“So how does Tender work?” my friend Brynja asked as I nonchalantly went through pictures of random strangers on my phone. “It’s called Tinder—” I barely responded before she dived across the dinner table grabbing my phone from my hands. “I know him! Say yes!” she exclaimed, pressing the little green heart at the bottom right hand corner of my screen.
I soon discovered that almost every tenth person was a friend of Brynja’s. “Did I just make friends with Iceland’s Miss Congeniality or is Reykjavík really that small?” I remember wondering. This all happened during my first week in Reykjavík and I had no idea what the social scene was like. How do people make new friends? What is dating like? Do Icelanders even use Tinder or do they all think it’s called Tender? And as for those who do use Tinder, what do they use it for?
People use Tinder for a variety of reasons. Some dream of finding true love, others crave an easy casual hook up. There are also those who find joy in lengthy and pointless conversations with strangers whom they never intend to hang out with and then there are the trolls who use it to make fun of people. And then there’s me: a clueless foreigner hoping to meet cool people in a new city. After months of tireless swiping, I finally managed to compile a list of the twelve types of people I met on Tinder in Reykjavík.
It is four in the morning on a Saturday in Reykjavík and I receive a Tinder message from a match I’ve never spoken to before saying, “Just got back from a party downtown. I live in Kópavogur. Come over. I have lots of space for a party.” I thought to myself, ‘Firstly, I have no idea who you are. Secondly, you were drinking downtown and didn’t even bother to try to see me in person for five seconds before inviting me over to your house. I’m not expecting to be taken on a date with a bouquet of red roses or anything but perhaps you could have tried to meet up in any noncreepy public space in 101 Reykjavík, like Húrra, for instance, where I happened to be for pretty much the entire night. And seriously? Kópavogur? I wouldn’t even pay for that cab ride to see my husband, let alone a Tinder match who might be a serial killer for all I know.”
I came to Iceland slightly before the Grapevine ran its feature on dating and very quickly became acquainted with the dating culture (or lack thereof) in this country. You get drunk and hook up with someone you meet at a bar while severely intoxicated and possibly get into a relationship after repeated drunken late night encounters with the same person.
The recent popularity of Tinder in Reykjavík, however, just brings the whole Icelandic hook-up culture to a new extreme. Icelanders can now send out mass booty calls in the middle of the night without having to leave the comfort of their warm, cosy and lonely beds. They don’t have to invest time, face possible public rejection and ridicule or even craft an intelligent message. As one of my Icelandic Tinder matches once very eloquently said, “Drunk. Horny.”
2. If you work in Reykjavík, chances are that you’ll probably run into your entire office on Tinder. It’s even happened multiple times within the Grapevine office. Yes, you can message your Tinder matches sitting in the office pantry to bring the snacks over.
Just as I was about to call it a night, I turned around at the sound of my name to see an unfamiliar face smiling at me amidst the crowd at Húrra. The petite blonde ran over and threw her arms around my shoulders as though we were long-lost sisters who had just been reunited after ten years of separation. Upon seeing my discombobulated facial expression, she took a step back and introduced herself. “We matched on Tinder,” she saw the need to clarify, noticing that I was still struggling to put the pieces together. “Oh,” I answered, slightly embarrassed but relieved that I hadn’t actually failed to recognise one of my best friends or anything like that. After a short conversation, I politely excused myself and began the excruciating walk back home, hoping for no more unexpected encounters with my Tinder matches.
On my way home, I stopped to say hi to my neighbour, whom I only met because he had previously been out on a Tinder date with one of my best friends. He made me a grilled cheese sandwich, which I devoured as he went through my Tinder matches on my phone. I received a new message from yet another match. “I think I saw you earlier at Húrra?” it said. So more than one of my Tinder matches had seen me at Húrra.
My neighbour, who was one of the above-mentioned Tinder trolls, sent a few messages poking fun at this Tinder match of mine, as well as some others who went on to unmatch me. I was appalled for a second but decided that it didn’t matter since I would probably never have to interact with these people in real life. Wrong. The first person I ran into on the street the next day was none other than the guy who said he saw me at Húrra. The moral of the story: you might want to think twice before you let your neighbours send weird messages to your Tinder matches, because chances are you’ll run into them the next day and have some explaining to do.
Reykjavík is a beardy city and beards are great. They not only keep your face warm during the stormy winter months but also help to conceal all your flaws in your Tinder profile pictures. Throw on a stylish pair of sunglasses and a hat or beanie and your entire face is hidden. No one can tell you apart from a supermodel now.
Recent studies suggest that despite the availability of various apps and websites, the best way to successfully meet new people is still through a mutual friend. Thankfully for those of us in Reykjavík, the two means of building new relationships are far from mutually exclusive. Anyone who has friends in this city will know that every other person is a friend of a friend. This allows Tinder users here to find potential matches while proudly announcing they met through a mutual friend, rather than on Tinder.
We, at the Grapevine, tried this out by exclusively looking on Tinder for friends of our lovely editor, Anna Andersen. “So how do you know Anna?” might have become one of the most unlikely common conversation starters on Tinder, but it led to a variety of successful dates, inside jokes, group hangout sessions with Anna, and new friendships. Regardless of the outcome, the best Tinder matches were always those I had mutual friends with. Go on and look for Anna’s friends on Tinder— or maybe just friends of your own friends that you trust.
Due to the country’s tiny population of roughly 330,000, Icelanders have an extremely limited dating pool and face the possibility of accidentally hooking up with a distant relative. A few years ago, a couple of software-engineering students created an incest-prevention app called IslendingaApp. Users of the app simply have to bump their phones together in order to find out if they are related. However, thanks to the increasing popularity of Tinder in Reykjavík, Icelandic smart phones can kiss their cockblocker status goodbye.
Unfortunately, the terribly uncomfortable feeling of running into awkward drunk cousins desperately hitting on random people at Kaffibarinn on a Saturday night just becomes a part of our daily lives. Now you don’t even have to leave your apartment to see their seductive profile pictures and topless Tinder moments. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even unknowingly fall for a distant relative and increase the likelihood of awkward interactions at family gatherings.
We’re all familiar with The Cheater— the one who sleeps around while in a relationship with the only person in the whole country who is oblivious to the whole situation. When it takes just a couple of hours to swipe through all of Reykjavík on Tinder, catching The Cheater just can’t get any easier. Do they really think we wouldn’t find their profiles and send screenshots to their significant others?
The male specimen has shaved sides and a tuft of hair in the middle of his head. While swiping through his photos, you will see a gym mirror selfie, a suited up selfie, a close-up selfie, a high school graduation picture and a group photo of a night out with the boys (possibly taken with a selfie stick). The female has straightened platinum blond hair, a slightly tangerinecoloured spray tan and fake painted eyebrows. Her profile pictures consist of a collection of selfies taken from different angles. If you want to interact with them in real life, check out the crowd standing along Bankastræti on a Friday night.
Don’t worry about your failed romances. There are plenty of fish in the sea. Oh, wait! All the fish have been removed from the ocean and now serve as props for Tinder profile pictures. Catches from all over the world try their luck at reeling in Tinder dates with attractive pictures of themselves proudly holding onto the slimy carcasses of coldblooded aquatic vertebrates. What makes the situation in Iceland unique is how often you actually come across the fish guy.
The fisheries sector in Iceland, yielding a catch of over a million tonnes of fish a year, is directly responsible for the employment of approximately 9,000 Icelanders! This outstanding number refers to Icelanders who work in fishing and fish processing and doesn’t include the other 20,000 Icelanders who in one way or another rely on the ocean cluster for their livelihood.
This allows at least a fifth of Iceland’s population to have access to a daily Tinder photo shoot with fish! One of my colleagues even received an interestingly flirtatious Tinder message from a waitress at a local fish restaurant frequented by us Grapeviners, asking “Do you like my fish?” We never really got to the bottom of that but for the sake of all the fish people on Tinder, let’s just hope that everyone in Reykjavík likes their fish.
Dogs have been technically banned from Reykjavík since 1924, requiring Icelanders to possess a special permit to have their fluffy canine friends around town. Nevertheless, the cumbersome and expensive process of obtaining a licence to own a dog does not seem to stop people from getting a bunch of puppies and posting a photo series on Tinder.
In a cheesy Swedish romantic comedy called ‘The Dog Trick’, a sleazy young flirt played by Alexander Skarsgård before he became hot informs the hopeless-romantic protagonist that the way to get a girl to fall in love with him is to get a cute puppy. Judging from the Tinder pool in Reykjavík, The Dog Trick has evidently been working. Women have definitely been swiping right to men in the hopes of getting a chance to snuggle not with the man himself but with the man’s best friend. To avoid future disappointment, just remember that your potential match is the human, not the dog.
Whether you love or hate them, tourists are everywhere. You can’t avoid them. You’re going to see them in your favourite indoor pool, outdoor pool and now your Tinder pool. Solo tourists looking for a free tour guide send a message to each of their Tinder matches saying, “Travelling alone. Can you show me around?” Would the tourism industry be doing so well if people agreed to this? Probably not.
Recently, Tinder launched a “Passport” feature that allows users to look for matches in any city, rather than within the previous 160km radius from their current location. This new function allows us to get bizarre texts from people all over the world. Unfortunately, if we think Kópavogur is far, we’re unlikely to respond to booty calls from Mississippi.
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