Iceland is filled with rugged coastlines, glaciers, hot springs, geysers, volcanoes, and lava deserts. The resilient culture that has developed in this landscape has a rich history: its parliament, the Althin, is the oldest in the world, dating back nearly 1,000 years. Iceland’s climate is milder than you might expect because of the warming effects of the Gulf Stream. Icelanders enjoy fishing, swimming in hot springs, soccer, skiing, and horseback riding. The population numbers about 304,000. Most Icelanders are descendants of Vikings: a mixture of Norse and Celts.
Icelandic families tend to be close-knit. The family is important, but there is great diversity of family structures and types. In most families, both parents work outside home, and everyone shares in the housework. In the warmer months, Icelandic families often travel together.
People live in a very close relation with nature. This is because of the peculiarity of Iceland’s environment and is reflected in both the culture—via the ancient and still-practiced Norse religion Ásatrú—and the attitude (earthquakes are not cause for excitement).
Teenagers have considerable independence. Like most teens around the world, Icelandic teens enjoy getting together with friends on weekends to talk, go to parties or see a movie. Watching TV and playing chess are common non-athletic activities.
Besides the many activities offered by schools, most communities offer music lessons, drama clubs, choir and sports. Due to the strong influence of the natural environment, Icelanders enjoy fishing, swimming in hot springs, soccer, skiing and horseback riding. Camping and hiking are popular pastimes as well.
Icelandic teenagers follow the same styles of teens in Europe. They mostly dress casually. Jeans, t-shirts and sneakers are appropriate.
The basic Icelandic diet includes a lot of fish and sea products, lamb and dairy foods like cheese. Fresh fish is plentiful and is eaten in many ways. This reflects the environment, but potatoes and bread are also served with almost every meal. Pasta and pizza are becoming more common. Coffee is very popular drink.
Icelanders place great value on everyone gathering for dinner; sometimes this is the only time the whole family is together. It is considered impolite not to show up for dinner. Children are expected to call home if they cannot be there.
Icelandic is the language of Iceland; English, other Nordic languages and German are widely spoken as well. Unlike other Nordic countries, there are no dialects in Iceland. Interestingly, Icelandic has changed very little in the past 11 centuries. In fact, it retains an inflection system from the Viking age. More than 82% of Icelanders belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The biggest religious minorities are Protestant 4.1% and Roman Catholic 1.7%.