Sunday, October 2, 2011

Iceland Culture Review #1

There's quite a lot to say here. Quite a lot. I'll say a lot here, then make another later with everything I forgot in a few weeks or when I learn more. Probably both.

Let's talk a little bit about the habits and behavior of Icelanders (stereotype time!)

Icelanders take off their shoes when they go almost everywhere. I know this is commonplace in many, many cultures, but I thought I'd mention it. you take off your shoes before you change to go into the pool, when you go into a house, and when you enter your school (if it's not too reasonably big, and elementary schools (grunnskólar) always take off shoes). This can lead to shoe-related complications if one does not have easily put-onable shoes.

Icelanders say "yeah" a lot, but right before there do it they inhale very loudly and try and say "yeah" as they inhale. I can't find a video, but if you want to look it up, go for it. Send me a video if you find it.

There is lots of nose and mouth tobacco. While this is considered "redneck" in some parts of the States, it is quite common here.

It is completely normal for a ~25 year old man to date a ~15 year old girl. This happens quite a lot, and puts my dating range down to the 10 year olds, sadly. No, I will NOT be dating any ten year olds. Ever.

Now, onto food.

Icelanders eat skyr a lot, which is a sort of jogurt, only thicker, usually mixed with sugar and fruit, as I've heard the original, plain, skyr is pretty bad, even for Icelandic tastebuds. I like this a lot.

Hot dogs. Oh my God. Hot dogs. They are everywhere, served at every gas station (bacon wrapped hot dogs as well), and almost everywhere else. Almost everyone eats them almost all the time. The preparation are as follows: battered and fried onions (think french friend onions, y'all) on the bottom of the bun, if ketchup and remolaði (remoulade) are to be added, these go on top of the onions. Then comes the actual hot dog, which is a lot like any other hot dog except it's not quite as disgusting when you think about it, and the skin is a little bit thicker, giving you a little "snap" feedback when you bite down. Mustard is then to be added, if desired, on top of the Íslensk pylsur. There are many different types of synnepsósa to be put on top of your hot dog, namely hot dog mustard (pylsur synnepsósa), a sort of brown thing. I don't like mustard in any circumstance, so I can't give you any insight.

Speaking of sauces, there are rediculous amounts of sauces for everything, and many are not to be used on certain objects. People look at you funny if you put vegetable sauce on a hot dog or hot dog remolaði on a hamburger. Usually one would put kokteilsósa on a hamburger, possibly with hamborgarasósa. Garlic sauce (which is pretty much mayonaise, a little mustard, and garlic) is a usual combination with hot and cold sandwiches - it is one of my favorite sauces so far.

On to candy. This is something that fascinates, as well as excites me. The Icelandic culture is obsessed with candy and icecream, MUCH moreso than in the States. It is completely normal to see 40+ year old men sitting around a sjoppa (hot dogs, candy, food, sometimes movies) eating hot dogs, licking ice cream cones, possibly eating bragðarefur (icecream and various candies mixed in, literally means tasty fox. wat), and buying mixed bag candy. It is completely normal to see 40+ women walking their dogs at night eating icecream. On Saturday at almost EVERY store that sells mixed bag candy, the candy is half price off. So that means you can stuff a pillow sized sack full of gummy worms, licorice, and chocolate for about the price of a nice coffee. This candy fetish the Icelanders have has not been doing wonders for my skin, but it's oh so good.

Also on candy, there's licorice in everything, and it annoys me. A typical candy tasting experience goes along the lines of:
"What's this?"
*takes a bite*
*is licorice*
I bought a huge bag of candy last Saturday, getting about 3 of everything Hyrnan (a gas station/food store thing) had, and, I kid you not, at least 80% of the bad must have been licorice. And the remainder was chocolate that had licorice inside of it, cleverly hidden.

Then there's this stuff.



No really, the food is really good, just not that stuff.

Most Icelanders don't like Sigur Rós (or say they're "okay"), and even less Icelanders like Björk. They think she's crazy.

And on the topic of music, go watch this video:
It's kind of like the Icelandic Lonely Island, except more crass, often singing about transvestites and priests that do cocaine.

Yes, there are swear words in there. No, I don't know what they are. If you get bored after 2 minutes feel free to stop it (if you don't want to see the singer get his arm chopped off, that is).

Also, there is this new Icelandic band popping up on the global music radar that I find is too good to share. It's very upbeat, catchy, and in English.

All the exchange students are pretty fond of it (I think), but I really don't know about the natives. It's bound that I'll hear it in the next few weeks somewhere around my school at least once.

And of course: Icelanders love to drink. There is no "it's 5 o'clock somewhere" funny business here, it's "go hard or leave our country." Totally normal for people to be wobbly at 11 am, drinking from little aluminum flasks most likely filled with the famous Icelandic brennevín, commonly known as black death, but literally translates to something like burning (or furnace) wine. I don't know why it's called black death, but I am curious. For more information, see the wiki.

Bless bless, takk fyrir að lesa!


  1. Aaron, I just got caught up on your trip, thanks for keeping us up to date. It sounds like you're having a great time, and I'm just a wee bit jealous. At least you got to be here for most of the hottest summer on record. I just watched the Steindimm okkar video....i wish I could understand Icelandic...i think. Please, you're still young, take it easy with the black death and remember that Ómæt [eru] ómaga orð. I just saw a video of protests over the weekend in Reykjavik. Maybe it's good you're not there, or maybe that's just the only thing that gets any press in the rest of the world. Either way Ilt er þeim er á ólandi er alinn. I'm looking forward to more posts.

  2. oh and p.s. I don't know how often you get to the capital, but there is an English Mass as 6 pm on Sundays in the Cathedral.

  3. Hah, those Icelandic proverbs were written a long time ago, I asked someone sitting across from me what ómæt meant and they said they had never heard that word before. The protests aren't bad at all, it's just the only thing of international note happening here right now. I was in Reykjavík all weekend, and I haven't even heard of it until I got home. I go to Reykjavík about once every 3 weeks and usually on a Friday or Saturday. By the way, those proverbs transliterate pretty terribly.

  4. Yeah, I guess when the police are "defending" members of parliament with open umbrellas, it might not be as bad as it's made out. Give my proverbs a break, it's the best that google had to offer me at the time...geeze everybody's a critic.