People & Society
When you live in a country which moves alarmingly under your feet every five years or so with an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, you face, like the saga heroes of old, a choice of two courses of action, neither of them good: Either to flee the country and all its hazards, or to stay and brave them out. For more than 1100 years the people of Iceland have chosen to stay and brave them out.
Television presenter and personality, the late Magnús Magnússon, Reykjavík, September 2001
Iceland and its people are both shaped by the extreme forces of nature. Before the emergence of modern transportation, it was an isolated island in the middle of the North-Atlantic, populated by a small nation that survived hardship and natural disasters in an unforgiving environment. But Iceland’s rough conditions have created a resilient nation that has learnt to co-exist with nature, and harness its resources for its own prosperity.
Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe, with less than three inhabitants per square kilometer. But it is also a progressive, modern society that continuously ranks at the top of the United Nations Human Development Index. Its economy is one of the most productive economies in the world, per-capita, and it is annually considered to be one of greenest countries on the planet, due in large parts to its vast renewable energy resources.
The cornerstone of Icelandic culture is the Icelandic language, which 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 boasts a prospering music scene, a burgeoning film industry, and Icelandic design 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.
Learn more about the Icelandic people and the society as a whole on your left.