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Elevated incest risk in Iceland
Global Times | February 09, 2012 20:43
By Agencies
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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 - hardly a scandal 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.

Most Icelanders have heard a story of somebody, who knew somebody, who found out a bit late in the game that the subject of their romance is actually an estranged cousin.

Elin Edda says it happened to her friend. "She really liked this guy and then found out they had the same great-grandparents," she says. "It really freaked her out and she broke it off. It was just too weird."

Edda clarifies, however, that such mishaps only happen in families that aren't close-knit. "It could never happen in my family. I know everybody," she says.

When she meets an Icelander she doesn't know, she asks the same question every else here does: "Hverra manna ert þú?" ("Who are your people?")

For centuries, this is how Icelanders have gone about identifying their ancestors, since family names do not exist here. Foreigners are often amused by the fact that the Icelandic phonebook is completely organized by first names.

But Icelanders are increasingly migrating to cities and urban environments, which tends to make the traditional meeting - as well as mating - process more anonymous.

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Posted in: Society, Odd News

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