What you can learn from the Faroe Islands

Should you go?  I give the place high marks for food and scenery, but the total population of about 48,700 limits  other benefits.  It is like visiting a smaller, more unspoilt Iceland.  There is a shop in the main city selling Faroese music and many shops selling sweaters.  They will not tell you where the sweaters were knitted.

The natives seem to think Denmark is an excessively competitive, violent, harsh and hurried place.  The norm here is to leave your door unlocked.  It is a “self-governing archipelago,” but part of the Kingdom of Denmark.  In other words, they get a lot of subsidies.

But they are not part of the EU, so they still sell a lot of salmon — their number one export — to Russia.

You see plenty of pregnant women walking around, and (finally) population is growing, the country has begun to attract notice, and the real estate market is beginning to heat up.  But prices remain pretty low, and it would be a great place to buy an additional home, if you do that sort of thing.

In the early 1990s, their central bank did go bankrupt and had to be bailed out by Denmark.  It is a currency board arrangement, and insofar as the eurozone moves in that direction, as it seems to be doing by placing Target2 liabilities on the national central banks, a eurozone central bank could become insolvent too, despite all ECB protestations to the contrary.

Every mode of transport is subsidized in the Faroes, including helicopter rides across the islands.  Often the bus is free, and there is an extensive network of ferries.  I wonder how many population centers there would be otherwise.  There is now the notion that all of the communities on the various islands are one single, large “networked city.”

The Faroes are a “food desert” of sorts, with few decent or affordable fruits or vegetables.  And not many supermarkets of any kind.  Yet the rate of obesity does not seem to be high.  And they have a very high rate of literacy with little in the way of bookstores or public libraries.

The seabirds including puffins are a main attraction, but I enjoyed seeing the mammals too, with pride of place going to the pony:

The domestic animals of the Faroe Islands are a result of 1,200 years of isolated breeding. As a result, many of the islands’ domestic animals are found nowhere else in the world. Faroese domestic breed include Faroe pony, Faroe cow, Faroese sheep, Faroese Goose and Faroese duck.


The country receives a great deal of negative publicity for killing whales, but overall they seem to treat animals better than the United States does.  Fish consumption is very high and there are no factory farms.

If the Faroes had open borders, but no subsidies for migrants, how many people would settle there?

In 1946 they did their own version of Faerexit, from Denmark of course:

The result of the vote was a narrow majority in favour of secession, but the coalition in parliament could not reach agreement on how this outcome should be interpreted and implemented; and because of these irresoluble differences, the coalition fell apart. A parliamentary election was held a few months later, in which the political parties that favoured staying in the Danish kingdom increased their share of the vote and formed a coalition.

Overall I expect this place to change radically in the next twenty years.  It is hard to protect 48,700 people forever.  In part, they are killing those whales to keep you away.


'They will not tell you where the sweaters were knitted.'

Clearly, people who feel that such mundane regulations as labelling laws are an affront to economic freedom are to be lauded.

'The norm here is to leave your door unlocked.'

You should visit Nova Scotia.

'In other words, they get a lot of subsidies.'

Scratch them off the economic freedom list, then.

'But they are not part of the EU'

Because the Faroese proudly reserve the right to overfish whatever they wish. Back to the top of the economic freedom list.

'and it would be a great place to buy an additional home, if you do that sort of thing'

Especially after you have your people deal with the paperwork.

'Target 2 liabilities'

There is no way you are referring to this, as that statement would be nonsensical - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TARGET2

'And not many supermarkets of any kind. Yet the rate of obesity does not seem to be high.'

You haven't mentioned how often the Faroese pop into their cars.

'but overall they seem to treat animals better than the United States does'

Pretty much everywhere does, actually - the U.S. is quite exceptional due to its heavily industrialized/standardized food system.

'how many people would settle there'

I don't know - why not ask an Yazidi? A few thousand are undoubtedly on the market for a new home, if not a second one.

'In part, they are killing those whales to keep you away.'

A strategy that doesn't seem to work for these people - 'The Washington state native nation has asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to waive federal marine mammal protections that ban the hunt, and they believe the law is on their side. As former chairman Ben Johnson Jr. wrote to NOAA in 2005, “Under the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay, the Makah Tribe secured an express right to hunt whales throughout its usual and accustomed grounds and stations.”

The Makah historically hunted gray whales for food and spiritual ceremonies but ceased in the 1920s, when gray whale numbers were at an all-time low.

After the federal government ended endangered species protections for gray whales in 1994, the tribe set out to resume its traditional practice. In 1999 Makah hunters legally killed the tribe’s first gray whale in more than seven decades.' http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/03/12/makah-tribe-hopes-resume-gray-whale-hunt

How many good chessplayers are there? Like Iceland? Seems like if there are no supermarkets, how do people get food to eat? Maybe specialty stores dealing with specific kinds of produce? Sounds like the carrying capacity of the island is small, and long term not sustainable. Kind of like Australia in a way.

"Seems like if there are no supermarkets, how do people get food to eat? "

There were no supermarkets in the English villages I visited in the 1990s and in India most small towns don't have one even today . Small shops cater to people's needs.

Puffins seem to be the official bird of MR.

I read once that there were no roads on Faroe until the British army built some in WWII. When the war ended the British sailed home, leaving their lorries for the Faroese to use.

Does anyone know if this is true?

I don't know about no roads, but several sources claim that there were few road vehicles and what roading existed was mostly tracks. This link claims that the British built several new roads during the wartime occupation, as well as the airport (and marrying 170 local girls)


Thanks, Iain.

If you check NASA's over/under recorded average temperature imagery, the poles are the only places with any "under" going on. Which is consistent with the theory that more water in the oceans, i.e. reduced salinity, will reduce salt gradient-driven processes which turn over deep and shallow oceans, contributing to global ocean current systems, etc.

The fear for Europe, of course, being that without a Gulf Stream its weather would be Alaskan, not European. Faroe Islands would be one big ice cube in that scenario.

But maybe that won't happen and they will instead enjoy moderately warmer winters.

Neither can be predicted with 100% certainty, therefore, prudent risk managers should disregard any such concerns.

The glaciers have been melting since the last ice age. Not ignoring them would be a waste of time.

(After the 10th straight hottest month on record.)

"The fear for Europe, of course, being that without a Gulf Stream its weather would be Alaskan..."

The Pacific Northwest in the US and Canada also has a mild maritime climate. There's not much difference in climate between Juneau and Oslo.

Your glowing review of KOKS (hehe...do they know what that sounds like in English?) briefly made me look into how to get to the Faroe Islands, but I determined that the time and effort spent getting there could be better spent visiting more of Denmark (where I'd probably be flying from), and most of what I can see in the Faroe Islands I can see in Iceland which is very easy to get to these days. Plus, going to the Faroe Islands wouldn't even increase my country count, which is important when signaling on social media.

Plenty of room for refugees!

"In part, they are killing those whales to keep you away"

Well, it's working, I would never visit or spend money that would go toward people who are willfully violent toward animals. This whole series of posts reads like a sponsored tourism campaign for a terrible place.

Bacteria included? What about parasitic insects?

can I ask where you live? are people not wilfully violent towards animals there??

How is the average Internet connection?

on the 4G net you get up to 200Mbps, and in private homes you can get up to 50/5 megabit down/upload

You forgot the most important detail: what Pokemons did you find? I mean, really, you're falling out of touch with the youth. But otherwise your report was lit.

(Seriously, the Pokemon phenomena (as lived by my kids, anyway) is extraordinary. Everything you thought about "video" games is wrong: players hike, they interact with strangers, their parents don't nag them, no politics, rivalries or screaming fights....)

Killing whales keeps people away? Someone should tell Nigel.

"Overall I expect this place to change radically in the next twenty years. It is hard to protect 48,700 people forever. In part, they are killing those whales to keep you away."

Why? So long as they have open borders with Denmark, 'refugees' will go there instead. The fishing industry may be more mechanized, but the structure of Faroese society leads me to believe that the benefits of this will flow to the working class, not just to some overseas investors. If they find oil there, it might lead to the development of stupidly generous immigration and welfare policies, though.

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Noticed that google is also interested in the Faroe islands https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2016/08/sheep-view-where-theres-wool-theres-way.html

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