30 Strange & Intriguing Facts About Iceland & Its Culture

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1Iceland forest

Iceland was extensively forested before the first humans settled there. But within 500 years of their arrival, 95% of woodlands had been cut down, leading to soil erosion, crop failure, and the eventual abandonment of many farms.


2. The majority of Icelanders either believe in elves or are unwilling to rule out their existence.


3. Iceland has such a small population that they have an anti-incest app so that you don’t end up hooking up with a family member on a night out.


4. In Iceland, the phonebook is sorted by first names because everyone's surname is basically their father's first name followed by -son or -dottir.


5. Icelandic people actively work to eliminate English "loanwords" in their language by inventing and substituting new words from Old Icelandic and Norse roots.


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6Mutation

A genetic study of people from Iceland found a number of them had a mutation predominantly found among Native Americans. It has theorized that this could be because of American women breeding with Viking men, during Norse exploration of America in the 11th century A.D.


7. If an Icelandic horse ever leaves Iceland, it is banished from the country forever.


8. In 2015, the authorities of the Westfjords region of Iceland repealed a 400-year-old law that dictated that any Basque people found in the region could be legally killed on the spot.


9. In Iceland, there is an elf whisperer who inspects construction sites before building to ensure no elves are hanging around.


10. The parliament of Iceland, the Althing, is the oldest surviving parliament in the world, having been founded in 930.


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11Beer Day

Beer was banned in Iceland until March 1, 1989, which is now celebrated annually as Beer Day. Iceland outlawed all forms of alcohol in 1915, but within 20 years had unbanned all alcoholic beverages except for beer.


12. Red traffic lights in Akureyri, Iceland are heart shaped. They appeared in 2008, as a morale booster after the financial crash that brought down Icelanders.


13. In 2013, the government of Iceland asked several FBI agents to leave after they lied to the local government and told them they were investigating terrorist hackers. It turned out they were investigating WikiLeaks.


14. Iceland has a Horse Naming Commission that oversees horse names across the country to ensure that no horse gets a foreign, vulgar, or inappropriate name.


15. Iceland used to have birch forests, but the Viking settlers cut them down then. Their sheep then ate the saplings, preventing any kind of forest regrowth leading to the barren landscape Iceland is known for.


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16Civil War

In the year 1000, to save Iceland from civil war, both parties elected the wisest man to suggest a peaceful solution. He decided on a mass conversion to Christianity that tolerated pagan worship in private. Everyone agreed and he even converted himself.


17. Although Iceland is considered politically as part of Europe, it is geographically North American and European at the same time, due to the fact that half of Iceland belongs to the Eurasian plate and the other half to the North American plate.


18. In Iceland, it is common to carry alcohol openly outdoors, and to keep their hands warm and beverage cold, locals use a "beer mitten" that was invented by Icelanders.


19. Iceland in 1940 passed a law that made swimming lessons mandatory in schools starting at grade 1 (age 6) to grade 10 (age 16). Lessons are held once a week. Historically, a lot of Icelandic seamen had met a tragic end because of the harsh sea and this law was an attempt at saving lives.


20. In 2009, a man in Iceland bought and saved the last McDonald's burger ever sold in the country and donated it to Iceland's national museum. You can now watch the burger via a live webcam.


21Church tax

Everyone in Iceland pays church tax, and the payment of those unaffiliated with a church goes to the University of Iceland [at least as of 2004].


22. Iceland was involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. They sent two troops.


23. Children in Iceland are not allowed to have names with the letter "C" in them. All names must conform to the rules of the Icelandic language, which does not have the letter "C."


24. There is a church in Iceland where you can worship the Norse Gods.


25. The Icelandic word for computer, Tolva, translates to English as 'number prophetess.'

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