In the endless list of things that make Iceland different from the rest of the world (in a good way), we continue with 5 more. See reasons 1-5
6. It’s like Mayberry RFD here. If you’ve ever yearned for the good old days of small town values, where kids could walk themselves home from school, the biggest crime was an occasional drunk and disorderly, and trust was just a handshake away, come to Iceland. Wallets left on street corners are returned, babies take naps outside restaurants while their parents lunch, and a common refrain, is. “That’s ok, I trust you. It’s a small island.”
7. People ride their bikes all year round. When winter comes, they insert studs in their tires, and keep riding. Cars are expensive, and so is petrol or diesel, so bikes are a logical alternative. You see them leaning against buildings wherever you go, most of them unlocked. We even spotted a roundabout installed on a bikepath to keep the bike traffic flowing smoothly.
8. There’s no separation of church and state. A nation founded in the Norse pagan tradition, Iceland, along with most of Scandinavia, converted to Christianity between the 8th and 12th centuries. Today, the official state church, the Church of Iceland, is Lutheran. Although 79.1% of the nation’s citizens report that they are members of the Church of Iceland, church attendance is low. According to a 2012 Gallup Poll, 10% describe themselves as “convinced athiests,” making Iceland among the top atheist populations in the world.
Skálholt, the ancient seat of Iceland's bishopric, and current education and information center of the Church of Iceland.
9. In bed, there’s no top sheet. Just a fitted bottom sheet and a comforter with a duvet cover. This is true in hotels, as well as furnished apartments. Sometimes on a double bed there are two skinny single duvets. To people that like to be tucked in snug as a bug, this takes getting used to. The comforter slides around and takes constant adjustments through the night to keep the temperature right.
If you like to sleep cool, you’ll be sticking limbs outside the covers or fluffing the comforter to introduce cooler air into the mix. If you’re sleeping with someone, you’ve got extra heat generated and double the fidgeting. If you’re staying in a furnished apartment, you have to remove the duvet cover and wash it, then stuff the comforter back in it when it’s clean, which is far more difficult than washing and replacing a topsheet.
10. People still read here. According to a 2012 NPR article, Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country: 5 titles published per 1,000 Icelanders. NPR, and others attribute the popularity of reading as a pastime to the nation’s culture.
For centuries, families huddled around a candle or lantern or fire, while one person read to the others from one of the many Icelandic Sagas or other books the family had collected. Sometimes they would pass the time writing poetry in the round, with each person adding a line, while knitting, spinning wool, or making tools.
There are many large and thriving bookstore/cafes in Reykjavik, and at least one in each of the larger towns. There’s no illiteracy. Kids grow up watching their parents, siblings, and friends reading, so they naturally pick up the habit.
In the U.S. and the U.K., according to the NPR article, a few heavy readers carry the book business. But in Iceland nearly everyone buys an average of 4-5 books per year. Most new books are released between September and November in time for Christmas.
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