Icelandic Language Blog

Icelandic donut craze. Posted by on Aug 6, 2015 in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs


Chocolate sprinkles donut by mO1229 at Flickr.

A few days ago a friend of mine who lives in the UK contacted me and made some complaints about the state of affairs in their home country. “What about Iceland”, she then asked me, “what’s in the news?” I quickly opened a news site and found out the day’s main news were someone stealing 60 tiny birch trees and Dunkin’ Donuts opening 16 donut stores in Iceland.

This being main news is one reason why I love living in Iceland by the way. Nothing ever happens and although life here is slow and uneventful it’s often a blessed thing when compared to the news of other, more – well – interesting countries. The 60 stolen trees are still a mystery, but Dunkin’ Donuts certainly is known by all, Icelanders themselves made very sure of that (and for a good reason… this country doesn’t have f.ex. McDonalds or H&M so something like this is even bigger news than you’d think)!

As a friendly offer for the first day the donut shop opening on Laugavegur made an offer: 50 first customers of the opening day would receive about 300 free donuts each. That sure appealed to Icelanders who tend to have a bit of a sweet tooth anyway, and 11 hours before the shop opened the queue had already began to form. People arrived with warm clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, food and foldable chairs and settled down, chatting happily with each other through the night. Occasionally someone would slip away from the queue, likely to get something to eat or to use a bathroom somewhere nearby, returning after a while.


Six donuts by Rene Schwietzke at Flickr.

As another friend of mine dryly remarked, 300 donuts is not much of a wage for 11 hours of work but let’s not forget we’re dealing with Icelanders here. Time is what they have aplenty and Dunkin’ Donuts is a new and interesting thing. I’m very close to suggesting that the queuing may even have been more for the fun of it than the donuts themselves because that would also fit the Icelandic view on things: anything is worth doing if it’s fun, and anything not fun is not worth doing.

The queue grew slowly at first but by 3 a.m. it was already 60 people long and at the next day’s opening hour it had stretched some hundred people more. As only the 50 first ones were getting all those free donuts my suspicion gets stronger that people just found the idea of visiting a Dunkin’ Donuts shop on its opening day a bit of a fun pastime, nevermind how long it would take to actually get in. As for the shop itself this all made for the best kind of publicity any shop could hope for, since obviously in a country where nothing ever happens a night-long queuing for donuts is a very media-friendly topic. Lots of news articles on the queue appeared everywhere, it was on the television and on the radio, long story short it was a brilliant advertising move!


For comparison, here’s a traditional Icelandic donut – kleina. Photo by Kim&Amy at Flickr.

News on the occasion:

Röð fyrir utan Dunkin’ Donuts á Laugavegi (= a queue outside of Dunkin’ Donuts on Laugavegur). Link.

Stood in line all night waiting for Dunkin’ Donuts to open. Link. Same news but in English – handy for language students. 🙂

Ætla að opna 16 Dunkin´Donuts á Íslandi (= plan to open 16 Dunkin’ Donuts in Iceland). Link.

Dunkin’ Donuts is scheduled to open sixteen restaurants in Iceland in the next five years. Link. Similarly, a news pair in both Icelandic and English.

Mótmæla komu Dunkin´ Donuts til Íslands (= protesting the arrival of Dunkin’ Donuts to Iceland). Link. Because Icelanders would not be Icelanders if they didn’t protest.

Still massive queues at Dunkin’ Donuts. Link.

Guðmundur vill selja Dunkin’ Donut-kortið (= Guðmundur wants to sell the Dunkin’ Donut card [that gets you 300 free donuts per year]). Link.

Kleinuhringjaæði á Laugaveginum (= donut craze on Laugavegur)(literal translation would be something more like donut-loveliness though). Link. This one’s a video, you can train your language ear on it a bit. 🙂

Opnun Dunkin’ Donuts: “Nóttin köld en fljót að líða“ (= opening of Dunkin’ Donuts: “The night was cold but passed quickly”). Link. An interview on the first person in the queue, Agatha Rún Karlsdóttir, has lots of great photos of the night of donut-waiting.


And then for something completely different… remember the Icelandic swimming pool etiquette? Here‘s a warning example of what might happen if you don’t adhere to it (warning – public nudity is nothing shocking in Iceland, so there’s some naked men in the video)! 😀

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About the Author: hulda

Hi, I'm Hulda, originally Finnish but now living in the suburbs of Reykjavík. I'm here to help you in any way I can if you're considering learning Icelandic. Nice to meet you!