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kirkjufell-12x7

Fun facts, strange customs and weird laws

April 4, 2018

kirkjufell-12x7

Fun facts, strange customs and weird laws

April 4, 2018

All countries have their set of weird customs and laws and Iceland is no exception to that rule. For example, it was legal to kill Basques on sight between 1616 and 2015. But, of course, it is illegal to kill someone so that law was a bit of an oxymoron. In Selfoss, it was unlawful to whistle or sing outside between 1939 and 2007!

Mjólkurbúð - Milk Store

Between 1910 and 1977, you could only buy milk in one of the state-owned Milk stores. They were originally opened due to increased demand for cleanliness regarding agricultural produce.

Over the years, people complained about the stores in open letters published in newspapers. The most common complaints were that the shop assistants were rude or did not do their job well, the stores' opening hours were not good and that sometimes there was no milk to be had in the stores!

On 1 February 1977, the last state-run milk store was closed.

Beer was banned until 1989

In 1915, a complete prohibition took place in Iceland. However, in 1922 the government decided to allow Spanish wine because Spaniards bought most of our fish and they drove a hard bargain: Either we would keep on buying wine from them or they would stop buying fish from us. Prohibition was abolished in 1935, but beer remained banned because some believed it made people drink more.

In the decades that followed, the debate over beer was at time fierce, but eventually the beer ban was lifted on 1 March 1989, even though some were convinced we‘d all end up in the gutter. Now we celebrate beer day on March 1st every year.

Imitation beer was also banned!

While beer was banned in Iceland between 1915 and 1989, Icelanders could still buy as much as they wanted of wine and strong alcohol, like vodka and gin.

If you wished to buy beer, the only thing you could get was Pilsner, with 2.25% alcohol (which is still the only "beer" you can buy in convenience stores in Iceland). However, in the early 1980s, Icelanders had started to travel more, getting familiar with the beer culture of Europe. The first ever tavern to open in Iceland was Gaukur á Stöng in downtown Reykjavík, where the bartenders started blending Pilsners with vodka or whiskey to make a so-called imitation beer which had an alcohol percentage of roughly 5%.

This quickly became a popular drink, and other bars started making their version of this faux beer. Icelanders in the know, all agreed the imitation beer was nowhere near as good as the real thing, and in 1985, the government decided to ban imitation beer as well! Apparently, people had complained, and it was decided that the uncleanliness around bars were due to this beer replica and so it was banned.

No TV on Thursdays and in July

Until 1986, we only had one TV channel, broadcasted by The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before the INBS started broadcasting in 1966, we had "Kana-sjónvarpið" or "The American TV" broadcasted from the American Army base in Keflavík. When "The TV" (as our first TV channel was called) began broadcasting in 1966, it only broadcasted on Wednesdays and Saturdays but gradually started broadcasting every day of the week apart from Thursdays and everyone got a month off in July. In 1983, it was decided to broadcast in July for the first time and then in October 1987, a year after Channel 2 was founded, the INBS started broadcasting on Thursdays as well.

Dogs are forbidden

Strictly speaking, it is forbidden to own dogs in Iceland. In 1971, a complete ban on dogs was enforced in Reykjavík, but 13 years later the rules were changed, and people could own dogs if both owner and dog met a few conditions. The rules have changed even more since then, but you always need to get permission from the municipality and pay a registration fee. If you live in an apartment building, you need to get permission from 2/3 of the inhabitants to be allowed to keep a dog (or a cat) if you share an entryway.

Takk fyrir síðast

When Icelanders meet again after a party or a gathering, we say "takk fyrir síðast" or thank you for that last time. It might sound odd but it's a way to acknowledge that we did really enjoy the last time we spent time together.

Film intermission

If you watch films from the early days of Hollywood, you see that they have overture, intermission and exit music. It did not take long for the practice to fade out all over the world but it did not entirely stop in Iceland. If you go to the cinema here, there's always an intermission roughly in the middle of the film. This is a practice you can't get away from except during specialised screenings and film festivals. People do not agree if this is the best way to go about things (because you can go to the toilet and fill up on your drink/popcorn) or the worst thing imaginable because less hardcore snackers just want to watch the film without stopping. In the end the cinemas make most of their profit during intermission so it's unlikely that this custom will be abandoned in the foreseeable future.

Single lane bridges

When driving in the Icelandic countryside, you might come across single lane bridges. They are relics from decades ago when cars were so few and far between that making twoway bridges just seemed extravagant. Today, however, they have become rather dangerous due to increase in traffic. So please, be careful on the road. If there is a car coming from the other direction make sure it will give way and if not, you must give way.

We are always outnumbered

As you probably know, Icelanders are not a big nation. If you count all Icelanders that have ever lived since the settlement of Iceland in the late 9th century, the population does not reach one million. If we count all the tourists as well, we've long since surpassed 1 million; last year alone, Iceland received almost 2 million travellers.

Shoes off, please!

This isn't strictly a law, but Icelanders do not take well to people barging into their houses in shoes. We all leave our shoes by the front door. All flats and houses have a designated area by the front door where you take off your coat, hats, scarves, gloves and shoes. We find it perplexing when people wear their boots indoors, but this might also have something to do with our weather.

kirkjufell-12x7

The RE blog

ua0HKR9O
JRJ05671_Ketchup_blackdiamondbeach
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Eistnaflug_EydisKlaraThorleifsdottir
iStock-1151150610
RE63
JRJ09685-min Dress the Part
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BlueLagoon1
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RE05-Reykjavik Panorama
kirkjufell-12x7
Reykjanes

Christmas Traditions

Where to begin? There’s the Christmas Cat, a lot of great food, a little bit of truly bad food, way too many fireworks, bonfires, a “book flood,” and an endless amount of Santa Clauses (we call them Yule Lads).

Read more
kirkjufell-12x7

Fun facts, strange customs and weird laws

April 4, 2018

kirkjufell-12x7

Fun facts, strange customs and weird laws

April 4, 2018

All countries have their set of weird customs and laws and Iceland is no exception to that rule. For example, it was legal to kill Basques on sight between 1616 and 2015. But, of course, it is illegal to kill someone so that law was a bit of an oxymoron. In Selfoss, it was unlawful to whistle or sing outside between 1939 and 2007!

Mjólkurbúð - Milk Store

Between 1910 and 1977, you could only buy milk in one of the state-owned Milk stores. They were originally opened due to increased demand for cleanliness regarding agricultural produce.

Over the years, people complained about the stores in open letters published in newspapers. The most common complaints were that the shop assistants were rude or did not do their job well, the stores' opening hours were not good and that sometimes there was no milk to be had in the stores!

On 1 February 1977, the last state-run milk store was closed.

Beer was banned until 1989

In 1915, a complete prohibition took place in Iceland. However, in 1922 the government decided to allow Spanish wine because Spaniards bought most of our fish and they drove a hard bargain: Either we would keep on buying wine from them or they would stop buying fish from us. Prohibition was abolished in 1935, but beer remained banned because some believed it made people drink more.

In the decades that followed, the debate over beer was at time fierce, but eventually the beer ban was lifted on 1 March 1989, even though some were convinced we‘d all end up in the gutter. Now we celebrate beer day on March 1st every year.

Imitation beer was also banned!

While beer was banned in Iceland between 1915 and 1989, Icelanders could still buy as much as they wanted of wine and strong alcohol, like vodka and gin.

If you wished to buy beer, the only thing you could get was Pilsner, with 2.25% alcohol (which is still the only "beer" you can buy in convenience stores in Iceland). However, in the early 1980s, Icelanders had started to travel more, getting familiar with the beer culture of Europe. The first ever tavern to open in Iceland was Gaukur á Stöng in downtown Reykjavík, where the bartenders started blending Pilsners with vodka or whiskey to make a so-called imitation beer which had an alcohol percentage of roughly 5%.

This quickly became a popular drink, and other bars started making their version of this faux beer. Icelanders in the know, all agreed the imitation beer was nowhere near as good as the real thing, and in 1985, the government decided to ban imitation beer as well! Apparently, people had complained, and it was decided that the uncleanliness around bars were due to this beer replica and so it was banned.

No TV on Thursdays and in July

Until 1986, we only had one TV channel, broadcasted by The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before the INBS started broadcasting in 1966, we had "Kana-sjónvarpið" or "The American TV" broadcasted from the American Army base in Keflavík. When "The TV" (as our first TV channel was called) began broadcasting in 1966, it only broadcasted on Wednesdays and Saturdays but gradually started broadcasting every day of the week apart from Thursdays and everyone got a month off in July. In 1983, it was decided to broadcast in July for the first time and then in October 1987, a year after Channel 2 was founded, the INBS started broadcasting on Thursdays as well.

Dogs are forbidden

Strictly speaking, it is forbidden to own dogs in Iceland. In 1971, a complete ban on dogs was enforced in Reykjavík, but 13 years later the rules were changed, and people could own dogs if both owner and dog met a few conditions. The rules have changed even more since then, but you always need to get permission from the municipality and pay a registration fee. If you live in an apartment building, you need to get permission from 2/3 of the inhabitants to be allowed to keep a dog (or a cat) if you share an entryway.

Takk fyrir síðast

When Icelanders meet again after a party or a gathering, we say "takk fyrir síðast" or thank you for that last time. It might sound odd but it's a way to acknowledge that we did really enjoy the last time we spent time together.

Film intermission

If you watch films from the early days of Hollywood, you see that they have overture, intermission and exit music. It did not take long for the practice to fade out all over the world but it did not entirely stop in Iceland. If you go to the cinema here, there's always an intermission roughly in the middle of the film. This is a practice you can't get away from except during specialised screenings and film festivals. People do not agree if this is the best way to go about things (because you can go to the toilet and fill up on your drink/popcorn) or the worst thing imaginable because less hardcore snackers just want to watch the film without stopping. In the end the cinemas make most of their profit during intermission so it's unlikely that this custom will be abandoned in the foreseeable future.

Single lane bridges

When driving in the Icelandic countryside, you might come across single lane bridges. They are relics from decades ago when cars were so few and far between that making twoway bridges just seemed extravagant. Today, however, they have become rather dangerous due to increase in traffic. So please, be careful on the road. If there is a car coming from the other direction make sure it will give way and if not, you must give way.

We are always outnumbered

As you probably know, Icelanders are not a big nation. If you count all Icelanders that have ever lived since the settlement of Iceland in the late 9th century, the population does not reach one million. If we count all the tourists as well, we've long since surpassed 1 million; last year alone, Iceland received almost 2 million travellers.

Shoes off, please!

This isn't strictly a law, but Icelanders do not take well to people barging into their houses in shoes. We all leave our shoes by the front door. All flats and houses have a designated area by the front door where you take off your coat, hats, scarves, gloves and shoes. We find it perplexing when people wear their boots indoors, but this might also have something to do with our weather.

The RE blog

ua0HKR9O
JRJ05671_Ketchup_blackdiamondbeach
vaskur
Golden-Circle-and-Fontana-Steam-bath
Fjaðrárgljúfur
Into the Glacier
Eistnaflug_EydisKlaraThorleifsdottir
iStock-1151150610
RE63
JRJ09685-min Dress the Part
Thorsmork Panorama
Nature Pool
BlueLagoon1
Skógafoss waterfall Iceland hero mynd
RE05-Reykjavik Panorama
kirkjufell-12x7
Reykjanes

Christmas Traditions

Where to begin? There’s the Christmas Cat, a lot of great food, a little bit of truly bad food, way too many fireworks, bonfires, a “book flood,” and an endless amount of Santa Clauses (we call them Yule Lads).

Read more