Italian men wear wifebeaters and are passionate lovers. French men are skinny and smoke after sex. Brazilian men can dance and are carnal and generous in bed. But now that we’ve gotten racist generalizations out of the way, what about Icelandic men? What do they think about romance and sex? How do they approach dating and hookups in this tiny country where they either know or are related to the majority of the population? To answer this age old question, the Grapevine asked five very different Icelanders to anonymously tell us the real-real. Some were monogamists, others players. Some recently single, others perpetually so. So read at your own risk to understand the enigma of the Icelandic male, but know that all names have been changed as have ages and any identifying details have been taken out.
Jón: 27, Icelandic, Straight, Single
Fannar: 19, Icelandic, Straight, Single
Gísli: 21, Icelandic, Straight, In a Relationship
Liam: 33, Foreign, Gay, “Dating someone but I don’t want to put labels on it”
Sigurður: 36, Icelandic, Straight, Single
Jón: The stereotype of Icelandic relationships is that people meet up downtown, get drunk, hook up, then sort of fall into a relationship almost accidentally.
Liam: Yeah, but Icelandic people are terrible at confrontation. So let’s say you have two Icelanders who meet at B5. They go home together and they keep doing it for like four months. Do you find that people end up being in a relationship without having that conversation, because they’re too afraid to?
Jón: Definitely. I haven’t, but I know people who have. Like they decide to move in together because it’s easier, but they’ve never said “We’re in a relationship.”
Gísli: That is the typical stuck-in-Iceland person. The guy who never leaves the country.
Sigurður: It’s never happened to me. I never ease into relationships, but I guess I’m a hopeless romantic—or just sick maybe. I fall in love early and get hooked.
Gísli: Well, we’re right between European and American culture. So we have people that grow up with American romantic culture and these people that have more European ideas. Icelandic culture is awkwardly in the middle.
Sigurður: We don’t learn much about sex here when we are young. At least, I don’t remember anything. Nothing in school. Pre-internet, I remember learning about sex mostly from my friend’s Danish porn magazines.
Fannar: Actually my Icelandic teacher was in the first Icelandic porn movie made here! Everyone in school watched it, but I didn’t. Anyway, I remember learning, “Porn is not real sex.” My dad told me at 14, “If you’re gonna have sex, have sex, but use a condom.” That’s all.
Liam: Well, you’re Icelandic so I am going to guess you didn’t. You people have a weird relationship with protected sex.
Fannar: Condoms are expensive! No, I’m joking. I don’t know. My girlfriend got pregnant twice and another time a one night stand called me like, “I’m pregnant.” So I have dodged the bullet three times. To be real, I don’t know why people don’t use condoms here—but they really don’t.
Gísli: That’s exactly why we are the chlamydia capital of the world. My friend actually just got it in his eye. He was going down on a girl and, I know, right? But how many of your friends have had it?
Jón: I don’t even know man.
Fannar: A lot. It’s weirdly not really considered a big deal here. People just take the pills.
Liam: “The Reykjavík handshake.” But the condom thing is worse in the gay community. People act like HIV doesn’t exist. They say, “Oh, but we live in Iceland!” On that note, I got crabs last year actually.
Fannar: That’s pretty old school.
Gísli: The first time I had sex with an Icelandic girl without a condom, I pulled out, and I swear she had never seen that done before. She was really shocked. I was like, “You were just expecting me to impregnate you?” Then I found out she wasn’t on the pill or trying to have a kid, so I just don’t get it.
Jón: I’ve never really seen this. All my friends use condoms. But I guess the whole scene here revolves around drunk hookups, so that means unprotected sex.
Liam: Okay, are you taught that incest is bad, or is it ignored? ‘Cause your entire population dwindled down to 6,000 people not that long ago. I have a friend who told me he took MDMA last week and made out with three of his cousins at a party. I mean, I have a hot gay cousin and I would have made out with him, but never before I moved to Iceland. This place has changed me.
Gísli: I hate to be the guy to break it to you but I don’t think anyone in this room has made out with their cousins.
Fannar: It happens by accident. I’ve heard many stories. Once my homie had sex with a girl and then went to a family party—
Everyone: Oh god.
Fannar: She was his second cousin.
Sigurður: I knew quite young what was illegal and what was not. You learn really young, I don’t know why. It’s not really something that happens often.
Jón: First cousin is incest. Second cousin is incest.
Sigurður: Third cousin is legal.
Jón: It’s a moral grey area.
Sigurður: I really considered doing something with this girl recently but I was in a relationship with her sister for two years—not biologically related. That’s not incest, but that stuff is bound to happen. You’re dating a girl that your best friend dated a few years ago, or the opposite.
Gísli: These are typical Icelandic situations. You gotta learn to be mature about it as fast as possible or else you are going to have a terrible fucking life here.
Liam: Dating in this country is even smaller if you are gay though. Two percent of every developed country identify as gay men, so that’s 6,000 in Iceland. 6,000! I probably know all of them. You can’t walk down the stairs of Kiki with a guy or everyone thinks you’re fucking him. It’s mouth to dick tabloid news. But I think many in the gay scene are quite miserable. All Icelandic gay men grew up together so they’ve been fucking each other senseless for twenty years. They don’t want to date each other so they move abroad, find a foreigner, and bring them back to the mothership.
Fannar: That’s something that is imprinted in Icelandic people: Stay in Iceland.
Gísli: Okay, I am going to bring this up. Icelandic women take it very poorly when they are rejected. They sometimes get violent. Right? This happens. I got punched in the face when I rejected my friend.
Jón: Yes! It is so true. If you just politely just say no, she will call you names. You are rude for not wanting to go home with me! It’s just assumed you want to.
Gísli: I once turned down a girl and she just called me a faggot. A faggot! Jesus.
Fannar: Yes, when you want to turn down Icelandic women, you have to turn them down easy so they won’t go spreading shit. They don’t take it well.
Sigurður: I haven’t experienced it so aggressively, but they don’t take hints that show I’m not into you. They keep at it, and at it, and at it. It’s hard right now because I’m really just looking for a partner. I don’t want someone too young, foreign and no kids. It’s hard when someone doesn’t tell you they have kids. That’s a rule for me.
Fannar: Do they expect to hear, “Wow, I’ve always wanted to be a dad!”? Like let’s say you’re with them for three years and this kid starts to know you, then you break up, then what are you to him? He knows you.
Liam: Well, I now live in a country where I could have children. I never imagined in my entire life I would be allowed to, so now I am trying to figure out how I feel. But my summing up of the gay scene in this country, in one word, would be “depressing.” It’s a beautiful country to move to if you want to find yourself, but if you’re a gay person looking for a husband, don’t move here.
Sigurður: It’s hard. I mean, I just started on Tinder. I’ve been on two dates and those are the first I‘ve been on in fourteen years. It’s so weird. We don’t really go on dates here, so I am bad at it. I find it so funny and so cute. I become like a teenager. We went for a coffee and a talk, and then the next one we just hooked up downtown and had sex. The Icelandic way. Half a date and half an Icelandic date.
Jón: Dates just feel unnatural.
Fannar: On the date you don’t usually hook up. The hookup happens the next day when you pick up your phone at 2am and you see a slurred text or seven Facebook calls in a row and that’s the make or break point. That’s Icelandic relationships.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that any woman in possession of any good or not-good man is a perpetual overthinker and sentimentalist. Do you sleep with him on the first date? Do you text him first? Do you dress sexy or demure? Spanx or thongs? Women are inundated with societal and sexual expectations from everything from Victoria Secret ads to Jezebel think-pieces, but how do they manifest in Iceland? In the land of drunk hookups and vague labels, how do Icelandic women approach sex and dating? From a serial monogamist to a self described “downtown hoe,” the five women interviewed held no boundaries in their discussions of this bizarre romantic society. Read at your own risk, men, but remember, these are not their names nor their ages.
Guðrun: 31, Icelandic, Straight, Single
Anna: 29, Icelandic, Straight, “It’s complicated”
Kristin: 35, Icelandic, Straight, Married
Ásdis: 20, Icelandic, Straight, Single
Marissa: 24, Icelandic, Foreign, Single
Ásdis: I met my last boyfriend at 3am at Paloma. I went up to him and grinded on him from behind. Then we went home and fucked.
Marissa: That’s such a typical “Icelandic first date.”
Kristín: Yes, but I think it’s important to go to bed with someone as soon as possible because you need to test drive, you know? Are you good in bed together? Then you can decide if you want to do more. Alcohol is always involved, without exception, I think. If it isn’t that’s quite rare.
Anna: Even my low-key friends—with perfect childhoods and no daddy issues—go downtown, meet someone for the first time, sleep with them, and then wait for them to call.
Guðrun: I was raised Catholic so I lost my virginity very late, and I was with the same man for seven years after that, so I feel young in the dating scene. If I really like them, I don’t fuck them right away, which is not how people work in Reykjavík. But if I tolerate them and think they are sexy that’s when I do the one night stand thing. Drunk hookups are the worst though. No one is able to fuck properly.
Anna: And then drugs and alcohol come in, with the “I can’t cum, I’m too drunk.” And I’m like huh, I’m a girl, I totally can’t relate to sex being unfulfilling. Like I was with Arnar—
Marissa: —Wait, him? I’ve slept with him. You slept with him?
Guðrun: I didn’t sleep with him. I would like to sleep with him.
Marissa: Wait, did you sleep with him?
Anna: He’s my cousin so no I did not fuck my cousin.
Ásdis: There we go. This is Iceland.
Marissa: It’s just a small town so no matter what happens you will see this person every week for the rest of your life.
Guðrun: Yeah I mean, imagine, you’re seeing someone, and maybe three years ago he was living with your friend, raising her babies, and now you are sleeping with him. It doesn’t even matter if she’s married now, you still feel kind of evil.
Anna: All exes become gay in my eyes after we break up. That’s how I deal with it.
Kristín: In my workplace, everyone could name maybe three coworkers they have slept or made out with. It’s like that everywhere you go, though.
Guðrun: The other day, my friend asked me if I minded that she start dating this guy that I had been sleeping with and had feelings for. I was like, “SURE. THAT’S COOL. OF COURSE: THAT’S SO COOL.” And then they were making out in front of me and I was like, “Oh shit, this is not cool.”
Kristín: Everyone should have two to three vetoes in Iceland. Some guys just mean something to you, so you just don’t want your best friend in the mix. Or your little sister. Or your mother.
Ásdis: I was in a domestic relationship when I was nineteen—it was quite abusive—and I recently found out that my best friend was sleeping with him after we broke up. It’s fucked up and we don’t speak anymore.
Marissa: Having that even be a possibility is only in Iceland. I have those guys where it’s like, “I don’t give a shit if you two are in love, you can’t hook up with him.” And friends have respected that, and other friends haven’t, and that’s a make or break thing.
Guðrun: And in Iceland, you can’t take that shit back. It’s so small that you probably aren’t going to make completely new friends again. When people get divorced and if there’s a third party involved, everyone knows, and no matter what the issue, you will always see them at parties and bars or any other public occasion.
Marissa: But you married a foreigner, Kristín, how different was that?
Kristín: Simple. All of you, I could make one phone call, “Who is this girl?” and I would get your whole life story. That’s the good thing that comes from a small society. They will stop you from dating the wrong people. But if you get a person who moves here, I had absolutely nothing. I had to investigate.
Guðrun: But you also get weird snippets. I’m talking to this guy right now, and my friend said, “Why are you talking to him? I heard something from someone that there was just something that was off with him.”
Kristín: It can ruin everything.
Ásdis: But did you check if you’re related?
Guðrun: I actually did. 8th degree!
Marissa: Look, in other places, you go on dates so you know you’re in a romantic context. Here you agree you are “hooking up” and in my mind that’s nothing and I have gotten in trouble many times, as in like guys telling me, “I don’t understand why you only text me when you’re drunk or it’s late at night.” And I say, “Because we are hooking up?” Then they say, “So you just see me as that?” And I’m like, “You said that!”
Guðrun: Everyone is looking for a best friend who they like fucking. Someone who will be like “Want to eat this burrito with me?” Sure. “Want to go down on me?” Sure. Boys want that too. But in this downtown fucking scene, no one is honest. No one says they really like you. Everyone has a front. And it isn’t sincere.
Anna: Men just have way too much power here, and I think that’s why feminism in this country is so strong. It hasn’t targeted dating or hookups, but us being considered strong women everywhere else in the world, it’s interesting how little power we have within the dating scene versus in other countries.
Anna: My friends feel like they have to wait for men to add them on Facebook, or call them. No one can say, like, “Fuck it, I really want to meet him.”
Ásdis: I always instigate. If I like someone, why would I ignore what I am feeling and what my pussy is feeling?
Kristín: It’s hard with Icelandic guys because everything is so connected. If he pours his heart out to you, I would maybe know about it two days later. There’s a risk of making a fool out of yourself.
Anna: Yeah like, I could be married for ten years and have kids and I’d still have trouble with it. Like, “I might like you, I’m not saying I’m super into you but…” Also apartments are so expensive now that people are moving in together way too quickly.
Ásdis: Airbnb is ruining Icelandic relationships.
Guðrun: All I have to say is, be bolder and braver, Icelandic men! Buy us a drink. Try something.
Anna: Or, be bolder and braver Icelandic women! Buy them a drink. Try something new.
THE_BLIND_DATE: How To Date An Icelander
Can love cross boundaries? And if so, can Icelandic men make the jump? To test this out, we asked Nirali, an American tourist, to go on a blind date with Ívar, an Icelander. The next day we checked in on them to get the rundown.
What was your impression going into this on Icelandic men/American women?
Nirali: Everyone has told me men here are very nice, and they have been so far, so I was looking forward to the date.
Ívar: I have dated American women in the past and they are usually open, interesting and easy to talk to.
What was your first impression of each other?
Nirali: “Oh la la!” Nice hair, sweet smile, his shirt was buttoned all the way up which may be the style here, but reads as not too casual. Ívar was charming right away.
Ívar: When she walked in and I realized she was the one I was waiting for, I know my face lit up a bit. It became pretty obvious almost immediately that we were both relaxed people, which made everything not-awkward.
Did you notice any glaring cultural differences?
Nirali: Sometimes in the States there is an awkwardness and occasionally forced conversation just to get through the evening, but conversation flowed very well and the date lasted about four hours! We definitely lost track of time.
Ívar: Iceland often feels like the 51st state so I think we expected similar things. However, if anything, she probably noticed this more than me, since she was a visitor in my country.
Would you see each other again? Would you date another Icelander/American?
Nirali: Yes! If he visits the States, he should keep in touch. It might be a blanket statement but Icelandic men seem sweet from my experience on this date.
Ívar: Yes and yes! If anything she reinforced the positive image I have of the American people.
THE_ANALYSIS: FRENEMYS, FIDELITY, AND ESKMIO BROTHERS
The dating scene in Iceland could best be personified as an oily angsty teenager who just discovered alcohol and porn. Yup, as both of our panels stated, finding love here traditionally involves getting super trashed and horny and mindlessly humping each other in between taking shots of Opal. But c’mon, who said romance was dead?
This bizarre environment relates directly to the isolation and size of this tiny rock in the North Atlantic. Imagine this scenario: There are 65,000 males between the ages of 25 and 54 in Iceland, which works out to precisely 2,241.3 males in each year. For a 30-year-old straight woman, that means around 11,205 boys within your five-year age range. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, what if you really like reggae? That narrows it down by 99% into 112 guys. From there, sift through to the people who live close to you and are attracted to you and you are attracted to and the situation becomes increasingly depressing. There legitimately might be about 40 men and women in the same age bracket at any time in Reykjavík who like reggae. These people will fuck, date, and pass each other around for the rest of their horrible reggae-ridden lives. Jesus, that’ll make you need a kutchie.
Both the men and the women approached this problem from different angles. Women concentrated mostly on dealing with the emotional implications of the incestuous Icelandic dating environment. They talked about having “vetoes,” which ensure that even if their best friend was Juliet and they merely Rosaline, Juliet would never stick her tongue down Romeo’s throat if it would upset Rosaline. “Some guys just mean something to you, so you just don’t want your best friend in the mix. Or your little sister. Or your mother,” Kristín explained, to nods from the other subjects.
This situation can sound ridiculous to foreigners—your sister would never really fuck your ex-boyfriend, right? We’re not in ‘Neighbors’, for God’s sake. Well, just read the men’s conversation, where coincidentally, this is an actual issue. Sigurður has a crush on a former girlfriend’s sister—not biologically related—but believes he can’t pursue it due the the potential awkwardness and social skeeviness of the situation. He’s not wrong. Imagine a family reunion. “Hey Helgi and Helga! Nice to see you again! It’s been a while!” Cringe.
It is interesting to note that none of the guys mentioned the ex-girlfriend’s feelings in their discussion of this. Would she be secretly upset, like Guðrun with her ex? Would she pull a veto card? Of course, in discussion of similar situations, the girls didn’t seem to consider their ex’s feelings either. Rosaline and Juliet were the important ones. Romeo was just a body.
Of course, the many stereotypical “Icelandic” dating problems were explored in each group. Participants met the incest question with a laugh—followed by friend-of-a-friend stories. Chlamydia was—true to form—treated as no big deal. The girls’ panel actually had people that had slept with other panel members’ cousins, ex-boyfriends, close friends and enemies. The boys’ panel probably had some Eskimo brothers too, but it wasn’t discussed.
So for Icelandophiles drooling over the idea of dating a Norse God, we hope this guides you through the shittshow minefield that is dating in Iceland. Grab an Opal, throw away your condoms, don’t pull out and don’t you dare ask the “What are we?” question. There you go, you’re on the road to saga glory.