold as you might think. (Winter is a heck of a lot colder in Minnesota than it is in Iceland!) The climate is relatively mild because of the influence of the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf Stream. Average winter daytime temperature in Reykjavik is 31 degrees F. (1 degrees C.)
  • Iceland is very green, because there is so much water and the climate is mild. (There are not many trees however.) People like to say that Iceland should be named Greenland and Greenland should be named Iceland. I used to tell my Icelandic friends that they should change the name of their country from Iceland to Waterland.
  • Iceland lies just south of the Arctic Circle. Winter nights and summer days are long. On December 21 in the capital, the sun rises at 11:30 a.m. and sets at 3:30 p.m. On June 21 the sun sets about midnight and rises at 3:00 a.m. It never gets darker than twilight at night during the late spring and early summer.
  • During a recent survey, Icelanders ranked the highest of all European countries in expressing general satisfaction with their lives.
  • Icelanders rank near the top of world nations in the per capita rate of connection to the Internet.
  • Iceland has no army, navy, or air force. It does have a Coast Guard.
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23 Responses to “Interesting Facts About Iceland”

  1. May 11th, 2008 at 7:32 am #Margrét

    Okay, I’ll have to nitpick (Iceland pride…).
    The president is actually about the only person in the country who you’re supposed to call mister or sir.
    Fjord is another word transported from Icelandic (or old Norse) to English.
    I believe Geysir has been made to erupt a few times in recent years.
    There are about 300.000 Icelanders around now.
    Also, even though we rank so high on general life-satisfaction lists, suicidal rates usually go up during the wintertime when we barely see sunlight.

  2. May 12th, 2008 at 6:45 pm #Elliot

    Actually, many English words come directly from Old Norse, the ancestor to Icelandic. The vikings controlled virtually all of northeastern England before the Norman invasion of 1066, which brought French into the English language. In fact, the pronouns “they” and “them” correspond almost directly to the Old Norse (and Icelandic) equivalents — something fairly remarkable, as far as language borrowings go, since languages very rarely borrow something as fundamental as pronouns.

    Also, the reason for the odd naming job of Iceland and Greenland lies in the fact that Greenland was named so to entice early settlers (in this case, the Old Norse peoples) to colonize the island.

  3. May 12th, 2008 at 9:08 pm #Xetheare

    What’s their immigration policy?

  4. May 13th, 2008 at 10:49 pm #Helen

    What’s their immigration policy?

    Ha, I was actually thinking that. Sounds like a great place to live.

  5. May 15th, 2008 at 12:26 pm #Adam

    As it turns out, rumor has it that Greenland and Iceland were named as such to keep people away from the awesomeness that is Iceland and send them to the desolation of Greenland instead.

  6. May 15th, 2008 at 3:41 pm #Mikkel

    As far as I’ve heard, Denmark ranked highest of all countries in expressing general satisfaction with their lives.
    Also, Greece had democracy more than 2000 years ago. Actually some Eurasian countries had democracy before Greece.

  7. May 21st, 2008 at 9:11 am #Connie

    Wow! This list really makes me want to check this place out.

  8. May 21st, 2008 at 8:52 pm #sandswipe

    Greece had democracy first, but Iceland has gone a thousand years in a row without being conquered by a dictatorship, papacy, or oppressive foreign nation of any sort. When’s the last time Greece managed half that?

    They didn’t invent it, but they managed to do it the longest without being even a little bit slaughtered. Really, that’s just as big of an accomplishment.

  9. May 22nd, 2008 at 11:22 pm #Jeff

    Is it still true that Icelandic women seriously outnumber the men?

  10. May 23rd, 2008 at 2:52 pm #Mallory

    The story I heard was that the discoverers of Iceland wanted to prevent it from being invaded/colonised by other groups, and so named it ‘Iceland’ to make it appear undesirable. The bad reputation seems to have stuck… hasn’t Iceland never been invaded since settled by the Norse?

  11. October 13th, 2008 at 3:27 pm #Graham

    Iceland’s name has nothing to do with ice. It is the English rendering of the Icelanders name for their country, Ísland, which means island.

  12. October 30th, 2008 at 11:28 am #sissi

    graham that’s not true
    I’m a native Icelandic speaker and I can tell you that the Icelandic word for island is eyja
    Ís does mean ice and land means country

  13. October 30th, 2008 at 4:02 pm #Fridrik

    Berserk and Saga are also taken from icelandic (meaning …. well .. berserk XD and a long story)
    And Graham .. you’re wrong >.> *is icelandic and knows*
    Ísland means iceland .. so .. has nothing to do with that
    I know Greenland was named that partially cause the guy who found it happened to be at a really green part of greenland in the summer.
    But i dunno about why it’s named Iceland .. probably to keep people away >.> cause we want to beh aloneh!

  14. July 14th, 2009 at 6:53 am #Simon

    Is it true about the suicide rate going up in the winter?

  15. August 3rd, 2009 at 12:00 am #dauði

    Yes it is true. I live in iceland and the rate does go up in the winter. But please do not take it out of context people dont going killing themselves left and right in the winter time. Alot of people think that.

  16. December 29th, 2009 at 11:17 am #Interesting Facts About Iceland »

    [...] @ // By: admin Date: December 29, 2009 11:16 am Categories: ARTICLESPost tags: Iceland [...]

  17. December 29th, 2009 at 7:19 pm #john b

    31 degrees Fahrenheit = -0.555555556 degrees Celsius
    not 1 degree C.

  18. December 30th, 2009 at 6:07 pm #bubbadb

    I spent a year there in 1969 and learned a lot about it – hated it (mostly) when I was there and young – yearn to go back. Simple life – most of what has been written here is true. I was in the Navy in Keflavik and rumor had it that they had never had a temp below six degrees above zero. But, when the wind goes blowing across the terrain – that was pretty dang fridged. The Icelandic language was difficult to learn, the land was beautiful and most of the women were gorgeous. An American name “Aretha” as in Franklin was never used on the radio because it was comparable to the Icelandic word for hanky-panky. She and the Pips were known as Miss Franklin and the Pips. When I was there, the president died and all two radio stations played nothing but chamber music for a week straight. A week is a long time with no light and no contemporary music. The best part – playing softball at midnight in close to daylight.

  19. March 16th, 2010 at 4:13 am #Forex

    Fantastic. This blog rocks!

  20. March 17th, 2010 at 1:53 am #Lucinda

    Island was named (ice land) becuase when the Norse were exploring it they sailing past the eastern fjords and if anybody has lived anywhere north of Hofn will know its desolate and very white in winter.. interestingly it was here that the irish monks first settled.

  21. April 9th, 2010 at 11:39 pm #Vyntr


    +1 for “Now I really want to live in Iceland!”

    Maybe there IS a place more awsome than Australia afterall?


  22. April 14th, 2010 at 8:50 am #Anon

    Just wanted to point out that Eiríkur “Rauði” was banned from Iceland so he sailed to an undiscovered island. He then named it Greenland so more people would move there. And Iceland is named Iceland because Hrafnaflóki’s animals died in a harsh winter. He was pissed and didn’t want people to come here so he named it Iceland. Also, Leifur “Heppni” Eiríksson, Eiríkur “Rauði”‘s son found America. He wanted to find a new country like his father. He found Canada, although the natives or “skrælingjar” as the vikings called them were already there.

  23. April 15th, 2010 at 11:37 am #VanessaC

    I been living in iceland for almost 5 years andmost of whats written here is true, but relatively to the electricity its not quite like that, its true its really cheap if u live in reykjavik or nearby reykjavik, but who lives on the country side pays quite a large amount of electric bill, only because we use it for everything, such as cooking, water and heating, but we do not pay for the water itself only its heating, and yeah over winter time the suicide rate is high but its not really that bad, u barely hear about it on the news, the crime rate is super low compared to any country in the world, and if it wouldnt be for the recent economy problem i would say that this is one of the most beautiful, peaceful and safe places on earth to live, specially if u live in little towns like i do, we dont work excessively, we have time for family, friends, we never lock our doors or cars and ppl r generally very nice and helpful! ohh and the views here r amazing, it is def a place everybody should visit ;)

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