From Iceland — What Are Icelanders Talking About? The News That’s Raising Blood Pressure

What Are Icelanders Talking About? The News That’s Raising Blood Pressure

Published November 30, 2020

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

As with many, if not most, countries in the world, the coronavirus pandemic is at the forefront of Icelanders’ minds these days. With plans for the vaccine now shaping up, as well as now being able to boast the lowest infection rate in Europe, many Icelanders are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel—and not a moment too soon, as the popular winter holidays are rapidly approaching. However, two MPs for the Independence Party—Sigríður Á Andersen and Brynjar Níelsson—have been very critical of the pandemic restrictions, which they see as largely unnecessary. Both of them are members of “Út úr kóf­inu”, a small but vocal group of Icelanders skeptical of the pandemic restrictions.

In other news, Mom Air has turned out to be an art project the whole time. While this was strongly suspected by the Grapevine and others due to some obvious clues left by artist Oddur Eysteinn Friðriksson when the “budget airline” first launched, Oddur emphatically denied that this was the case, insisting that it was a real and true airline with staff, airplanes, and airport slots and everything. But then he revealed at a press conference on November 18th that the whole thing was his final project for the Iceland University of the Arts. In the meantime, he received many applications for jobs and numerous bookings, which he deliberately frustrated by error messages he put in the site. So, nice job, we guess?

Unemployment has many Icelanders worried these days. Jobless levels are predicted to reach a whopping 11.3% this December, exceeding the February and March 2009 peak of 9.3%, which rose to those levels due to the entire collapse of Iceland’s financial sector. As always, foreigners are hit especially hard: despite comprising about 14% of the total population, 41% of all of Iceland’s unemployed are foreigners. Poles, who comprise Iceland’s largest ethnic minority, have been hit especially hard, making up 20% of Iceland’s unemployed, even though they comprise just about 5% of the total population.

Ásgeir Bragi Ægisson, or Ouse, as he calls himself, is a 19-year-old from the small northwest Iceland town of Sauðárkrókur. He also happens to be one of the top ranking Icelandic artists on Spotify right now, with his single Dead Eyes exceeding 36 millions plays—about 4 million more than Björk’s most played song, It’s Oh So Quiet. How did he do it? Not even Ásgeir seems sure, but he isn’t complaining. He’s signed a deal with American label Twelve Tones with a contract with tens of millions of ISK. A country boy can survive, indeed!

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

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