Iceland is one of the best places to live not only in Europe but all around the world, and living in Iceland has its pros and cons. It has an exceptional nature (actually nature is one of the strongest advantages), friendly local people, strong social security, men/women and LGBT equality, and strong family values. But as well it is a place of long cold winter nights (in December you only get a bit more than 4 hours of daylight), strong winds and isolated island life.
Iceland is getting more and more popular destination with many tourists each time of the year with great spectacles and Iceland was as well used as a location in many very famous Hollywood productions like Walter Mitty, Star Wars, James Bond and Game of Thrones. It would be very hard not to fall in love with these white mountains, huge glaciers, black beaches and green valleys. Iceland is a place to see all four seasons at once: you may have a sunny weather in Reykjavik, but a snow storm just 50 kilometers away.
Iceland has a strong economy and great working conditions, one of the robust democracies, developing business branches and so much more.
Let us have a look at pros and cons of living in Iceland.
Pros of living in Iceland
1. Nature in Iceland
When anyone thinks of Iceland, great Hollywood movies come to mind as they show and present the spectacles of Iceland very well. Iceland is a volcanic island in the middle of the ocean with very specific soil which is covered in beautiful green flora. And what about the black beaches? Where else can you find these? What about massive waterfalls and isolated hiking trails. And geysers? Iceland is pretty much the only location in Europe where you can find this wonder. And mountains? Yes, Iceland has these as well: the highest mountain is called Hvannadalshnjúkur and is over 2000 m high.
In Iceland, you can watch whales and see beautiful puffins. Nature in Iceland will never stop to amaze you and the best thing is that you can reach it very fast, even from the center of Reykjavik. Wild nature is as well very close once you drive on one of the F roads in Iceland (which are passable only by super jeeps (yes, they call it Super Jeeps as they do amazing stuff in the rugged terrain) in wintertime).
If you love spending time in nature and like those hikes where you meet no people for hours, Iceland is a place for you.
2. Salaries in Iceland
Iceland is a developed country with a very robust economy and one of the highest levels of salaries in Europe. An average salary in Iceland after taxes is a bit more than 3000 euros and that is more than enough to live a comfortable life there.
Iceland has a growing economy and different areas where you can get a job. IT industry is as well a growing part of it’s economy and the salaries in that market are even higher – so it is a perfect location for an IT professional.
Iceland has as well many emigrants coming to work in healthcare, construction, and hospitality where salaries are as well very competitive.
3. Equality at work
Iceland has one of the highest equality rates in the workplace and women’s salaries differ very little from men’s. Iceland’s government has as well an official target to make salaries completely equal.
LGTB rights are as well very strong in Iceland and there’s no discrimination regarding your sexuality.
4. Work-Life balance
Iceland has a very strong family tradition and family always come first, so if you have to pick up your kids, visit a doctor or there’s a meeting in the school – most employers will not punish you for spending some extra time out of the office. It is a very understanding environment.
Iceland has a 40-hour work week, but employers are very flexible and you should not worry to spend each minute in the office.
In Iceland, you get a minimum of 24 days of holiday, so there’s plenty of time to relax and recover from your work.
Iceland has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe and violent crimes are almost non-existent. You will have no problem walking in the city late at night, but of course, be reasonable if you see a heated situation. Other than that, Iceland is a very friendly country and even pubs or nightclubs are not considered dangerous places to be.
Some pickpocketing can happen in crowded places, so keep your belongings close to you.
6. Iceland is very clean
Icelanders really love their nature and public spaces, so they keep it to the highest standard. You will have a hard time finding rubbish piles, especially in the nature.
Iceland gets heating and electricity almost 100 percent from renewables – the geothermic energy, so the air in Iceland is very clean. Electric cars are as well getting more and more popular on the island so soon enough you won’t find any dangerous gases on the streets of Reykjavik or Akureyri.
7. People speak English very good in Iceland
Icelandic is a pretty hard language to learn as it has a lot of complexities, but do not worry, Iceland has a great education system and pretty much everyone speaks good English over there.
You should have no problem with English in local shops, restaurants, post offices or anywhere else.
8. Easy to travel
Iceland does not have any trains. Not one. Isn’t that fascinating? It is pretty much the only country in Europe not to have it. But do not worry, Iceland has a very well-kept roads all around the country and you can easily travel to any location by roads and if you have a good jeep, you can even go to the middle of Iceland and explore the wild trails.
Bus connections are as well very well connected and extensive.
If you are adventurous, you can always hop on some local boats and explore smaller islands, the sea, and the coast. You can go on a whale watching expedition or observe puffins.
The Keflavik airport next to Reykjavik offers many international connections not only to Europe, but to the USA as well. Some smaller cities in Iceland as well have local airports which can help if you are in a hurry or the roads are closed (that can happen quite a lot in wintertime).
9. Local cuisine in Iceland
Of course, you can hate it or love it, but if you are a seafood fan – Iceland is a place to live. Iceland is a historic fishermen country and this industry is still very very strong over there.
Cod, salmon, haddock, lobster or langoustine – is just the beginning. Tuna? Yes. Herring? Yes. Arctic shrimp? Yes. Crabs? Yes.
You can find it all in Iceland.
Iceland has as well a very good restaurant culture where you can enjoy the local cuisine – you will never have a problem to spend a cozy evening in a beautiful restaurant with your friends.
What else to eat in Iceland: Skyr (local yogurt with plenty of proteins), fermented shark (fancy, huh?), lamb, and of course the famous Reykjavik’s hot dog.
10. Icelandic horses
Of course, it is maybe a very weak reason to live in Iceland, but, trust me, you are going to love them.
They are beautiful and you can find them everywhere outside the cities. They are so cute, you will want to keep one at home.
Icelandic horses is a very special horses kind which you can find only in the island.
Cons of living in Iceland
1. Long long winters
Winters are really long in Iceland and you can even experience them in the summertime if you are not lucky.
Iceland does not have some super cold winters, but the weather temperature gets pretty low right in September (average temperature only 8.5 degrees by Celsius) and that continues till May.
In Iceland you will need a jacket pretty much all year long and sunbathing is not a very popular activity over there. Even in summertime temperatures can drop very low and if we add some strong wind – suddenly in July you have an October day.
2. Long long nights in wintertime
As mentioned before, daytime in December gets to just a bit over 4 hours. Just 4 hours of daylight! And if you add some cloudy sky, you suddenly have even less or it does not get really clear at all. If you spend the whole day in the office, you will not see any sun during the day.
That can really be depressing if you need a lot of sun and you hate cloudy weather.
In wintertime it is very important to stay active, so many Icelanders still go on hikes or visit laguna – which is an exceptional place to spend time during the winter months.
3. Iceland is an isolated island
Well, Iceland is a great place to travel by car, but if you want to visit another country? Well, then you need to buy a flight ticket, get to the airport, go through security, fly, and so on and so forth. It is always a hustle.
Iceland is an island and you won’t get anywhere else with your car. All trips must be planned and you must take the whole weekend or the whole week just to visit another place. It is not like Switzerland, where you can drive in 20 minutes to France, to Germany, to Italy or Austria.
4. High prices
Even though the salaries are great in Iceland, some stuff can be very expensive over there, because you must transport everything with ships or planes: there’s no train connection or truck route.
Fuel is always one of the most expensive in the world in Iceland and some imported goods can as well have higher prices.
As salaries are good and strong in Iceland, they are good for everyone, so meals in restaurants or some extra activities as well cost a bit more.
If you are not a fan or hate rain, snow, wind, more wind, more snow, more rain – well, Iceland maybe is not a place for you.
It is no joke that in Iceland you can experience 4 seasons in one day. I have traveled from Reykjavik on a sunny day to Vik (a village in the south): after 1 hour I got into a sand storm, 1 hour later I got into a snow storm and had to drive extremely slow because all the roads got cover in snow. In the north of Iceland, I got into a situation where the road was completely closed because of snow and I had to cancel my trip.
You have to always be aware that the weather can change drastically in minutes in Iceland and mostly it is not a fun heatwave – it will be wind, snow, or storm.
6. Difficult local language
Icelandic is considered to be one of the hardest languages to learn in Iceland, it is because the words are changing so much in different situations and the words are not at all similar to English or any other language.
So if you really want to adapt to the local community, you will have to spend a lot of time learning Icelandic. It can take a long time till you will be able to speak fluently and keep a long conversation in the Icelandic language.
7. Poor quality of vegetables, berries, and fruits
Iceland has a very specific soil situation as it is a volcanic island, so most of the farm goods must be imported via long shipping routes, meaning that most of the stuff which gets into Iceland were frozen.
It can be hard to get fresh vegetables or the prices can be pretty high.
Living in Iceland conclusions
In Iceland, you will not only experience great nature and seafood but as well a great business environment where you can develop your skills and learn a lot.
You can say many things about Iceland, but one is the truth – Iceland is an exceptional country.
If you do not mind walking all year round with a red gore-tex jacket – Iceland is a place to be, work, experience, settle down and live.
You will fall in love with its nature, people, architecture, rivers, valleys, and mountains. And do not forget the Icelandic horses!