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Insider Advice & Travel Tips from Locals in Iceland

Iceland boasts a distinctive culture to anywhere else in Europe, or the world for that matter, as it remained relatively insulated from outside influence until the last century or so.

Iceland’s geographic isolation and extreme climate have developed a society that highly values resiliency, tight-knit families, a love of nature and protective appreciation of its traditions.

Preserving the Icelandic language is very important to the country’s culture. Instead of borrowing foreign loanwords to describe new terminology, Iceland has a national council whose job it is to devise and introduce new Icelandic words as reference. For example, the word for television is ‘sjónvarp,’ which translates to “vision projection.”

When naming a baby, the parents must choose from a database of approved names, or submit a proposal to the governmental naming committee.

Instead of passing down a common family name, Icelander’s surnames (last names) are typically patronymic, identifying oneself as their father’s child. For example, the singer Björk’s last name is Guðmundsdóttir, which means Guðmund’s daughter, or the Oscar-nominated director Friðrik Þór Friðriksson, whose last name of course means Friðrik’s son. Surnames can also be matronymic, which is less common, but also becoming more popular.

Farming and fishing has remain important occupations in Iceland.