“Wanderlust: Iceland, where everyone’s related to Bjork”

“Genealogical website helps couples avoid incest, and of course, to see if Bjork is a cousin.

“The television commercial for a local mobile phone company here wouldn’t work in many places outside Iceland.

“It portrays a curly-haired couple who just woke up next to each other after what appears to be a one-night stand. (That isn’t the scandalous part in this famously liberal society.)

“The two are pictured lingering in bed, on their smart phones, checking out a genealogical website called Íslendingabók. Their smiles freeze when they find out they are related. Closely.

“While other nations might find the commercial funny — mainly for its ‘as if’ value — Icelanders can relate on levels unimaginable in larger countries. The commercial works here because, in this isolated island country of 300,000 people, these situations actually happen. Regularly….”


(note: comments do not require an email. good times in iceland!)


  1. You need to do a follow up on social consequences of this degree of genetic relatedness in the general Iceland population.

    The article suggests, near the end, that it is equivalent on average to everyone being third or fourth cousins. They mention that fertility is maximized? Anything else? What about social capital — crime rates, welfare policies, etc. Is Iceland like Sweden only more so? Is it like Japan, where people routinely carry large sums of cash around in their pockets? Do people lock their doors in Iceland? Just wondering.


  2. The genetic incidence of sociopathy in Iceland would also be interesting, if there is a way to estimate it. I’ve read there are differences in the relative sizes of different parts of the brain that correlate with sociopathy and can be identified with MRI. Not sure if really true, but it might be that sociopathic personalities flourish in larger, more impersonal societies such as in the U.S..


  3. @luke – no, i don’t imagine there’s much door locking in iceland — maybe in reykjavik, but otherwise i’m sure it’s a very safe place to be. (^_^) They had a per capita murder rate of three out of one million in 2006 so, yeah, very, very safe.

    and the welfare state there is just like sweden only more so. how could it not be when everybody (except for the foreigners) is literally just one big family?

    i just hope for their sake that they remain smart enough to keep out of the e.u.! although, it looks like that house of cards is going to collapse any day now.


  4. I’ve talked to Icelanders and they all describe how liberal it is there. from their description it sounds like the most high-trust society you could imagine. arch-progressives sometimes write lovingly of Iceland and Icelandic values as well, they clearly see it as an example to aspire to. these are, of course, the same exact people that shout ‘diversity is strength’ platitudes with religious zeal

    it’s amazing to look at the actual nature of Icelandic society and realize how self-defeating progressivism is… you probably couldn’t dream up a more self-contradicting ideology if you wanted to.


  5. From time to time, I check the Accession of Iceland to the European Union page on Wikipedia and it has various poll results from Iceland posted in a table. Except for the polls from Fréttablaðið, which also according to Wikipedia (this part obviously written by a non-American Anglophone), “favours Icelandic membership of the European Union” and which also always seems to ask respondents about negotiations rather than about joining, all recent polls suggest that a majority of Icelanders do not wish to join the EU, so I doubt that it will happen. Most of the energy toward doing so was in the wake of the financial collapse, which hit the heavily financialized Icelandic economic particularly hard.


  6. @r.a. – i read an article somewhere (who knows where now) several months ago — or maybe even a year ago now (how time flies!) — about how icelanders viewed the entry of their country into the e.u., and one man (not just a man-on-the-street, but the leader of some sort-of protest group, iirc) said icelanders would rather go back to a 1950s standard of living than join the e.u. that’s the spirit!, i thought at the time. that good ol’ viking spirit. (~_^)

    presumably with the way things are looking in the e.u. at the moment, most icelanders are thinking the same thing.


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