I spent the last week in Iceland, and there are a number of things which I could chat about but I'll limit it to twenty-two comments.
1. Generally, if the summer (July-August) temperature gets above 68 degrees F (20 degrees C), Icelandic people freak out, throw on their shorts and flip-flops for several hours and absorb as much radiant heat as possible. The next day, they will settle back down to the normal 58 degrees F (14 degrees C).
2. Icelandic people will proudly proclaim that they are absolutely socialists in nature. Of course, with 360,000 residents.....you can do the math. There's only twenty-odd millionaires, so you hit them hard on taxes. Then you have a two-hundred upscale guys (the ones who own BMWs), and you hit them hard with taxes. And then? Well....reality sets in because everyone else is working class "slugs" and they end up balancing the "book".
3. There are roughly one general network that you can watch television in Iceland. To be kinda honest, there aren't that many Icelandic original programs....but with only 360,000 folks.....it's hard to figure something of a script which would be financially viable to the majority of the public. It seems like a bunch of US and Brit programming gets pumped onto the networks. But there's a limited number of advertising going on, so I kinda doubt that anyone makes money off the Icelandic TV networks.
4. If you asked me for a simple description of the island.....I'd say it's just one big volcano-viking theme-park.....with geysers, hot springs, glaciers, waterfalls, and one-star beaches. Everyone looks like some viking character. Icelandic women look extremely healthy and if asked to whoomp on some guy.....they probably hurt some guy with a minute of threshing. You don't find many drunk Icelandic guys or smokers around.....but I think that's mostly because they tax the heck out of booze and smokes.
5. "Dry wit" would be an absolute term to use for Icelandic humor. They can be very blunt, sarcastic, and deliver some unintentional moment of levity without even thinking about what they are saying. Out of 360,000 residents.....I'd say that based on the number of folks I bumped into or observed.....about 200,000 of the islands residents are part-time comedians and could run their own TV shows if filmed as a reality series. If I ran the US History-Channel.....I'd have ten teams based in Iceland and have five or six shows shot daily. The sad thing is that they don't even realize how gifted that they've become.
6. I drove a partial bit on Highway 1....the road that circles the island. Based on my humble guess.....I'd say you'd need six days to circle the island....to take in the full prospective. It's roughly 1,300 kilometers total. Yes, it is paved. Max speed? 90 kph or 55 mph. Course, I drove my portion of the road in July and it was absolutely safe. I have doubts that I'd make the same drive in December. The thing that you notice about an hour outside of the capital....is that you take a curve and look ahead....and there's nothing there....no trees....no houses.....no gas stations. Just an open space and blacktop.
7. If you were particular about your food....no spices....no hot stuff. Then Icelandic food would be fine for you. Course, about seventy-percent of what is generally on the menu options....revolves around either fish or lamb chops. If they do offer up a hamburger.....it's best to remember that this is Iceland and it just won't have the same taste as you might be used to. Because of this.....you generally don't see too many hefty or fat folks. Course, eating out means paying a minimum of $20 or more...per person.
8. It should be noted that all the way up from the Viking period to 1989.....beer was banned in Iceland. We can talk for hours about this topic, but it's a bit of a curiosity. If you want booze or alcohol? Well....you have no choice....you have to go to a state-run store, where typically you find a line on Friday afternoons. Beer is pretty well a common thing now, and folks are peppy about the taste. I don't think the Pabst Blue Ribbon stuff would sell in Iceland....or the Miller Beer.
9. Jon Gnarr is a legend in Iceland. He's a comedian who decided as a joke one day to run as mayor of Reykjavik (the capital city). He made up a party out of thin air.....called the "Best Party". He took absolutely nothing serious and laid out the most ridiculous platform possible for a political figure. He won. He did the job for four years and then went back to some real work.....humor.
10. If you ever do visit the Blue Lagoon (the swanky world-class pool resort on the southwest end of the isle).....be aware, if you don't bring a towel.....they charge roughly 4 Euro ($5) to rent one. About the most ridiculous pricing that one could ever run into. The entry fee in the summer period? Fifty Euro ($60).....to basically soak in some heated health waters.
11. If you ever do wander into a Icelandic pub, and someone offers up a Brennivin....be aware, the translation for this drink is "black death", and it's awful high into alcohol content. It'll come in a clear form, or occasionally a green view. It's usually around 80-proof....so just three or four shots will be sufficient. And if they offer up some type of small plate with a meaty-looking substance....be aware, that's dried-up shark meat. My advice is to sip six shots of the black death liquid prior to the shark meat consumption.
12. It's not something that will typically come up.....but probably ten-percent of all the folks you bump into (adults included).....believe in something called the huldufolk. The best description to huldufolk....would be elves or invisible people. What is generally said is that this comes out of ages old traditions....going back two thousand years. You will be told by most Icelandic folks (even those who don't subscribe to huldufolk).....that it's all best to humor the huldufolk-believers and if you show some kind of disbelief or aggravate these people.....well....it's just not polite.
13. Maybe once a day.....you might be in the company of some Icelandic guy or gal.....and they figure out (probably by your shorts, or attire) that you aren't from around the isle, and just visiting. For some reason, like if you were visiting south Alabama.....the locals are curious about your perception....your view of their wondrous land....your humble feeling.
There are two ways to approach this question. First, you can always say that you've traveled a lot and its a nice place....not too wordy or getting into any stupid discussion over things. Second, you could work up a 250-word verbal essay...bringing up some fake tears....waving your hands around.....and talking up a pitched devotion to the volcanic 'rock'. This will in turn make the Icelandic guy all weepy-eyed and he'll probably whip out some Brennivin bottle and offer you a shot or two.
The thing is....it's mostly just a volcanic piece of rock, with 20,000 odd wood houses in some alluring color, with a bunch of socialist characters devoted to the 'vanilla-like' landscape, where a bit of humor or laughter is necessary, and in the midst of December.....the day-light hours are from 11:23AM to 3:30PM. The truth is.....the Icelandic folks need a pep-talk almost daily.....to keep them convinced that it's all crazy thoughts to keep staying there. Pleasure them a bit.....they need it.
14. Icelanders will tell you immigration is way up. So you ask the guy....what numbers do you mean. For 2015, it went up 30-percent. So you ask the guy again.....what numbers? Then finally, he will say that roughly 1,400 people came into Iceland for all of 2015. Oddly, if you go back over the past decade....it's mostly people from Poland (go figure that mystery) who moved there (roughly 4,000 Poles immigrated into Iceland).
For the discussion....if you asked about how many Muslims are in Iceland.....officially, it's around 800 individuals.
And those Icelanders leaving the isle? Well, that's a curious thing too.....between three and four thousand Icelanders left the isle in 2015. Course, they will admit that roughly 1,500 Icelanders moved back to Iceland.
My guess is that folks leave in search of a better life elsewhere, and two or three years down the line....they start thinking of a volcanic rock, quiet landscape, and safe atmosphere, and they pack up to return to Iceland.
Some Icelandic people get all hyped up and want to suggest that by the year 2065 (50 years away), they will hit 500,000 residents (140,000 more than today). Course, you might ask.....where will the jobs come from. But you just look around.....miles and miles of nothing. For a real estate guy, you could see massive expansion and hundreds of neighborhoods getting built up.
15. It should be noted that it was only in 2015 that the Icelandic Parliament got around to repealing a 400-year old law which said killing Spanish Basque folks on Iceland was permitted. No paperwork, no cop involvement, no judge's authority....just a plain law which said that some folks needed 'killing'.
This goes back to a 1615 episode where some Basque whalers landed on the isle....did some rough and stupid stuff....and the Icelandic folks held a vote, and put the law into effect. Shortly after this.....thirty-two of the Basque whalers were killed in quick order.
Several of the Icelandic political folks in 2015 were quick on the apology business and noted that it was all safe and secure for Basque folks to visit Iceland once again. There is a memorial for the dead Basque guys....a stone deal just noting that it was a rare moment where some Icelandic folks got all hyper and emotional....that they were sorry after the act for their misbehavior.
16. It's not something that gets brought up by Icelandic people or in journalist's pieces....but Iceland was about the last place on Earth....settled. You can go back two-thousand years ago and come to realize that some folks landed.....looked around....saw virtually not a single tree....and found some reason to stay.
It's hard to figure how civilization flourished on Iceland for the past two thousand years other than whaling was popular and it was out in the middle of nowhere, so no one ever came to invade much. One of the positives is that they don't have mosquitoes to mess with....or snakes.
For those who prefer good clean lifestyles.....note that Iceland banned all strip-clubs in 2010, with the good intention of preventing bad things. Up until 2010, there were around a dozen strip clubs in Iceland....most all have disappeared with only champagne-clubs now operating, a club where a lady is provocatively dressed, and agrees to sit next to you while the two of you sip champagne and discuss communism, rough times at work, car issues, business stagnation, and your favorite political fantasies.
In some ways, as being the last land on Earth civilized....they've gone down a different route.
17. There's no logical reason for it.....but folks in Iceland tend to drink Coca-Cola more than any other drink. It's easy to find yourself in some bar, pub, cafe, restaurant, or hotel operation.....asking for a Pepsi, and being told they ain't got any.....and if you'd like a Coke. Me personally? I'm thinking there is some kind of conspiracy at work here, or some heavy-handed Coke-sales people who hype up the public in a very tragic and sad way.
18. If you did get some burger desire for McDonalds....forget about it. They shut down the last operation a couple of years ago (too expensive and limited customers).
19. At some point in 2015, some geek engineer guy developed a software APP which you'd have on your smart-phone while hanging out in a disco, pub, or cafe.....and having met some really wonderful Amazon-looking blonde gal out of thin air. Prior to this APP....you'd go home with the gal....have a lusty evening.....get into some action-packed weekends....and three months down the line be talking real serious about a relationship....ONLY to discover that she was a 3rd cousin of yours, or perhaps even a 2nd cousin. So the APP takes the information that you put in and your new gal, and tells you real quick that she is a distant relative and it's best not to get too far into a relationship.
This naturally brings you to a serious problem with Icelandic folks.....with only 360,000 folks, and roughly only 60-percent living in the capital city itself....it means there's only a limited number of three-star or four-star possible individuals you could bump into and really get hyped up about a relationship. For a 38-year old Reykjavik highly educated gal who put off relationships for a while and wakes up in the later years wanting some handsome prince-guy? Well....unless you bump into some tourist guy or go off to hunt down some stupid American or British guy while on a vacation (talking them into moving to Iceland)....there's just not much to hope upon.
20. Iceland and fashion. In the world of fashion....there are probably a dozen scales that you can measure folks (from the rural regions of Alabama, to NY City upscale, to German Gothic trend, etc). Well....fashion in Iceland, whether for men or women.....is about a hundred ways ahead of the fashion game. It's a curve that goes 361 degrees. It doesn't matter if it's some 60 year old guy, some 250-lb Amazon blonde beasty gal, or some 15-year old teenie chick. Even the one or two farmer dudes that I came across outside of town....looked like some Gentlemen's Quarterly male model, and I was thinking for a minute or two that they were just fake farmers or such.
When someone utters "Reykjavik trendy".....it means you got the look. Taking this style back to rural Alabama would identify you quickly as stylish.
21. One million Icelandic Krona equal $8,155 US dollars. So, don't get all peppy when some Icelandic gal starting talking about her salary and how she brings home two million Krona a year....that's still trailer-park pay in Alabama.
If there was a McDonalds in Iceland, then the happy meal package would run 1,000 Icelandic Krona.
22. Life is awful simple in Iceland. And I think everyone ought to go and spend a week there. Don't worry....as much as the Viking-Disney effect will have on you.....the winter-affect will also slam into the situation and you will be smart enough to limit yourself to a week in the summer.