The demographical and political landscape mean that Faroese society is a 49,000 person strong scale model of a European/Scandinavian society of 5 or even 200 million people.
The Faroes have villages and towns of varying sizes, schools, hospitals, shops, restaurants, museums, cinemas, TV/radio, telecommunication, factories, construction companies, IT-developers - In short all the usual trappings of a modern Western country, only a lot smaller.
Visitors to the islands are generally surprised and impressed by the nature that meets them in the North Atlantic. After a while, getting to know the islanders, they will also get a sense of nature´s influence on the local culture. Some guests, staying for longer periods of time, might even gain an understanding of the islanders´ cultural construction of the nature surrounding them. The setting itself, being on small islands far from the continent, creates a feeling of freedom and separation from the `rest of the world´. The fact that there are eighteen islands – not one lonely – opens for a society embracing large internal cultural variation as poetically narrated by the beloved author William Heinesen when he says that the Faroes are a like a “grain of sand on a dance floor”, but that a closer look at the grain will uncover a whole universe of small picturesque villages and valleys, mountains and fjords. From inside, in other words, the Faroes do not seem small and homogeneous at all.
The ocean is never far away as no Faroese place has a distance of more than five kilometres to the coast. All villages – except of one relatively young village by the largest lake of the islands – are located by the seashore. The view of the open and infinite ocean is thus part of the everyday life of the islanders. Seen from the sea the islands look like green pyramidal peaks of huge underwater mountains. The rest of the land is hidden under the surface. The ocean symbolizes all the powers of life; it is dangerous yet unavoidable. “The ocean sang over me a lullaby, the surf put me to sleep”, says Jákup Dahl, in a romantic song of man´s lifelong relation to the sea. The seas symbolizes life and destiny.
The Faroe Islands may be perceived as a little bit exotic, because they are geographically remote – but they are actually in a great strategic position in the shipping lane between the two wealthiest continents in the world and are only a couple of hours’ flight from the big cities in Northern Europe. There is still something to be said about remoteness, because the relative isolation from the outside world for centuries has meant that the Faroe Islanders have been able to preserve ancient traditions. You could say that the remoteness of the Faroe Islands mixed with the modernisation and globalisation of society has placed the Faroe Islands in a unique position compared to other countries – at the same time both deeply rooted in tradition and modernity.
This contrast gives the Faroe Islanders a very strong identity. There are probably not that many places in the world where young people think it is cool to wear their national dress on national holidays, but in the Faroe Islands they do while living a life that is just as globalised as the rest of the modern world, texting on their mobile phones, and interacting in cyber space.
There are probably not that many places in the world where young people think it is cool to wear their national dress on national holidays, but in the Faroe Islands they do while living a life that is just as globalised as the rest of the modern world, texting on their mobile phones, and interacting in cyber space.
Contemporary Faroese youth cultures are distinguished by creative and aesthetic endeavours that sophisticatedly connect the local cultural heritage to global cultural currents. In the Faroe Islands it is the young people, more than any other group in society, that master the art of coupling tradition and late modernity in cultural experiments within the fields of music, poetry, painting, etc. Faroese youth utilizes local traditions in order to find `meaning´ in a globalized world in constant flux. Young people are quite ambitious and self-confident regarding lifestyle and career priorities, yet down-to-earth and firmly anchored in local communities. They grow up with advanced electronic technologies – e.g. the Internet and mobile phones – that link them realtime to mainstream youth cultures of the world.
The steadily growing global cultural influence has, curiously, revived a new interest in the past of the Faroe Islands. Medieval hymns and ballads have for instance been reinterpreted in popular rhythmic music of the end of the 20th century. The metal band `Týr´ (a Nordic pre-Christian God), an illustrative case of the cultural blend, got its international breakthrough with an ancient ballad about heroic Viking chiefs dressed in an international musical style. Young people are used to take own decision on most issues. Society expects them to administer their immense cultural freedom rationally. Most young people are very active in structured leisure activities – sports, music, theatre and other performance arts, religion, etc. – creating important social networks. Young people have generally become a very central category in society that provokes and inspires society.
The language of the Faroe Islands is Faroese. As a world language only spoken by approximately 75,000 - 80,000 people, it is estimated that some 25,000 people in Denmark and 5,000 in Iceland speak the Faroese language.
Faroese is a Nordic language, which derives from the language of the Norsemen who settled the islands some 1200 years ago. The written Faroese language was not established until 1854, and not accepted in public by the Danish authorities until 1938. The first Faroese novel was Bábelstornið (The Tower of Babel) by Rasmus Rasmussen. It was published in 1909 under the pseudonym Regin í Líð.
The Faroese language is considered one of the most important aspects of Faroese cultural identity and Faroe Islanders are conscious of the need to preserve the Faroese language by keeping it resilient in the face of global influences – research and development of the Faroese language is a high political priority of the Faroese government. In 2010 the government decided to give a Language Cultivation Award to Jóan Hendrik Winther Poulsen for his efforts to cultivate and develop the Faroese language. This award has since then become an annual event.
Source: faroeislands.fo, sept. 2015.