While there are a number of totally wild and out there things to do in Iceland (at least fifty, according to the book), there are also a number of seemingly mundane things you can’t do. Well, you can technically do them, but you would be breaking the law. Be advised that engaging in some of the following acts can be punishable by fines.
1. OWN A SNAKE, LIZARD OR TURTLE
Although they exist, it’s against regulation to have a pet snake, lizard or turtle in Iceland. These reptiles were banned in the early nineties after a turtle infected its owners with Salmonella paratyphi B. To crack down on a growing black market in the last decade, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority imported and planned to put 420 Iguanas and Leopard geckos on the market with health clearance certificates. However, after three weeks in quarantine, the whole lot of them were crawling with Salmonella typhimurium. Needless to say, they were promptly disposed of and the ban remains (yes, apparently the Icelandic government spent taxpayer money to buy reptiles and then threw them away).
2. PLACE THE ICELANDIC FLAG ON YOUR ‘FRUIT OF THE LOOM’ PANTIES
Not only is it illegal to sell panties, boxers, thongs, and jock straps with the Icelandic flag on them (that would be disrespectful), it is also illegal to sell or advertise items of foreign origin if the image of an Icelandic flag has been put on them (that would be unpatriotic).
3. BOX PROFESSIONALLY
In 1956, all boxing competitions, boxing shows and boxing lessons were banned in Iceland. The law, which is still in effect, additionally bans the sale and use of boxing gloves and other boxing paraphernalia. However, in 2002 another law was passed allowing amateur boxing. Although it sounds like it, there is nothing casual about amateur boxing (it’s the Olympics variety). In order to compete, the competitor must, in addition to other stipulations, be older than fifteen, use ten-ounce gloves with leather portions weighing less than 140 grams, and practice at an ÍSÍ recognised boxing club for six months before competing in a match for the first time. All other boxing is punishable by fines.
4. WORK AS A STRIPPER
In effort to crack down on human trafficking, stripping was banned in Iceland last year. Fun fact: In 2007, soliciting and buying sex were both legal. Since 2009, however, buying sex has become illegal. Pimping is also illegal.
5. BUY LIQUOR AT A GROCERY STORE
Aside from light beer, alcohol is not sold at grocery stores or gas stations. In fact, the state has a monopoly on the sale of alcohol and it only dispenses at stores labelled, ‘Vínbúð’, also known as “ríkið” (“the state”) amongst Icelanders. Think steep prices (a one litre bottle of 40% Absolut vodka costs 6.998 ISK—around 60 USD) and a black market for ‘Landi’, as moonshine is referred to in Iceland. Fun fact: All alcohol was banned from 1915 until 1935, and beer until 1989.
6. GIVE YOUR KID AN EMBARRASSING NAME
Within six months after a baby is born in Iceland, parents must submit their newborn’s name to the National Registry (Þjóðskrá). If their name of choice is not already in use and previously registered, they must fill out an application and pay 3.000 ISK to have the Personal Names Committee (Mannanafnanefnd) evaluate it. The Names Committee bases its decision on Icelandic law, which states among other things that, “a forename may not be such as to cause its bearer embarrassment.” For this reason, the committee rejected the name Satanía (Think playground kids teasing the female Satan). Note that slightly different rules apply to foreigners who gain citizenship in Iceland.
7. PURCHASE A HANDGUN
The sale of handguns (and other small firearms) to the general public is illegal. This includes, automatic or semi-automatic pistols, automatic or semi-automatic rifles, automatic shotguns, and semi-automatic or manual multi-charged clip shotguns with cartridges (whatever those are). Incidentally, the homicide rate in Iceland is almost non-existent (just sayin’).
8. FIND SOMETHING STILL ‘ON SALE’ SIX WEEKS LATER
Doesn’t it seem like mattresses in the United States are permanently on sale? One has to wonder whether the store is having a real sale or whether it’s not just a big sham. In Iceland, however, sales are regulated to protect consumers from falling for such sneaky psychological sales tricks. Iceland’s Consumer Agency sees to it that an item cannot be advertised as ‘on sale’ unless there is a real decrease in price from the item’s regular price. Furthermore, if an item is sold at a sale price for six consecutive weeks, that discounted price becomes the new regular price and it can therefore no longer be advertised as the sale price.
9. WEAR A SKI MASK WHILE PROTESTING SOMETHING
Freezing cold or not, the police can ban anybody at a protest, demonstration or
similar gathering in a public place, from covering their face with anything from paint to a hat.
10. BUY FOOD WITH MORE THAN 2% TRANS FAT
A recently passed law, effective on August 1, bans the sale of food items containing more than 2 grams of trans fat for every 100 grams. That means, unless their recipes change, there will be no more ‘Pop Secret’ microwavable popcorn (28% trans fat), Ömmu kleinur (18%), Hversdagsís ice cream from Emmessís (23%), or Olivia brand margarine (23%). But fear not, Prince Polo, Iceland’s favourite chocolate bar from Poland, has only 1.5% trans fat.
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