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 Magnús Magnússon, Reykjavík, September 2001
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 in 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 learnt 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 measurement's for quality of life, such as 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.