*For this article, a relative is someone with the same grandparents
The Faroe islands are a small set of islands above Scotland, between Denmark and Iceland. It’s a principality of Denmark and was voted one of the best places to live by the National Geographic.
It is an impossibly small set of islands; they are so small that the weather can change instantaneously. There is a saying amongst Faroese people that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. They are also one of the only european nations to not have a McDonald’s, however do have a Burger King. There are only 3 sets of traffic lights amongst all the islands, all very close, in the same city. It is impossibly small, almost too small of a nation to grasp.
The sense of nationalism within the Faroe islands is extremely strong, they still speak Faroese there, and there is no chance of the nationalism dying with the younger generations. In speaking to friends from the Faroe islands, they are as protective of their culture as anyone. They still parade their national dress on Facebook. Because of all this pride in their nation, they tend to marry other Faroese people to preserve the culture, and is one of the main reasons their culture has stayed so vibrant for this many years.
However with a population of just 50,000 and this protection of their culture, there is a serious dilemma that faces the people of these islands; the potential incest of dating another person from the Faroe islands.
50,000 people may sound a lot but when you do the maths, it’s not when it comes to choosing a suitor. The whole population of Faroe Islands is 50,000. That includes young children, older people and those already taken. The potential ‘pool’ of people dramatically decreases. Just by splitting it into male and females there is only 25,000 suitors. That’s assuming there is no one from LGBT+ community too! Again assume about three quarters of those are either married, too old, or too young, it’s now down to 6,250, now you have your age range +/- 10 years, then half that again it’s only about 3,000. For example, a quick search on the Faroese Census shows that if you were a female looking for a male, unmarried between 19-24 years old, you would have a choice of 1,945 people (still not considering LGBT+ community, people who moved away, who you just don’t get on with). That’s not very much. Out of those 1,945, you are bound to be related to some of them. Think of all your cousins right now, and no doubt you have one the same age and who was born within 1400km² of you. Even if one of those people was related to you out of the 1,945, the odds still aren’t very good. Things that are more likely to happen than fucking your sister are; you are ten times less likely you will become a professional sports athlete (22,000-1) , 5 times less likely you will win an oscar (12,500-1) . Those are odds I have estimated and I am being generous. I would really prefer the likelihood of me having sex with a sibling to be 0. Those odds don’t even take into account all of the people who you don’t get on with.
You may be starting to see the scale of the issue they have. However you want to marry someone of the same nationality, so what do you do?
Iceland has a similar problem, however their population is closer to 1 million. Icelandic app developers Sad Engineers Studios made an android app using the Icelandic genealogical database. They get alerts when meeting a suitor and the suitors both share a grandparent. Now that’s an issue that someone felt a need to develop an app for people to check. With 50,000 think how many times that would be an issue. In the Faroe islands they do use this app, and the islanders are aware this is an issue, so it seems like it is avoided for baby purposes. Despite this, Faroese friends have told me stories of people having sex with relatives.
Technically we are all guilty of incest to some degree, we are all related in some way or another. However this problem in the Faroe islands is possibly one of the most unique in humanity, and to be honest quite a difficult dilemma for them. To avoid incest and potential life ruining consequences your choice of suitors is much much below that 1,945 if you want to date a fellow Faroese. So it presents a dilemma to save the Faroese culture. With such a small population and rich culture that has been preserved for over 1,100 years by all your relatives and is so dearly cherished, would you be willing to take a smaller choice of potential partner to save that culture and marry a fellow Faroese?
In a time where nationalism throughout the world is at an all time high, and we look at saving our culture and taking our countries back, it brings up a real question: what is nationalism? What is true dedication to your culture and what can be considered as truly protecting your nation? How many Brexiteers and Trump supporters would be willing to take the risks that Faroese people have been taking for over 1,000 years to save their culture? I for one think they are a bit silly for even slightly risking it, but I do respect the fact they do it anyway, and save their country, language and culture, one massive danger fuck at a time.
words by Frazer Worboys