What are some of the small but amazing things in Iceland you might not find elsewhere? What do Icelandic people take for granted about their own country?
There are so many amazing things I could list about Iceland. The stunning nature, the quality of life, the Northern Lights, the language, the food... Icelanders are very proud of their country, and for various reasons—but I want to focus on the small and everyday things that Icelanders may take for granted. Things that I might realize I miss only when I’m living abroad.
If you're a naysayer, then you can always check out my list of the 10 worst things about Iceland. But here is a list of 10 amazing Icelandic things the locals take for granted.
I'm referring to things like distances being short, and the bureaucracy being manageable, compared to bigger countries/cities. You might think I’m exaggerating—but there are such few people living in the country that doing pretty much anything is a piece of cake!
If you want to set up a new internet connection, it might take an afternoon up to a week; if you want to change a phone company, it’s done in a few minutes; if you have problems with your tax—you can even call up the tax office and they’ll do it for you! If you ever need something last minute (a ride somewhere, someone to help you move boxes, to borrow headphones) you should be sorted out in a few minutes with one Facebook status or a couple of phone calls.
And best of all, you don’t need to make plans to meet up with friends weeks (or even months) in advance, you can find someone to join you for a night out with a very short notice. There is a very spontaneous and relaxed attitude that reigns in Iceland, perhaps best described with the words “þetta reddast” (‘this will sort itself out’), an attitude that people either love or loathe, depending on how organised they are!
Nature is a big part of any Icelander's life. Even if they are a city girl/boy, nature will have a massive effect on you in Iceland (seeing as Reykjavík is the only ‘city’—and not a very big one at that). In just a few minutes you can be out of the city and surrounded by astounding nature.
Rent a car, drive yourself, hop on a bus, get a ride with someone or even bike out of the city and before you know it you feel like you’re the only person in the world, far from advertising bills, social media and traffic. Oh and also, there is no traffic in Iceland (with the exception of maybe a 10 minute longer commute for people going to and from work in the mornings or afternoons).
When Icelanders go abroad, they are often very shocked and incredibly uncomfortable when they see homeless people on the streets, as there are none to be seen in Iceland.
Sure, there are homeless people in this country, but they usually spend their nights in shelters, not sleeping roughly on the streets, and not begging for money. People simply wouldn’t survive sleeping outside during the Icelandic winters.
Iceland is and feels very safe. There is not much serious crime and you feel pretty safe walking the streets of Reykjavík. There is no standing army in the country and the public police force have never carried guns, although, just recently, handguns are set to be planted in the glove compartment of police cars for exceptional occasions (whatever that means).
Although there is always more work to be done in working towards total equality, Icelanders have more freedom than most to be who they are and say what they want to say.
Gender equality is the highest in the world in Iceland and the LGBTQ community is celebrated; for instance, a recent survey showed gay men are happiest in Iceland. People that are born into this liberal society may sometimes take it for granted—although, thankfully, other people keep on striving to make it even better!
There may not be much variety of imported food in Iceland—but the local food makes up for it by being of great quality. Fresh seafood, lamb from sheep that roam around free in the highlands, great dairy products and hardy root vegetables make Icelandic food a popular choice for renowned chefs around the world.
Make sure you check out some of the best fine dining restaurants in Reykjavík when you are in Iceland.
Iceland can be a cold country, especially during wintertime, but the cold never extends into people’s homes or any house where people go. No matter which house it is: a shop, your friend’s house, a hospital, home of that weird guy from class that you have to do a group assignment with—it’s always warm inside, due to cheap but sustainable methods of geothermal heating (maybe not in the house on the picture below...).
If you don’t like the wind in Iceland, you are not alone, just remember that at least it blows away any pollution—leaving the Icelandic air very clean and fresh. This is definitely something you will notice if you are used to living in a bigger city—such as in London where the headlines sometimes warn people not to exercise in the city due to air pollution!
In my opinion, Iceland has some of the softest and nicest grass in the world. What makes the grass even better is that there are no ants, mosquitoes or other pesty biters or critters in Iceland.
The only slightly ‘annoying’ animals in the country are midges and wasps. And there are no large and dangerous animals (unless you’re allergic to wasp-stings or bee-stings). There's the odd (harmless) spider and flies buzzing by. Having a picnic in Iceland is, therefore, a great idea, as you won’t get many small visitors and can enjoy the scenery from your natural cushion.
Now, I’m not just talking about the clean, cold water that comes straight from the tap which Iceland prides itself of. That’s great in itself and you can have as much as you want of this crystal clear drinking water for free (which by the way is soft water and doesn’t build up any limestone on your kitchen utensils!)
Additionally, there is the incredible Icelandic hot water that provides homes with cheap heating as well as lovely hot showers and baths, not to mention the hot tubs and hot springs you can find around the country. There’s no boiler heating the water up that gets empty, it just streams directly through your pipes from its source, meaning you NEVER run out of hot water.
Some people may complain about the sulphur smell of the hot water (mainly people that are new to the country—because you’ll get used to it) but personally, I love the sulphur smell!
What amazing things exist in your home country that the locals take for granted?