The nation’s history of being isolated and independent for long stretches made creativity something of a necessity as well, the researchers note. Less-than-abundant natural resources forced Icelanders to learn skills such as making furniture from driftwood, and short growing seasons required them to be able to make food out of just about anything. Being a small country also has its advantages.
The common criticism against small communities that “everyone knows your business” applies in Iceland, but it also makes it easier for creative people to get noticed, and Icelandic openness allows young people to try new things without being severely criticized. Young musicians, filmmakers, and artists can be quickly discovered.
“Creative kids here in the United States tend to be looked at as a problem. But there, the idea of encouraging their children to be different is very common,” Kerr says. “And they’re not afraid of their child being different.”