Reykjavik Excursions Blog
  • Hestur, Hestar, Icelandic Horse, Iceland, Nature

Say What?

Iceland's trivial pursuit

23/6/2017 Blog

Did you know you need permission from the local government to own a dog? Or that we had special state-run milk stores which were the only ones who could sell milk between 1910 and 1977? Did you know "I come completely from the mountains" is a saying in Icelandic?

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!

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.

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.

The Icelandic Zoo

Today, the only zoo in Iceland is the Domestic zoo in Laugardalur, where you can see all the domestic animals of Iceland plus seals, minks, foxes and reindeer. But did you know between 1969 and 1987 we had the Sea Life Museum in Hafnarfjörður? It started out as an aquarium but little by little they added more exotic animals like a polar bear, lions and apes. The poor animals were not well kept and they were all put down when the zoo closed. The last animals to be put down were kangaroos in 1988.

Laws regarding exotic animals in Iceland are very strict, and it is forbidden to own snakes or ferrets for example. A few times, people have applied to get permission to open ostrich farms or import llamas for llama-riding, but experience has taught us it is not safe to introduce any animal into our nature, even in captivity because they have always escaped when we have tried. That is the reason we have reindeer, minks and pheasants in Icelandic nature. Plus, Icelandic animals are free of many of the diseases found in other countries and we don't want to risk infecting them with foreign diseases.

We haven't reached 1 million

Hellir_Reynisfjara_OlgeirYou can find yourself completely alone in Iceland.

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.

Bernaise sauce

Icelanders love Bearnaise sauce. You can find it almost everywhere, and we eat it with everything. You can even get it in the IKEA restaurant. It is really popular to eat it with hamburgers and fries, and all better restaurants and hamburger joints have it on offer.

Take your shoes off!

Everyone takes off their shoes when they come to anyone's house. It is considered rude to walk in with your shoes on. We do not offer slippers like in Japan. So, please, take off your shoes when you come inside.



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