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How to be a Reykjaviker: 8 ways to be cool in Iceland
Cultivate a love for wool sweaters, beer and fermented shark meat if you want to feel at home in Iceland's capital
A cool geography teacher in multicolored thermal underwear, with a beer in one hand and a ram's testicle in the other.
That's the average inhabitant of the Icelandic capital personified.
Well, sort of.
Never fear if you fall short of that image -- these tips for Reykjavik living will help you fit in with the city's small but friendly population.
1. Cultivate a hip, outdoorsy look
Because that’s how almost everyone dresses in Reykjavik, from grandmas to teenage rockers.
In a country where summer temperatures rarely exceed 15C (59F), it makes sense to stock up on thermal underwear, wool gloves and waterproof jackets.
But these are only the blank canvas for the cool Reykjaviker’s fashion statement.
To avoid resembling a boy scout on a polar expedition, your outerwear should be as bright as possible and worn over a T-shirt bearing the logo of the latest hot emo or death metal band.
Grandmas are excluded from the latter requirement, but cool specs are virtually obligatory for everyone, as is a beard (if you can grow one).
For the more casual, lounging-around-a-log-fire look, snag a lopapeysa, a traditional Icelandic sweater.
“They're as Icelandic as it gets,” says Reykjavik blogger Auður Ösp.
“Everybody needs a lopapeysa. Or many of them -- one to fit each mood!”
The Handknitting Association of Iceland can point you toward purveyors of quality lopapeysas.
More on CNN: CNNGo in Reykjavik: Thermal pools and comfy sweaters
2. Bone up on geography
That way you’ll appreciate the extraordinary, “Lord of the Rings”-like landscapes a short drive away from the Icelandic capital.
“Within 20 minutes, you’re seeing volcanoes, lava fields, waterfalls,” says Hawk Parelius, a tour guide for Nature Explorer.
J.R.R. Tolkien is said to have been inspired by a visit to Iceland when imagining Middle Earth.
It's a landscape that makes terms like “tectonic plates” come alive.
“We’re actually growing by two centimeters a year, as the Eurasian and North American plates separate," Parelius says.
“We’re taking over the world slowly but surely.”
More on CNN: Inside the cold heart of an Icelandic volcano
3. Sandblast your sense of humor
Icelanders’ jokes are so dry they can be hard to digest.
“Neil Armstrong practiced for the moon landing on the Langjökull glacier. Michael Jackson’s been here, too.”
“Have some rotten shark -- it’s a delicacy.”
All delivered with a face as straight as a frozen larval plain.
It’s often hard to tell what’s meant to be funny and what’s not, but considering Icelanders respond to jokes about as expressionlessly as they tell them, it doesn’t really matter.
4. Don’t turn your nose up at a ram’s testicle
Is there any member of the animal kingdom -- or any part of the animal -- that isn’t on the menu in Iceland?
The country’s traditional dishes reflect the constant threat of starvation faced by early Icelanders in a land where neither fauna nor flora are abundant.
Rams’ testicles, sheep’s head, puffin, whale and fermented (read “rotten”) shark are all consumed, if not with relish, then at least consumed.
“Most tourists are interested in the fermented shark,” says Siggi Gardarsson, of Kolaportið market in central Reykjavik.
He photographs his customers’ expressions on trying the “delicacy” and posts them on his Facebook page.
“It tastes a bit like cheese, very old cheese,” says Gardarsson.
5. Be comfortable with those old, familiar faces
Two-thirds of Icelanders live in Reykjavik -- but that's still only 200,000 people.
You’re going to be passing the same people in the street again and again.
“Reykjavik is like a village trying to be a city,” says Unnsteinn Stefansson, lead singer with the band Retro Stefson.
“I like that everyone knows each other -- but it’s also my least favorite thing.”
6. Brush up on your geothermal tub talk
In a country bubbling over with volcanic activity, it’s not surprising to find a smattering of thermal pools even in urban Reykjavik.
The city's inhabitants often take a dip first thing or linger later in the day for a spot of pottaspjall -- “tub talk.”
“People sit and chat about the weather or politics,” says Olympic swimmer Ragga Ragnarsdóttir.
“It’s normal for strangers to join in.”
More on CNN: 11 of Reykjavik's coolest bars
7. Learn to say, “That’s so 2007.”
Insert this phrase where appropriate to indicate that something is extravagant or excessive.
It entered the Icelandic lexicon after the financial crash of 2008, when all three of the country’s large, privately owned banks collapsed.
It refers to the period before the current mood of prudence and austerity took hold.
Do say, “Ólafur’s new silver-plated beard trimmers are so 2007.”
Don’t say, “These thermals are great! I’ll take a pair in every color!”
8. Relish your beer
More than most, Icelanders appreciate a nice pint -- beer was illegal in the country until 1989.
Prohibition began in 1915, but was progressively lifted for other alcoholic drinks except for “strong beer” (above 2.25%), which temperance campaigners viewed as cheap devil’s brew.
Some Icelanders celebrate the lifting of the ban, on March 1, as Beer Day.
In Reykjavik and elsewhere, pubs stay open on the day until 4 a.m. for rúnturs (bar crawls).
Gull and Viking are the most common Icelandic lagers.
Gull means “gold” in Icelandic, “although I can understand that it’s confusing for tourists,” says Hawk Parelius.
“They’re probably thinking, what’s a bird got to do with beer?”