6 Things You Didn’t Know Were Icelandic

Iceland has a tiny population – only 322,000 people – but it is impressive for a country of any size. The country boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world, 99%, and unsurprisingly is home to a large number of writers and poets. Here are six things you didn’t know were Icelandic.

1. The world’s first female president

In 1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir made history by becoming the worlds first democratically elected female president. Not that it was without debate, though. Before her inauguration there was discussion over whether a woman, and a single mother, could handle the responsibilities that came with being president. Vigdís proved her doubters wrong and went on to become a very beloved and well-respected leader. Iceland is one of the countries which has come the closest to achieving gender equality.

Vigdis Finnbogadottir world's first female president

Vigdis Finnbogadottir became the world’s first democratically elected female president in 1980.

2. Of Monsters and Men

This Icelandic indie folk-pop band formed in 2010 and released their debut album in 2011. By March 2013 they had sold over two million copies in the US alone. Last year alone the band performed in T in the Park Festival in Scotland, Lollapalooza in Brazil and Chile, Coachella, Bonnaroo Music Festival and Glastonbury Festival. The band sings solely in English.

Of Monsters and Men Icelandic rock band

Of Monsters and Men is an Icelandic indie folk-pop band who made their debut in 2011.

3. Lazy Town

LazyTown is an educational musical children’s television program with a cast and crew from Iceland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Performed entirely in English, It was filmed and produced at 380 Studios, a purpose-built studio near Reykjavík. The show follows Stephanie, an optimistic girl with bright pink hair, and has won many awards for children’s programming around the world. 

Lazy Town children television program

Lazy Town is a children’s television program filmed in Iceland with actors from Iceland, the UK, and the US.

4. Quiz Up

Quiz Up is a mobile trivia app similar to Trivial Pursuit created by an Icelandic startup called Plain Vanilla Games. It is currently the world’s biggest trivia game with more than 600 different topics. Over a billion matches have been played in over 197 countries as of March 2014 and it recently passed the 20 million user mark. The games have also been translated into five different languages – none of which are Icelandic, ironically. 

Quiz Up app icelandic

Quiz Up is an app created by Iceland’s Plain Vanilla Games with questions on over 600 different topics.

5. Geyser

The word geyser comes from the Icelandic verb, geysa, which means “to gush”. The English usage of the word was originally derived from Geysir (The Great Geysir) which is the first geyser mentioned in print and the first one known to Europeans. Iceland is home to many famous geysers, due to the high volcanic activity on the island.

geyser Strokkur Iceland

A geyser in Strokkur, Iceland – one of Iceland’s many geysers.

6. The world’s first openly gay head of government 

If being home to the world’s first female president wasn’t enough, Iceland also became home to the world’s first openly gay prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, in 2009. That same year, Forbes listed her among the 100 Most Powerful Women in the world.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir openly gay head of government.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was the world’s first openly gay head of government.

From this list, it is evident that Iceland has a small but highly creative and enterprising population. From music to leaders who pave the way to technology start-ups, we have a lot to thank Iceland for!

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Images from here, here, here, here, here, and here.


Anna Guastello
29 Sep 2014

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4 thoughts on “6 Things You Didn’t Know Were Icelandic

  1. Didier D says:

    Hello, I don’t agree with you. Have you heard about Elio Di Rupo, prime minister of Belgium? (ref. point 6)

  2. olga möller says:

    Didier.
    Elio Di Rupo Assumed office on the 6 of December 2011.
    Jóhanna became the world’s first openly gay head of government on 1 February 2009.

  3. there is only one really active geysir in iceland, and that’s strokkur.
    the one that used to be active is just few meters away and is called – geysir.