Famous for its hot springs, geysers and active volcanoes, the Republic of Iceland is a wonderful country that I recently had the pleasure of visiting, and I wanted to share my experiences in Cartus’ Global Spotlight series. My trip to the country’s capital city of Reykjavik was in support of the increasing number of international assignees whom Cartus is assisting with their relocations to Iceland.
I was interested to observe that Iceland has a combination of Northern European and American characteristics, with Scandinavian influences in culture and art, and American-size properties and distances between towns and cities. The people are typically Nordic; the locals value independence and self-sufficiency and are well known for their creative and literary heritage. Iceland has a close-knit, community feeling, even in major towns and cities; this may be due to the country’s relatively small population of 328,000.
Living in Iceland
Assignees who need temporary accommodations will find that rental properties are available, but there are few real estate agents (especially outside Reykjavik). Instead, landlords advertise online, either through social media or private websites. As most advertisements are in Icelandic, it can make property searches quite challenging for those who cannot speak the language. Of course, Cartus’ on the ground destination service providers render invaluable assistance in guiding assignees through the home-finding process.
Did You Know?
Iceland just touches the Arctic Circle, so many new arrivals expect it to be very cold, all year round. However, Iceland’s climate is far milder than most people realize, especially in southern coastal towns.
Country Spotlight: Recommendations
AtoZtheWorld (available to all Cartus clients and assignees, without charge, on CartusOnlinesm), details a number of recommendations to assist international assignees moving to Iceland:
• Regardless of size, organisations in Iceland lack the multi-layered bureaucracies that are commonplace in North America or Western Europe; instead, they tend to be quite informal and egalitarian. Icelanders place little importance on age, status, or rank.
• As an egalitarian society, locals do not appreciate excessive boasting or displays of wealth. Adopting a more reserved style may help gain credibility amongst colleagues.
• As the public transport system is relatively undeveloped, we recommend that assignees drive whilst in Iceland. There is no rail-based transport, and many locals use domestic flights to travel between major towns and cities.
• Generally, the Icelandic people are punctual and reliable, and they work hard to meet a deadline once they have committed to one. They also tend to be considerably more direct than many expatriates are used to, especially those who are from cultures with more indirect communication styles. Although most of the population speaks English, Icelandic is the main (and official) language.
• On first meetings, locals can appear quite cool and reserved. Assignees should adopt a similarly reserved, conservative tone of speech until they get to know their Icelandic colleagues better.
Top Tip. I’d encourage anyone moving to Iceland to enjoy the beautiful landscape whenever they can. And the hot springs offer some of the best outdoor spas in the world!