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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.

People complained about the stores through the years in open letters sent to 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 Mjólkurbúð 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 gave us hard conditions: Either we would keep on buying wine from them or they would stop buying our fish. In 1935 the prohibition was abolished, but beer remained banned because some believed it would make people drink more.

In the ensuing decades, the debate whether we should allow beer or not could be acrimonious, but in the end, the beer was allowed 1 March 1989, even though a few people thought we‘d all end up in the gutter. Now we do celebrate beer day every year and that we still haven't ended in the gutter!

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 incidentally is the only “beer” you can buy in convenience stores here, do not be fooled!). However, in the early 1980s, Icelanders had started to travel more and gotten to know the beer culture of Europe better. The first ever tavern to open in Iceland was Gaukur á Stöng in downtown Reykjavík, and there the bartenders started blending Pilsners with vodka or whiskey to make a so-called imitation beer which alcohol content was roughly 5%.

This quickly became a popular drink, and other bars started making their version of this “beer”. Icelanders in the know, all agreed the imitation beer was far from as good as the real thing, and then in 1985, the government of Iceland decided to ban the imitation beer as well! Apparently, people had complained, and it was decided that the uncleanliness around bars were due to this imitation beer and thus 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 the station was called) started 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 Stöð 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 they and the 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) there if you have a common 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 we do this instead of sending thank you cards for example and acknowledging that we did enjoy the time we spent 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 in 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 thing sliced bread (because you can go to the toilet and fill up on your drink/popcorn) or the worst thing because they want to watch the film without stopping but in the end the cinemas make most of their profit during the intermission so it's unlikely they will stop anytime soon.

One lane bridges

When driving in the Icelandic countryside, you might come across one lane bridges. They are relics from decades ago when cars were so few and far between that it did not matter the bridge was just one lane, plus it saved money. Today, however, they have become increasingly dangerous due to the increase in traffic. So, please, be careful when you cross it. If there is a car coming from the other direction make sure it will give way and if not, you must give way.

We haven't reached 1 million

As you probably know, Icelanders are not a big nation. If you count all Icelanders that have ever lived since the settlement 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.

Leave your shoes at the door

Ok, this is not strictly a law, but Icelanders do not take well to people barging into their houses in their 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 are used to walking inside wearing their outdoors shoes.

kirkjufell-12x7

The RE blog

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kirkjufell-12x7
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BlueLagoon1
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Five things glacial to do in Iceland

Recommended glacier-related activities for you to consider – happy icing!

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.

People complained about the stores through the years in open letters sent to 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 Mjólkurbúð 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 gave us hard conditions: Either we would keep on buying wine from them or they would stop buying our fish. In 1935 the prohibition was abolished, but beer remained banned because some believed it would make people drink more.

In the ensuing decades, the debate whether we should allow beer or not could be acrimonious, but in the end, the beer was allowed 1 March 1989, even though a few people thought we‘d all end up in the gutter. Now we do celebrate beer day every year and that we still haven't ended in the gutter!

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 incidentally is the only “beer” you can buy in convenience stores here, do not be fooled!). However, in the early 1980s, Icelanders had started to travel more and gotten to know the beer culture of Europe better. The first ever tavern to open in Iceland was Gaukur á Stöng in downtown Reykjavík, and there the bartenders started blending Pilsners with vodka or whiskey to make a so-called imitation beer which alcohol content was roughly 5%.

This quickly became a popular drink, and other bars started making their version of this “beer”. Icelanders in the know, all agreed the imitation beer was far from as good as the real thing, and then in 1985, the government of Iceland decided to ban the imitation beer as well! Apparently, people had complained, and it was decided that the uncleanliness around bars were due to this imitation beer and thus 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 the station was called) started 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 Stöð 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 they and the 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) there if you have a common 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 we do this instead of sending thank you cards for example and acknowledging that we did enjoy the time we spent 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 in 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 thing sliced bread (because you can go to the toilet and fill up on your drink/popcorn) or the worst thing because they want to watch the film without stopping but in the end the cinemas make most of their profit during the intermission so it's unlikely they will stop anytime soon.

One lane bridges

When driving in the Icelandic countryside, you might come across one lane bridges. They are relics from decades ago when cars were so few and far between that it did not matter the bridge was just one lane, plus it saved money. Today, however, they have become increasingly dangerous due to the increase in traffic. So, please, be careful when you cross it. If there is a car coming from the other direction make sure it will give way and if not, you must give way.

We haven't reached 1 million

As you probably know, Icelanders are not a big nation. If you count all Icelanders that have ever lived since the settlement 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.

Leave your shoes at the door

Ok, this is not strictly a law, but Icelanders do not take well to people barging into their houses in their 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 are used to walking inside wearing their outdoors shoes.

The RE blog

Into the Glacier
Fjaðrárgljúfur
kirkjufell-12x7
Golden-Circle-and-Fontana-Steam-bath
Reykjanes
BlueLagoon1
Hraunfossar3
RE05-Reykjavik Panorama

Five things glacial to do in Iceland

Recommended glacier-related activities for you to consider – happy icing!

Read more