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* Most Icelanders do not have a family name (such as Johnson, Smith, etc). So children have a given name and then father’s-name-son or father’s-name-daughter. Thus:
1. Jon has a son named Thor Jonsson and a daughter named Hafdis Jonsdottir.
2. Thor Jonsson has a son named Bjarni Thorsson and a daughter named Frida Thorsdottir.
3. And so forth.
* Icelandic women don’t take the husband’s name when they marry, chiefly because the husband doesn’t have a family name to take.
* Because they don’t have surnames, Icelanders are listed in the telephone directory alphabetically by first name.
* Because they don’t have surnames, it is not appropriate to call an Icelander by Mr. or Ms. Almost all Icelanders use the first name with everyone—including the president of Iceland.
* The English word geyser comes from Icelandic (perhaps the only Icelandic word imported into English). Geysir is the name of a famous geyser in Iceland (which, sadly, no longer erupts).
* The Icelanders speak the Icelandic language, which is used only in Iceland and among Icelandic expatriates—chiefly in Scandinavia and North America. Icelandic is very similar to old Norwegian of about 1,000 years ago.
* There are only about 270,000 Icelanders in the country. About half of them live in the capital Reykjavik and its suburbs.
* Iceland is the world’s oldest democracy. Its parliament (Althingi) was founded about 1,000 years ago.
* Iceland has vast amounts of water—because it rains so much. Icelandic water is so clean and pure that it is piped into the city and to the kitchen taps in the home without any treatment (no chlorination needed).
* Urban Icelandic homes do not need a water heater or a furnace for heating. Steam and hot water are piped into the city from natural geysers and hot springs for use in homes and buildings.
* Because of its bountiful water supply and many rivers, Iceland has vast reserves of hydroelectric power. Electricity is so inexpensive that aluminum ore (bauxite) is shipped in to the country, made into aluminum, and the aluminum ingots are shipped out again. (Smelting aluminum requires vast amounts of electricity.)
* The weather in Iceland is not as cold as you might think. (Winter is a heck of a lot colder in Minnesota than it is in Iceland!) The climate is relatively mild because of the influence of the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf Stream. Average winter daytime temperature in Reykjavik is 31 degrees F. (−1 degrees C.)
* Iceland is very green, because there is so much water and the climate is mild. (There are not many trees however.) People like to say that Iceland should be named Greenland and Greenland should be named Iceland. I used to tell my Icelandic friends that they should change the name of their country from Iceland to Waterland.
* Iceland lies just south of the Arctic Circle. Winter nights and summer days are long. On December 21 in the capital, the sun rises at 11:30 a.m. and sets at 3:30 p.m. On June 21 the sun sets about midnight and rises at 3:00 a.m. It never gets darker than twilight at night during the late spring and early summer.
* During a recent survey, Icelanders ranked the highest of all European countries in expressing general satisfaction with their lives.
* Icelanders rank near the top of world nations in the per capita rate of connection to the Internet.
* Iceland has no army, navy, or air force. It does have a Coast Guard.