Culture and Society

People and Language

Iceland was the last country to be settled in Europe, when emigrants from Scandinavia and the British Isles first came to live on the island in the ninth and tenth century. It remains the most sparsely populated country of the continent with less than three inhabitants per square kilometer. Shaped by the unrelenting forces of nature, Iceland's harsh natural environment has bred a resilient nation that has learned to exist under extreme conditions, and harness the natural resources they create for its own prosperity.

Today, Iceland is a progressive, modern society that continuously ranks at the top of measurements for quality of life, such as the United Nations Human Development Index. Iceland is annually considered to be one of greenest countries on the planet, due in large parts to its vast renewable energy resources.  

The Icelandic language is the cornerstone of Icelandic culture. It has spawned a literary tradition that dates back to the ancient Icelandic Sagas. Violent tales of blood feuds, traditions, family and character. A strong literary tradition still thrives in modern Iceland. and Icelandic authors publish more books per capita than in any other country in the world. Iceland also prides itself of a prospering music scene, a burgeoning film industry, and Icelandic design, that is coming of age.

Icelandic customs and traditions are inspired by centuries long insular existence and a curious mixture of pagan influence on a Christian religion. Icelandic folk tales are ripe with mysticism, ghosts and elves and trolls, and further shaped by the natural forces and a taxing environment. 

Icelandic is the official language of Iceland. It is an Indo-European language, belonging to the sub-group of North Germanic languages. It is closely related to Norwegian and Faroese, although there are slight traces of Celtic influence in ancient Icelandic literature.

  • Thingvellir
  • Hotel-Budir
  • Bridge between two continents
  • Reykjavik-Winter-Festival
  • Reykjavik-Culture-night

Icelandic is an insular language, and as such, has not been influenced greatly by other languages. As a result, the language has changed very little from when the country was settled in the ninth and tenth centuries. It did not become markedly different from Norwegian until the 14th century, when Norwegian became increasingly influenced by its neighbouring languages, Swedish and Danish. Because of this resistance to change, texts from the 12th century are still more or less understandable to Icelandic schoolchildren. 

Since the 18th century, when the Icelandic language was under threat from Danish influence, a movement of language purism rose, and has since been the dominant linguistic policy in the country. Icelandic does not usually adopt foreign words for new concepts, opting instead to coin new words, or give old words new meaning, to keep the langauge free of outside influence.

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Cultural Iceland

Iceland was the last country in Europe to be settled. To this day, it is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Located in the middle of the North Atlantic, Iceland was settled by emigrants from Scandinavia and the British Isles in the tenth century. Due to Iceland's geographical location, it was mostly outside the influence of contemporary culture in Europe and America, until the late nineteenth century.

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Facts and Figures

Iceland by numbers. Quickly scan the most important facts and figures for Iceland.

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Creative Iceland

For an isolated culture in the North Atlantic, creativity is important. Ever since Iceland was settled in the 9th century, writing and music have been an integral part of life in the country; and have in recent years reached a large audience on the global stage thanks to the efforts of international pop stars such as Björk and Sigur Rós, as well as the wide readership of authors like Halldór Laxness, Arnaldur Indriðason and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir.

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