Icelandic Language Blog

2018 Is Here (In Iceland, Anyway) Posted by on Jan 1, 2018 in Icelandic culture

I was originally planning to write a blog about adjectives today, but it feels a bit out of place at the áramót — the New Year. Áramót means, rather eloquently, the meeting of years. Not to nerd out too much, but you can see that the word is made up for those two words: ár, which has a genitive plural declension ending (-a) that attaches it to the word mót — a meeting, a point of convergence.

Tonight was gamalárskvöld – New Year’s Eve – which is literally “old year’s eve.” While there isn’t an overwhelming tradition aside from setting of tons and tons of fireworks all over the city (purchased from Emergency Search/Rescue Services to support them!), the holiday tends to be a family one, though, when pressed, my (Icelandic) friend had this very important thing to say about Icelandic behavior on NYE:

“Well, we all – and I mean ALL – watch Áramótaskaupið.

Áramótaskaupið is an hour long comedy show (from about 10:30-11:30 pm) in which politicians and Icelanders in general are made fun of. It’s full of references to funny incidents (news) during the year. During that hour, the streets are completely empty. Then, as soon as it finishes, everybody rushes out and starts blowing up fireworks, with the bombing escalating until it’s midnight, for which the biggest rockets are saved…”

Let’s bring in the New Year with the “lokalag” – or closing song – from this year’s áramótaskaupið, which is called “Seinni tíma vandamál,” aka First World Problems. Can you make out anything that they’re saying?

You can watch the broadcast on RÚV presumably in the next few days, but if you’re eager, it’s possible to watch older episodes on Youtube, like this 2016 episode! What my friend’s description is missing is, of course, how funny – and I mean really funny – this program is. It’s roast of Icelandic culture and politics made up of short skits, including commercials parodying commercials. This hour can tell you a lot about Iceland not because of any particular information it imparts, but because of the way it imparts it – in some ways de-exoticizing Icelandic culture. (After all, they’re just people).

2016 includes a segment on eating “matur á golfi,” (food off of the floor, kitchen counter, etc.) which “hefur nákvæmlega sama næringargildi og matur á diski” (has the same nutritional value as food from the plate), and another in which a woman is pregnant with a Pokemon (from Pokemon Go) and the doctors stop her sonogram to take photos and videos to post on YouTube.

I recommend – even if you can’t make your way through the entire episode – giving it a go, seeing what few words you can understand. And taking the rest from the visual context –  body language, colors, sounds, relationships between characters – as a way to build vocabulary and better tune your ear. Making those strong visual associations is crucial to cementing your language skills!

That’s all for tonight.

More specifics on adjectives coming your way next week.

Farsælt nýtt ár!



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About the Author: Meg

Hi, I'm Meg! I'm here to help you learn Icelandic, the language more than anything else in the world. I'm a former Fulbright scholar, with an MFA from Columbia, and I've published many translations into English from Icelandic and German. I currently study Icelandic, and translate poetry by trade. (If you have questions or comments on my entries, you can write them to me in the comments in either English, German, or Icelandic.)


  1. helen Col:

    Farsælt nýtt ár! and thank you for these helpful explanations. I appreciate the Icelandic sense of humour too. It seems very down to earth and can be compared to the British sense of humour I think. 🙂