Published June 29, 2018
Iceland has a lot of fans. At the same time, we prefer to be admired for things that are actually true. A lot of the reasons people love Iceland, it seems, are based on some common, but easily debunkable, myths. As we want you to love us for who we are, not who you want us to be, we’d like to set the record straight. These are some of the most common myths, and the truth behind them.
1. Icelanders made an app to keep them from hooking up with relatives.
This myth is not particularly flattering. In fact, it’s downright insulting. Yet even social media sensation Nas Daily was pushing this as fact, so it’s time to clear the air. Icelanders did not make an “anti-incest app.” The actual app, Íslendingabók (“The Book of the Icelanders”, after the medieval text of the same name), was created by deCODE Genetics and software engineer Friðrik Skúlason to, in the site’s own words, “trace all known family connections between Icelanders from the time of the settlement of Iceland to present times and register the genealogical information in a database.” Because Icelanders love genealogy, in other words. Accidentally having sex with a cousin is not a problem in Iceland that needed solving with tech – the population is small enough that everyone pretty much already knows who they’re most closely related to. The joke was never funny, not least of all to survivors of incest. Stop it.
2. Iceland has no corruption.
We really, really wish this was true, but it just isn’t. Transparency International, a non-profit dedicated to ranking countries by level of corruption, ranked Iceland last February as the most corrupt Nordic country. And these levels of corruption have been increasing since 2012. Icelandic corruption mostly takes the form of politicians hiding conflicts of business interest, and politicians’ attempts to pressure and silence the media. No one is getting bribed with suitcases of cash or being carbombed, but that doesn’t mean Iceland is devoid of corruption.
3. Iceland is 100% atheist.
Iceland has a weird relationship with religion. We have a national church, but less than half of Icelanders consider themselves regular church-goers. A poll conducted in 2013 showed that only 10% of Icelanders consider themselves “convinced atheists”, while 57% said they consider themselves to be “religious” in some form or another and 31% said they were “not religious”. So Iceland is less like Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, and more like your pot-smoking philosophical uncle who bores you with his talk of “when you think about it, we’re all, like, god in a way.”
4. Iceland has achieved complete gender equality.
We would really like this myth to be true, too. The fact is, Iceland does have a gender wage gap, which varies from industry to industry; shrinking in some sectors, growing in others, with an overall gender wage gap of 14% to 20%. Iceland did recently pass a landmark piece of gender equality legislation, but even that law has been misunderstood somewhat. It doesn’t apply to companies with 25 employees or less, and mid-sized companies might be given years to comply. And this is without getting into issues involving immigration or domestic violence. We’ve done plenty, but we still have much more work to do.
5. The government will pay non-Icelandic men to marry Icelandic women.
Holy crap, we still get emails about this, as unbelievable as it sounds. The basic premise of this fabrication is that, due to a shortage of men, the Icelandic government is willing to pay foreign men thousands of US dollars to marry an Icelandic woman. Everything about this myth is false, wrong, and untrue. There are actually slightly more men than women in Iceland, the government has no cash-incentive programme for marrying Icelandic women, and likely never will. Let it go already.