Iceland’s Bizarre Fascination with U.S. Pop Culture

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One of the oddest things I noticed while in Reykjavik for the first time, was the amount of nods to American culture, or at least American culture as foreigners perceive it.  While Iceland has been at the forefront of the tourist industry in the past few years, it is still very isolated geographically.  This is evidenced by the town’s peripheral awareness of U.S. pop culture, as well as the locals’ willingness to pay $10+ for a beer and eat rotten shark.  I don’t usually do this, but in this instance I think photos are worth at least a few hundred words, the following is a photo essay highlighting Iceland’s bizarre relationship with pop culture in the U.S.A.

"Cool American" Doritos in Iceland

The Lebowski Bar in Reykjavik, Iceland

Icelandic Donald Duck

"American Style" restaurant in Reykjavik, Iceland

"American Style" in Reykjavik, iceland, home of the "Big Bopper"

and my personal favorite…

The Chuck Norris Grill in Reykjavik, Iceland

The Chuck Norris Grill in Reykjavik, Iceland

As you can see, Reykjavik, Iceland, has it’s finger squarely on the pulse of American popular culture.  Most of the “American” things there made me giggle, but I still have no idea why there are so many “American” places Reykjavik.

Anyone have any insight as to why so many United States themed restaurants and products exist in Iceland?

24 thoughts on “Iceland’s Bizarre Fascination with U.S. Pop Culture

  1. A lot of American holidays are even becoming popular here in Iceland now, like Halloween. I have no idea why either and it is something that I have always wondered about, and those cool American chips have always cracked me up!

    • Baldvin

      Halloween is a celtic festival

  2. I went to a cafe there called the Laundromat that had ‘Elect Hillary, or Sanders!” and “free love to all!” banners everywhere, like legit printed on their menus It was so odd, but the food was delicious!

    • Mags

      I didn’t eat at the Laundromat, but I passed it and took a picture of a sign outside that said “Go ahead and breastfeed, we like both babies and boobs!” Now I’m sad I didn’t venture inside!

  3. Hmm interesting stuff! Maybe they’re trying to appeal to the tourists and make them feel ‘comfortable’? My most favourite one has to be those Doritos! I wander what the British flavour tastes like hahaha.

    • Baldvin

      Cool American is what Cool Ranch is called in Europe. You can find them everywhere in Europe, nothing to do with Iceland.
      Has to do with that most people outside of the US has no idea what ranch salad dressing.

      • Mags

        I think there are a few other countries that market them as “Cool American”, but I only noticed in Iceland. I know some places in Europe call it “original flavour” too which is pretty weird.

  4. Very interesting post. I noticed a fascination with the American pop culture in Eastern European countries as well. I wonder if it’s because they look up to is?

    • Baldvin

      Have you been to the US?

      There are so many Italian and French style restaurants/fast-food in US. American hotdog is actually from Austria. Hamburgers as you might guess are German. Ketchup comes from China. Doughnuts are from the Netherlands, even the KitKat is from the UK.

      Then there are all the holidays Saint Patrick’s Day (Irish), Halloween (Celtic), Mardi Gras (French), American Christmas (Scandinavian / Pegan). America Idol is a British TV show, so is Antiques Roadshow, Cash Cab, House of Cards, Cosby Show, Dancing with the Stars, Whose line is it anyway and many, many more.

      The American cowboy is Mexican and so it the all American breakfast… French toast, English muffins, and Canadian bacon

      …Sharing culture is a great thing, everyone does it.

  5. American pop-culture is pretty evident everywhere in the world, I don’t think it’s just in Reykjavik, although I’ve never been there. Most nations I’ve visited though have some sort of McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks and also all types of Doritos. Perhaps in other parts in Iceland, it would be different.

  6. I’m getting a kick at how Cool Ranch Doritos are labeled as “Cool American Flavor” in Iceland. That makes me smile.

  7. I honestly have no idea but my favorite sighting was the Chuck Norris campervans I saw.

  8. I wonder what a “cool American flavor” tastes like?! Did you taste them? The big Bopper is classic! These nods to American culture are so obvious!

  9. I can see what you mean. The one that got me laughing was “That is quite some burger – Big Bopper” That is so funny.

  10. Bizarre. I wonder if it is because of the American tourists or their desire to go to America. I also wonder if it is in other parts of Iceland.

  11. I am curious too now. I am guessing that it’s partly just a consistent theme across Europe (London has its own fair share of American diners too). But, it looks like more than norm

  12. That Chuck Norris grill just makes me laugh! I visit so many countries that are fascinated by American culture and sometimes I feel right at home because they are so good at mimicking us. BTW, i love those chips. LOL

  13. Well that’s a welcome change! Most other countries don’t seem to like the US as much lol. I’d really like to check out the Chuck Norris Grill. Did you eat there?

  14. Frankly, i dont see any bizarre phenomennon in it. Americal culture is riding on Big Fat Americal Brands and you woould find them everywhere.
    And otherwise also, America as a nation and Americal as culture are still hasnt lost their charm.

  15. ohhh my gosh I saw this article and was like ‘whhhhhhattttt no way’ I had no idea…but then again…everyone loves a little good O’ USA culture…..even I do!

  16. I had a giggle reading this…my favorite is the cool American flavor doritos. I have the same question as Jackie.

  17. How interesting. I haven’t been to Iceland, yet, but want to! Wonder if this is consistent across Iceland or just in Reykjavik… American pop-culture seems to be everywhere.

  18. […] in which I arrive and immediately think, “Ah, these are my people.  I am home.”  Reykjavik was not one of those cities.  In fact, full disclosure, Reykjavik is the only city I’ve ever […]

  19. […] Iceland’s bizarre fascination with US pop culture – Maggie […]

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