The Little Book of the Icelanders
Fifty miniature essays on the quirks and foibles of the Icelandic people
In 1994, after more than 20 years away, Alda Sigmundsdóttir returned to her native Iceland as a foreigner. With a native person’s insight yet an outsider’s perspective, Alda quickly set about dissecting the national psyche of the Icelanders.
“Grasping the national psyche of the Icelandic people is like trying to catch a slippery fish with your bare hands. But I give it my best shot in The Little Book of the Icelanders,” says Alda.
Beautifully illustrated by Megan Herbert, The Little Book of the Icelanders is the perfect book for all lovers of Iceland. Available in paperback, ebook, audiobook, and hardcover formats. The paperbacks, ebooks, and audiobooks are available from your nearest digital store. The hardcovers ship from Iceland.
Even though they live on the edge of the inhabitable world with engulfing darkness for several months of the year, the Icelanders continue to score among the most optimistic people in the world.
Is it the fish? The fresh air? The cod liver oil? Natural selection? The copious amounts of anti-depressants they consume?
Nobody really knows.
However, one thing is sure: this character trait serves Icelanders well and has helped the nation cope with innumerable shocks, from volcanic eruptions to famines, to a massive economic crisis. Whatever happens, you can be sure that the Icelanders will seek the silver lining and soldier on, firmly believing that things will soon get better.
Indeed it is fascinating to observe how the Icelanders deal with trauma at a national level. Their initial reaction always seems to be to bond together. People who on regular days will bicker and quarrel amongst themselves, suddenly become enormously supportive of each other. I’ve seen this happen in the aftermath of disasters such as snow avalanches and volcanic eruptions, or tragedies that capture the nation’s attention.
Take, for example, the economic meltdown of 2008, which for the Icelanders was one of the most catastrophic events in recent history. Many people feared an onslaught of suicides in the wake of all the bankruptcies that ensued. Yet it turned out that the number of suicides actually declined. According to the Directorate of Health, it was because the nation had bonded together, and people were closer and more supportive of each other than they had been in a very long time.
In other words, the optimism is probably a long-term survival strategy. After all, through the centuries of hardship and geographical isolation that the Icelandic nation has endured, defeat was not an option – it was stand together, fight together, or die. And fighting naturally incorporates optimism – after all, you have to believe there is something worth fighting for.
Mind you, this is just my own homegrown theory. A devil’s advocate would probably ask why the other Nordic nations are not the same – why there isn’t the same prevalence of optimism there. Or bring up the bloody family feuds in the Iceland of yore, where folks cut each other down willy-nilly for the stupidest reasons. To which I don’t even pretend to have an answer.
Appalling driving habits of the Icelanders
Naming conventions and customs
The Icelanders’ profound fear of commitment
The Icelanders’ irreverence
Why Icelandic women are really men
How the Icelanders manage to make social interactions really complicated
The importance of the family in Icelandic society
Where to go to meet the real Icelanders
… and possibly score some free financial advice
Rituals associated with the most important life events
Weddings, confirmations, graduations, and deaths
And so much more inside!
Learn more about the national psyche of the Icelanders. Get your copy of The Little Book of the Icelanders now!
About the author
Alda Sigmundsdóttir is a writer, and occasional journalist. She runs her own independent press, Little Books Publishing, based in Reykjavík, Iceland.
Alda is the author of ten books, each of which explores an aspect of Icelandic culture or society. Her two latest books, The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas and The Little Book of Days in Iceland, are about the Icelanders’ enthusiasm for the Yuletide season, and Iceland’s special seasonal events and holidays, respectively. Alda is active on social media, and may be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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