The longer we stay here, the more quirks and oddities (from our narrow American perspective) we observe and learn. Iceland is an island in the middle of the high north Atlantic, after all, and until recently (WW II), was left largely alone to evolve its own proud traditions.
Here's how they do things in the wild frontier of Iceland:
1. The Icelandic language, which is spoken by just 325,000 people worldwide, is nearly identical to Old Norse, and has has not changed substantially since the 11th century, except for the introduction of some new vocabulary.
2. Everyone's on a first name basis, even at the highest levels of government. The phone book is organized alphabetically by first name. That's because girl children take their mother's first name as their last name with the addition of the suffix "dottir," and boy children take their dad's first name plus "son." So if my mother's name was Ingrid and my name was Krista, my full name would be Krista Ingridsdottir.
3. Because it's such a small island, it's possible that the cute guy you met last night at the club is actually your second cousin. So before you get serious or hook up, you'll want to check the online directory to see if and how you're related. (I'll add a link to that when I find it.)
4. Iceland leads the world in gender equality five years in a row, and the society is open minded about many social issues, including race, marriage, and sexual orientation.The former Prime Minister (before the recently elected coalition government) was an openly gay woman.
5. Because the population is so small, real legislative change can and does happen. It's possible to get elected without a huge campaign budget, and once in office, it's relatively easy to garner support for your initiatives.
Instead of a two-party system, Iceland has many parties to choose from. The recently elected (2013) parliament is comprised of the following
- Independence Party – 19 members
- Progressive Party – 19 members
- Social Democratic Alliance – 9 members
- Left-Green Movement – 7 members
- Bright Future – 6 members
- Pirate Party – 3 members
The current Mayor of Reykjavik, Jón Gnarr, former punk rock bassist in a band who's name translates as "Runny Nose" in English, TV and movie actor, writer, and clown, was elected on a platform of sustainability, support for gay rights, and polar bears in the city's petting zoo.
Here, Mayor Jón Gnarr, in drag, leads the 2010 Gay Pride march through Reykjavik.
In future articles, learn how Icelanders preserve their food, express their creativity and keep their streets clear of snow, their crime rate low, their air clean, and their horses purebred and healthy.
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More Travel Tidbits from Karla Jacobs:
On Twitter @Vagablondy
On Vimeo for fun travel videos
On ImageKind for framed prints of the best photos
On Zazzle with photo gifts featuring beautiful Icelandic horses