Are Icelanders just like everyone else or are they a little, well… special? This show, which purports to teach you how to become Icelandic, addresses what constitutes particularly Icelandic behaviour.
All the obvious stuff is here. We eat sheep’s balls (although this is actually rarely done), and we drink a lot of Brennivín. While the latter is true, the show also points out that if you’re spotted having a glass of wine on a Tuesday, you will generally be assumed to have a drinking problem, while a bottle or two of vodka on weekends is fine.
Other generalisations are more debatable. Do Icelanders really argue more than other people? While this is in itself a wonderful basis for an argument, in a small country there is also a strong push for conformity— a point that goes unaddressed.
Some of the national characteristics might be handy to know about. Icelanders are generally rude, yes, but it is an equal opportunity type of rudeness. So don’t feel it’s personal if someone pushes past you to get on a bus or to the bar. Iceland is a fairly large island with a very sparse population. We just aren’t that used to having other people around.
The national psyche
The show even finds time to dig a little deeper into the national psyche. One of the defining traits of Icelanders is their boundless optimism, even in the face of facts or reason. While this does give the country a certain dynamism, it has also been known to lead to trouble. Why does winter, while being an annual occurrence, still manage to come as a surprise every year? No one ever seems to remember to switch to winter tyres or get their warm clothes out, as if magically somehow this year winter won’t come.
Then again, thanks to climate change, we may finally be proven right.
While the show might be a little hit and miss when it comes to the jokes, it’s actually very accurate when it comes to describing Iceland’s national character, and hence fully lives up to its name.
The two main actors, Karl Ágúst Úlfsson and Örn Árnason, who take turns performing, are both comedy legends in Iceland, having starred in the long running political spoof ‘Spaugstofan’ for 30 years. The director is also a veteran of that show, and this is a wonderful opportunity to see the gang perform in English.
‘How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes’ is running in Harpa almost every day of the week. Get tickets here.