Icelandic Woman. Photo by Canva

You think dating is hard? Try finding your future spouse from a tiny number of prospective singletons separated by glacial valleys, volcanoes, and lava flows. Then add into the mix the possibility that unbeknownst to you, you’re related.

In Iceland, dating has a genealogical complexion to ensure that you don’t inadvertently take your half-sister home to ‘meet the parents’…

Couple in Iceland. Dating in Iceland has its challenges.
Dating in Iceland can have its challenges. Photo by Canva

Dating in Iceland

Icelandic dating has moved on from the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Gone are the days of meeting your future spouse at Church.

When Tinder was not even a twinkle in the developer’s eye, eligible bachelorettes would sit on a pew at the front of the Church, with the tacit understanding of the priest that they were “window shopping” for potential suitors. 

Boys would hike for hours over a mountain pass from the neighbouring valley in the hope of being noticed. 

Iceland has a population of 385,230. Photo by iStock.

However, dating in Iceland remains fraught with logistical challenges. Iceland is around 42% of the size of the United Kingdom but counted a population of a mere 385,230 at the end of 2022, of whom 186,840 are women and 198,280 are men. 

Of these, the vast majority (245,850) live in the Reykjavik capital region, with the remainder dispersed in settlements of varying sizes broadly around the edges of the island – the central Highlands region, filled with glaciers and volcanoes, is all but uninhabited.

So where do you start in your search for a prospective partner?

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Where to Meet a Partner in Iceland

Well, you can of course try it the old-fashioned way by meeting someone in a bar.  Or you have the option of the more widely available (and commonly used) dating apps. But with just under 88,000 unmarried singletons aged 16 or over in Iceland in 2022, the pool of prospective partners is small. 

And, if they do not live in the Reykjavik capital region, geographically dispersed. Fancy meeting for a drink on an active lava field? Didn’t think so.

If that wasn’t challenging enough, given the relatively small pool of available singletons, there is a non-trivial risk that you might actually be related. So how do you overcome this potentially significant hurdle? 

A couple holding hands at Dynjandi waterfall in Iceland. Photo by Canva
A couple holding hands at Dynjandi waterfall in Iceland. Photo by Canva

Islendingabok.is

The answer comes in the form of a genealogical website, Islendingabok.is, which is freely available to all Icelanders. It was initially compiled by a group of enthusiasts in the late 80s / early 90s, using records dating back to the first census of Iceland in 1703. At the time, the data was used for the King of Denmark to ascertain what taxes to expect. Little did he know its future practical dating application.

The website’s information is helpful for a number of reasons: 

  1. Especially in rural areas, there are likely to be a plethora of semi-distant relatives that you don’t know about. 
  2. It is uncommon in Iceland to take a familial surname – the naming culture is that you take your father’s name which then becomes your surname (adding -son (for a son) or -dottir (for a daughter)), so tracing lineage is far from straightforward.
  3. People are routinely known by nicknames – some of which may have been inherited from childhood – so you cannot always be sure who you are talking to, without delving into a bit more background. 

As I found out when speaking with Jon during my recent visit to Iceland, it is worth doing your due diligence on a prospective partner. The embarrassment otherwise can be difficult to live down.

There are so many beautiful places to explore together in Iceland. Photo by Canva
There are so many beautiful places to explore together in Iceland. Photo by Canva

The last thing that you want is to take them home to meet your parents for a Sunday coffee, only for your dad to say ‘can I have a word with you in the kitchen, son’ and inform you that you’re dating someone you’re related to. In which case you’d need to break it off.  That happened to one of my good friends.” 

So if you meet someone in a bar, don’t be surprised if they ask for your name, date of birth and where you were born before the conversation gets into full flow. Whilst you’re in the toilet, they’ll be running a quick genealogical check to ensure that you are truly eligible.

Who knew that dating could be so fraught with difficulty?

Author Bio: Tom Hall is a freelance travel journalist based on Jersey in the Channel Islands. His passion is getting off the beaten track to explore places that are misunderstood or not on the average traveler’s radar. He loves immersing himself in the local culture and chatting with locals, so that he can provide readers with an informed narrative about the local quirks of everyday life.

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