The Icelandic Cultural Background

Icelandic society and culture has a high degree of gender equality, with many women in leadership positions in government and business. Iceland also has a highly progressive gay rights legislation, with couples having been able to register civil unions since 1996, adopt since 2006 and marry since 2010. Women retain their names after marriage, since Icelanders generally do not use surnames but patronyms or (in certain cases) matronyms.

Iceland also has the most extensive and progressive child protection law. The new Children’s Act, passed in March 2003, and effective as of November 1, 2003, not only places Iceland on the list of twenty-five nations that have outlawed spanking, the act also outlaws verbal and emotional abuse and makes child protection a priority. Physical or mental violence is punishable by imprisonment and/or fine, and there is no legal defense.

Cuisine: Icelandic cuisine, as you would experience it today on a holiday in Iceland, has changed dramatically from what it used to be. Throughout the ages the people of Iceland have had to deal with the elements and Icelands unpredictable natural forces all the while trying to produce enough food to last through an often very hard winter. Icelandic people no longer worry about the coming winter and preserving food is now a matter of popping it in the freezer.

Religion: Religion in Iceland was initially the Viking religion that believed in Norse mythology. Later the nation became half-Christian and then more fully Christian. This increasing Christianization culminated in the Pietism period when non-Christian entertainments were discouraged. At present the population is overwhelmingly, if nominally, Lutheran. However there are also Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims and others. There are also folk beliefs concerning elves that do not rise to the level of religion, but have gained some note.

Social: As with Reykjavik the best spots to start socializing are bars and pubs, as well as some of the cafes that turn into bars after 6pm. Some of the bars listed below are attached to restaurants but you can always drink without eating. Icelanders go out quite late so often a night might look quite slow when all of a sudden things start to kick off. On a weekend this might not happen until midnight or later. After that it will get very difficult to get into some of the hottest nightclubs. So if you are not a VIP, don’t know the doorman or anyone that can get you in, you have to get in early.