Are Icelanders Friendly People?


Iceland’s tourism industry has grown exponentially in recent years. The growth is, in part, a reflection of the friendly and welcoming people of Iceland. Native residents are willing and ready to welcome travelers and invite them to learn about their unique country and its traditions, as well as take in the beautiful landscape.

Icelanders have a reputation for being kind and friendly. Visitors and tourists to the island report feeling welcomed as they explore all that Iceland has to offer. Iceland’s residents rank among the happiest people in the world, and non-Icelanders sense that in their interactions with the people who call the island home.

Some countries, or regions of the world, develop a reputation over time for being unwelcoming and unfriendly to visitors. Sometimes such reputations are built on stereotypes or anecdotal experiences. Yet the reality regarding Iceland is that its residents are generally friendly, kind, and helpful to visitors of the island.

Four tips for ensuring friendliness in Iceland

Just like in any other country in the world, a visitor may encounter a local who is perhaps a bit grumpy or hasn’t had their coffee yet.

In order to increase the likelihood of having a friendly experience in Iceland, consider these three ideas:

Visitors should respect Icelandic tradition and culture. Insensitive behaviors and words could offend the native residents of any location on earth, including Iceland. Disrespecting Icelandic ways of life may result in an unfriendly experience for some.

Visitors should respect Icelandic laws. There is relatively low crime in Iceland, including in the capital city of Reykjavik. If visitors made decisions that required law enforcement activity, they are likely guaranteeing an unpleasant experience. Causing trouble in Iceland may lead to a quicker departure than the visitor intended.

Visitors should respect Icelandic values. Travelers need not agree with every law, political idea, or religious worldview that is found on the island, but they should be willing to happily be among those who think and live in such ways.

Visitors should be friendly to Icelandic residents: Most residents of the island enjoy meeting visitors. Conversations with people from around the world can be enlightening and heartwarming for many Icelanders. Countries that send the most visitors to Iceland are the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Most residents of Iceland enjoy interacting with such travelers.

Over 2,000,000 people visited Iceland in 2017. [1] Tourism is becoming a greater part of the island’s economy. Iceland welcomes visitors and encourages them to speak and behave in honorable ways.

Act like you’re a visitor in someone’s home: Travelers to Iceland would do well to consider their visitor like being invited into someone’s home. The residents expect a certain amount of sensitivity to their ways. Most Icelanders will return the gesture when they visit other countries as travelers.

More people are meeting Icelanders

More and more people are reporting great experiences from their journey to Iceland. There are two significant factors enabling these visits:

  • The ease of modern travel: Air and sea travel weren’t always as commonplace as they are today. Increased travel opportunities has resulted in increased visits to Iceland.
  • The relatively affordable prices: As air and sea travel has increased, there are options that make such experiences affordable for most people, even budget-conscious travelers.
  • Interest in Icelandic culture: The more people learn about Icelandic culture, the more they are interested in it. Sometimes non-Icelanders assume residents of the island are the same as other European or Scandinavian people. While there are similarities, Icelanders are also unique.

The tourism industry in Iceland isn’t as old as it is in other European countries. 

Nevertheless, Icelanders are pleased to show off their native land to those interested in their culture and way of life.

The money visitors spend helps support the Icelandic economy, including small businesses and funding public services that help protect the environment and promote Icelandic traditions and culture.

Icelanders are among the happiest people on earth

Iceland is ranked among the happiest countries in the world. There are many factors that go into such rankings, including:

  • safety and low crime rates
  • health care
  • pensions 
  • child care leave
  • pollution levels
  • economic stability

There are other factors as well.

Icelanders Love to Celebrate

Just like elsewhere in the world, it’s hard to be unfriendly and unhappy when celebrating important events and people. Icelanders love to celebrate their values. Here are a few examples of some of the traditions that demonstrate how friendly Icelanders are.

Sjomannadagur “Festival of the Sea”

Sjomannadagur is a rich tradition in Icelandic culture. Since fishing is one of the most important industries in Iceland, this “Festival of the Sea” honors the work that seamen do every day.

Icelandic citizens gather together during Sjomannadagur to play games, partake in learning sessions, and of course, eat fish.

Verslunarmannahelgi “Shopkeepers weekend”

Verslunarmannahelgi is a fun celebration no matter a person’s age. The celebration occurs over a long weekend and includes many parties. Commonly, activities occur during the day and concerts are put on at night. The biggest event occurs on Westman Island:

“The largest event, without a doubt, is in Vestmannaeyjar islands (Westman Islands), where more than 10,000 people come together to enjoy a variety of performances by the famous and the less famous; sing and dance; and be generally merry.” [2]

Traditions like these show the inclusion and togetherness that makes Icelanders such friendly people.

The Trouble With Tourists

Another rising industry in Iceland is tourism. People from all over the world come to the island, ranking it among some of the most popular countries to visit. This calls for a significant amount of help from residents

Icelanders, like many others who deal with the onslaught of tourists, have dealt with the negative aspects that might follow an outsider visiting.

Also, as more people visit Iceland, prices are not the only things that rise. Some natives are not fond of the idea of Iceland becoming overtaken with hotels and areas specifically designated for tourists.

As one of the most beautiful and precious places in nature, it makes sense that Icelanders do not want their country taken over by tourist attractions.

Industries like tourism are sometimes what give people the wrong idea about Icelanders. If a person visits Iceland, some locals may not seem friendly because not all of their experiences with tourists have been positive in the past. 

Additionally, all cultures are different. Icelanders and people who have been to Iceland have noted that Icelanders tend to have a straightforward personality. They do not mean to come off as rude. They just get their point across more solidly than other cultures. They have a goal, and they find the most direct way possible to reach it.

Poverty Rate

With such a developed country thriving mainly off of renewable energy, Iceland has a low poverty rate. This is one of the reasons they are known as such happy people. 

The poverty rate is roughly 8%. With a population of around 364,000 people, this means less than 30,000 are considered living in poverty. While this seems like a large number, it is quite good compared percentage-wise to other places.

Iceland has a massive job availability, free healthcare, and many benefits to its welfare system. They take care of the less fortunate as best as they can. The cost of living is relatively low, but the quality of living is at an all-time high.

Takeaway

Icelanders are intelligent, hard-working, and friendly people. The island itself is a beautiful place to live, full of natural beauty and a rich culture. Thankfully, its residents are willing to share its benefits with respectful visitors.

References:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tourism_in_Iceland

[2]  https://icelandmag.is/tags/verslunarmannahelgi

[3] https://www.cs.cornell.edu/home/ulfar/Iceland.html

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