North, off the coast of continental Europe, lies an island most people have heard of, but don’t fully understand. The knowledge that most people have barely scratches the surface of what the country has to offer. What would YOU need to know about living in Iceland?
Some people don’t know much about it, except that it’s a European nation. They’re missing out on what makes Iceland special. Others could go as far as to call it paradise. They too are missing the mark (but not by very much).
This guide is here to help you learn enough to decide whether or not living in Iceland would be perfect for you and your family.
There’s much more to the country than can fit in this article though. So, we’ve focused on the most important issues. But first, some honorable mentions;
Did you know?
- The island has 130 volcanoes, 30 of which are active.
- Icelanders commonly refer to cute things (including babies) as “Rassgat” which literally translates to A**hole (I kid you not).
- No horses can be imported into the country and once an Icelandic horse leaves the island, it can never return.
- Icelandic parents often leave their babies outside the house to take a nap.
PROS of living in Iceland
Now, to more important matters;
1. One of the most beautiful places in the world, Period
There’s a lot to take your breath away in Iceland. From the ever-changing red and black summit of Fagradalsfjall, one of its active volcanoes, to Goðafoss, a place known as the “Waterfall of the gods”. That waterfall in particular is a sight to behold in the winter. It has an almost ethereal look to it.
Nowhere else deserves to be called the Land of Fire and Ice as much as Iceland does. Its beauty is a part of Iceland so impressive, it’s the only reason some people need to live there and never anywhere else.
In fact, that’s all a lot of people know about Iceland; that it’s stunning.
A hot spring in Iceland called the Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular natural tourist destinations in Europe. National Geographic even goes so far as to classify it as one of the 25 wonders of the world. People regularly travel (and pay) to soak in the warm milky-blue waters.
Even if you’re not planning a move anytime soon, Iceland would be a wonderful place to see. And for those who are interested in living in Iceland, you can rest assured that you’d hardly find anyone sending better postcards than you. Unless, of course, they also live in Iceland.
2. A paycheck to rival any in Europe
You’ll be able to afford that trip to the Blue Lagoon too! In fact, you just might be able to afford a lot of what you want. Iceland has some of the highest salaries in the whole of Europe.
The average salary in Iceland before taxes is about $66,000. After deductions are made, the average Icelander has almost $3300 to spend in a month. Unemployment rates are quite low. So, on average, you won’t be out of work unless you want to.
Salaries are also equally paid to men and women, an achievement that the country is proud of. Some suggest that moving up the corporate ladder can be difficult for an immigrant. Whether or not that will impact you is a result of more factors than we can discuss here.
However, you can be sure that you’ll find gainful employment in Iceland. Be sure to research areas in which your particular skills would be useful though.
3. Peaceful enough for babies to sleep outside
I’m neither advising nor condemning letting your baby sleep in her stroller outside the cafe while you enjoy a cup of coffee. I’m just saying that when this is a common occurrence, you know you’re living in a safe neighborhood.
Iceland has no standing army, and apparently, No Ministry of Defense. Even its police officers carry no firearms, except for a special unit (called the Viking squad, because why not?).
There’s a significant absence of violent crime in the country. There’s been only one high-profile violent crime in the country in 2021.
Safety should always be prioritized regardless of where you live, and this article doesn’t attempt to downplay that. However, it’s good to know that if you happen to forget your baby at the supermarket, you have the best chances of finding her happy (and maybe even asleep) in Iceland.
As mentioned earlier, one thing Iceland is known for is being one of the most egalitarian societies in Europe. This is true especially in the aspect of secular work. That’s not all though, as they are also famous for being the first country to democratically elect a female president in the world.
They also have the most gender-equal parliament in the world without a quota requirement.
5. A Fascinating Culture
By now, you probably already understand that Icelanders are a pretty interesting bunch (It takes something special to call your baby an a**hole and leave it outside the house to nap). However, there’s more to learn about them and their culture. Take their signature dishes for example.
Except that one of them isn’t exactly a dish they like to eat. Hakarl, (or fermented shark) as it is called, is more of an inside joke for them; they find it amusing that only tourists eat it nowadays.
Raw shark that’s buried in the soil for 6-12 weeks and then taken out to dry for months isn’t exactly pleasant to the senses.
Raw puffin hearts are also on the menu, in case you’re interested.
Also, did you know that they don’t exactly have last names? The last names they bear are derivatives of the family name which is actually the fathers’ first name.
Say your first name was Odin, and you had a son named Thor. His full name would be Thor Odinson. And if you had a daughter? Odinsdottir.
Without a doubt, there’s a lot to learn and discover in Iceland
6. Pristine Air and Water
The tap water in Iceland is good enough to drink. The cold water comes directly from glaciers, and the hot water is heated by geothermal energy. Talk about sustainability! And the air is really clean too.
CONS of living in Iceland
There’s no perfect place, and Iceland has some issues of its own.
· The weather
“If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes”. That’s a saying in Iceland that sums up just how unpredictable the weather in the country is. Snow, rain, hail, and sunshine could all grace a single day.
Also, there are no hot summers in Iceland. Summer lasts from about May to August, during which the sun sets just before midnight. Still, the temperature rarely ever exceeds 20 degrees Celcius. You won’t be getting that full-body tan from living in Iceland, I assure you.
· High wages, high cost of living
Certain things on this island are unnecessarily expensive. Rent and healthcare, for instance, cost a significant chunk of the average Icelander’s salary. Some locals have reported garages or basements converted to studios at a monthly rent of $1500.
Because Iceland is an island, there is a limited range of products available for locals to purchase. This is especially true in some niche categories. Iceland is also very conservative when it comes to its local market. Importation is taxed quite heavily.
· Fresh foods that aren’t so Fresh
A lot of the fruit that ends up in Iceland is produced offshore and has to be shipped to the island. Vegetables are grown in greenhouses, owing to the geothermal energy of the area. But the vegetables grown would likely pale in comparison to those grown in more temperate climates.
· You’ll Need a Car
Public transport exists, but it’s not very efficient or reliable. That’s why most Icelanders own cars and learn how to drive as soon as possible. The people drive by their own rules though, so be sure to keep that in mind. It’s not only the driving conditions you have to worry about.
· Tourism-dependent economy
That makes for a quite unstable market, one which sometimes comes with unpredictable spikes in prices and currency devaluation. If tourism suffers in Iceland, the whole economy feels the heat.
Cost of living in Iceland
The numbers below are according to the averages of over a thousand entries by multiple contributors on Numbeo (Click to view a more detailed cost analysis).
Rent prices start high at about $1200 and go up to over $2000, depending on the number of rooms and the location. This is usually where a lot of people living in Iceland spend most of their money.
On average, food costs just as much in the capital city of Iceland as it does in New York. Some items are even more expensive in Iceland. A meal for two people at a nice restaurant costs about $15 more than the $100 it costs in New York.
On average, tickets to the local public transportation system cost just under $4 for a one-way trip. A monthly pass costs about $99. Since you’ll most likely be driving, however, a liter of gas goes for about $1.75.
Electricity, heating, and the rest of the basic utilities all add up to a cost of $118. An internet connection for a month costs about $67.
Cost of living in Iceland
Expenses for a single person add up to about $3000. For a couple with two kids, the cost could go as high as almost $7000.
Places to visit, things to do in Iceland
The list is miles long. The Blue Lagoon would be the first place to be though, followed by the capital city, Reykjavik. You can make arrangements to see The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis while in the city.
Next, you’d want to visit some of the many waterfalls in the country. Dettifoss is a very popular one so you can start there. Glaciers and ice caves, mountains and crevasses, and even volcanoes and geysers; the list goes on and on.
Iceland is as beautiful as it gets and is popular for being peaceful. It has a fascinating culture that was borne from myths and legends. The people living in Iceland are nice and tolerant. Some people call it paradise, others call it home. Will you?