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Icelandic Women: Is it All True?

Debunking Myths and Telling Truth About Women in Iceland

|September 29, 2023
Anthropologist, social media guru, Icelandic nature and food enthusiast.

Find out about Icelandic Women: Do you get paid to marry them? What about gender equality? Who are some of the most famous Icelandic women? What is it like dating in Iceland? And so much more.

Icelandic woman wearing traditional costume smiling

Icelandic woman, Iceland, Elísabet Hulda


As an Icelandic woman myself, I can say that I have pretty much heard it all. The main truths, myths, or whatever you might like to call them, have to do with Icelandic women’s looks, their sexual behavior, or their equality. It isn’t so long ago that an airline I will not mention here advertised “Dirty Weekends in Iceland with a guaranteed one-night stand,” followed by flocks of bachelor groups and other interested travelers worldwide.

Some would say, of course, and you can’t blame them. I mean, Iceland has had four winners of the Miss World Competition and a world-renowned reputation for supermodel-looking beauty queens. Still, Icelandic women have gotten pretty sick of this passionate attention. Drunk tourists claiming their rights to a one-night stand with them and being utterly surprised when being turned down seems to be going on every weekend, every night even, and it has got to stop. Here is the real story of Icelandic women:

  • Iceland is one of the best countries in the world to be a woman. We are free to make all and any decisions concerning our lives and will do so without much consideration.

  • If we want to have a one-night stand with you, we will usually simply do so and receive no shame for it. But, if we don’t wish to do so, we will also shut down your operation without feeling bad about it. It is, after all, a game for two; it takes two to tango and all of that!
Women wearing football uniform cheering

Photo credits: 'The Turf Generation' - Inside Iceland's incredible success, by


Iceland is a small country known for its feminist movements and strong justice seekers who are unafraid to beat the drums and march for their rights. When a movement is born, a new example being “Free the Nipple,” the wave hits Iceland quickly and efficiently. This can be positive in that it reaches a lot of attention fast but also negative in that things tend to be over abruptly, lost, and forgotten. To help remember, I will list a few memorable dates in the Icelandic Female History, the Icelandic Herstory.


Women of Iceland


  • 2023 –  Icelandic women began leading in the tech sector with initiatives to inspire young girls to venture into STEM fields. 
  • 2022 – Iceland rigorously worked towards its pledge, ensuring companies adhered to equal pay laws and penalizing violators. As a result, Iceland reduced the wage gap to less than 10%, with strict regulations and penalties for non-compliant companies.
  • 2021 –  Iceland ranked no. 1 on the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report for the 12th time in a row; Parental leave was increased to 12 months.
  • 2019 – Vinnufriður e. Work Peace: people telling stories of inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
  • 2018 – MeToo: The movement shook Iceland like the rest of the world, resulting in an open conversation between Icelandic men and women and people being punished.
  • 2017 to 2018 – Paying men more than women became illegal: Equal Pay for Equal Work was put into law, and Iceland pledged that by 2022, they will have abolished the wage gap.
  • 2017 – Free the Nipple: started after women were asked to leave the pool for sunbathing topless
  • 2012 – First Female BishopSr. Agnes Sigurðardóttir took her place as the first female bishop in Iceland
  • 2010 – The First Slut Walk: or Druslugangan as it is called in Iceland.
  • 2009 – First Female Prime Minister: Jóhanna Sigurðarsdóttir became the first female Prime Minister in Iceland (also the first openly gay Prime Minister in the world)
  • 1983 – First Female Only Political Party: Kvennalistinn e. The Female list ran for parliament and got 3 women elected
  • 1980 – First Female President: which also marked the 1st female President in the world. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was president from 1980-1996.
Iceland Prime Minister Woman Sitting on Chair

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, first female president of Iceland.

  • 1975 – Kvennafrídagurinn: on the 24th of October 1975, 90% of the Icelandic female population walked out from their jobs and daily chores to march together and protest the double work standards. This has been done annually since.
  • 1964 – First Female Athlete of the Year: Sigríður Sigurðardóttir handball player, was the first female to win the title.
  • 1959 – First Female Mayor of Reykjavík: Auður Auðuns became mayor of Reykjavík
  • 1941 – First Female Police: Jóhanna Knudsen became the first female police officer and served until 1943.
  • 1935 – Birth Control and Abortions Made Legal: Doctors were given the right to issue both.
  • 1923 – First Female takes place at Althingi, Parliament: Ingibjörg H. Bjarnason took her place in parliament but she had also been the first female to finish a degree in sports and dance.

Icelandic Women Names

Woman wearing black coat and hat sitting on the beach Iceland

Photo by Ben Eaton on Unsplash. Reynisfjara.

The Icelandic naming system is quite fascinating. The majority of names today can be found in other countries, especially those who came with the Vikings or come from the bible but then there are others who were simply made after the arrival to Iceland. Some of those names are even popular like Ragnheiður and Þorgerður.

The most common first names in Iceland are:

  1. Guðrún
  2. Anna
  3. Kristín
  4. Sigríður
  5. Margrét
  6. Helga
  7. Sigrún
  8. Ingibjörg
  9. María
  10. Jóhanna
  11. Elín
  12. Katrín
  13. Hildur
  14. Eva
  15. Lilja
  16. Ragnheiður
  17. Ásta
  18. Guðbjörg
  19. Elísabet
  20. Erla

The most common middle names for Icelandic women are:

  1. María
  2. Ósk
  3. Rós
  4. Björk
  5. Dís
  6. Lilja
  7. Lind
  8. Rún
  9. Líf
  10. Kristín
  11. Sól
  12. Eva
  13. Rán
  14. Sif
  15. Margrét
  16. Ýr
  17. Karen
  18. Rut
  19. Anna
  20. Mist

Dating Icelandic Women

Couple standing on diamond beach shore in Iceland

Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash. Diamond beach.

Dating a woman from Iceland is often very laid back. You might have found each other at a bar, on Tinder, Instagram or sent her a message on any social media platform and started chatting. Don’t start by sending her a love poem or being too aggressive. Icelandic women are much more into getting to know someone on a more friendly basis and then deciding if it’s worth meeting up. Chill dates like grabbing a coffee, going for some jazz, sitting down with a beer and deck of cards, or having ice cream work perfectly.

The need to be independent is deeply encrypted into the Icelandic women’s psyche and persona. Maybe it was formed during the Viking Age, or maybe it is from the time that their men were all out at sea and they needed to take control, but no matter the reason, it is still, today, very present. So my advice to you, a person looking to date an Icelandic woman, is, “Be equal, be friendly, make them laugh, and don’t try to push anything.”

More about Dating in Iceland.

Wedding couple on black sand beach in Iceland

Photo by Dmitry Schemelev on Unsplash

And no the Icelandic government is not paying men to marry Icelandic women.

I am not sure where the stubborn tale originated, but it is, in all senses, not true. There is no shortage of men in Iceland, and no need to pay anyone to marry. Our social affairs are well in order, and no need for the government to step in. So, for once and for all, The Icelandic government is not under any circumstances paying men to marry women!


You Know You Are Dating an Icelandic Woman When...

Famous Icelandic Women

Bjork Icelandic singer on red background

Bjork POST album cover. Photo credits:

  • Yrsa Sigurdardottir – Author
  • Linda Pétursdóttir – Beauty Queen
  • Louisa Matthiasdottir – Painter
  • Annie Mist Thorisdottir – Crossfit Athlete
  • Björk – Singer
  • Karolina Larusdttir – Painter
  • Katrín Tanja Davidsdóttir – Crossfit Athlete
  • Heida Reed – Actress
  • Emiliana Torrini – Singer
  • Sigrún Eva – Model
  • Auður Ava Olafsdottir – Author
  • Jóhanna Sigurdardottir – Former Prime Minister
  • Sif Ágústsdóttir – Model
  • Ragnheiður Sara Sigmundsdottir – Crossfit Athlete
  • Vigdís Finnbogadóttir – Former President
  • Anita Briem – Actress
  • Arna Ýr – Beauty Queen
  • Hera Hilmars – Actress
  • Björk Ódinsdottir – Crossfit Athlete
  • Ásdís Rán – Model
  • Brynja Jónbjarnardottir – Model
  • Nanna Bryndís – Singer of Monsters and Men


Iceland has time and again been chosen as the leading country for women in this world. It is very safe, has a low crime rate, offers equal pay for men and women, offers long maternity leaves for both parents and has had women in almost every leading role.

Still, it is not perfect, and there are victories to be won and wrongs that need to be made right.

The Icelandic nation has always been very open to women having authority and responsibility. In the Icelandic sagas, you can see female warriors and sailors, the most famous being Auður Djúpauðga, who sailed the open seas with her husband and slaves and settled in Iceland. She was the leader, the commander in chief, and there is no doubt about it when reading her tales.

Icelandic women are known for their fighter spirit, as is the whole nation who fought to survive on this isolated island in the north, and this spirit is not easily broken. As you can see on the timeline above, there have been many victories and even more not listed.



Equality in Iceland with Vigdis Finnbogadóttir and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir


But as happens in most fights, there is a backlash at some point, and unfortunately, that has been true to the Icelandic equality movement. In 2018, the wage gap was measured at 11%, which was a big hit for the Icelandic nation and for the pride the Icelanders have had in their equal status. Fortunately, this was not something Icelanders would let slide, and have now pledged to eliminate the gender gap once and for all before 2022. Let’s hope it works!


Icelandic women are a blend of the past and the present. We're proud of our history, but we're also forward-looking. We value our traditions, but they do not bind us. We're fighters, thinkers, leaders, and, most importantly, we're women. So, the next time you think of Icelandic women, remember we're not just a stereotype but a legacy.

Is there anything else you would like to know about Icelandic Women?


Woman In Her Car With Icelandic Mountain Landscape On The Background

Icelandic women, fearless behind the wheel, exploring every corner of their majestic homeland.

Your questions answered. From the common misconceptions to the hard truths, here's everything you wanted to know about Icelandic women.

Are Icelandic women tall?

On average, Icelandic women are of medium height.

Does Iceland have more females than males?

No, the gender ratio is roughly equal, with a slight male majority.

Is it easy to date in Iceland?

Dating culture in Iceland is casual, but people often date within their social circles. Learn more in our guide to dating in Iceland.

How do Icelanders look?

Icelanders have diverse looks, but many have fair skin, blue eyes, and blonde or light brown hair.

Are Icelandic women independent?

Yes, Icelandic women are known for their strong independence and have been pioneers in feminism.

How do Icelandic women perceive beauty?

Icelandic women value natural beauty and often prefer minimal makeup.

Are Icelandic women active in politics?

Yes, Icelandic women have been politically active, with the country having one of the world's first female presidents.

How do Icelandic women approach gender equality?

Iceland is a frontrunner in gender equality, and Icelandic women actively participate in movements and policies promoting equal men and women’s rights.

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