Reykjavik, Iceland Report of what it's like to live there - 11/27/17
Personal Experiences from Reykjavik, Iceland
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I have lived in many cities overseas.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
The West Coast of the US. There are a few direct flights from LA, Seattle and Portland, but most often connecting on the East Coast.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Very good. Housing for families and people with pets are similar to US homes. Generally they have open floor plans, modern kitchens, and attached garages. Apartments have great views and are walking distance to the embassy. The longest commute is about 10 km though most are shorter. All homes are well-built and warm.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Pretty much anything is available, though you might have to go to a couple of stores to find some items. Prices are expensive but Costco just opened up and prices are much more reasonable there.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Only liquids - cleaning supplies and maybe a few liquid cooking items. Most places don't have much storage so you don't want to bring stuff that you can buy online when you need it.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There's everything here from fast food to fine dining.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Pouch takes 2-3 weeks or you can use the local mail, which is reliable.
2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The US embassy has a small gym and there are American-style gyms throughout the city.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards are used everywhere for everything.
4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None though it is handy.
5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes! The embassy and the country are not ADA compliant. Sidewalks are cobblestone, everything has stairs and maybe not an elevator, there's ice all winter, etc.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Just a bus system that is OK but not far reaching.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
4WD is best - for the winter and for getting out in the country.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Great internet at prices comparable to the US. The embassy will have your internet on when you arrive if you request it ahead of time.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Employees get phones and it is very easy for spouses to get SIM cards on the local market or subscribe to a local plan.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
There are a couple of kennels. There is a four-week quarantine - talk to the Reykjavik Community Liaison Office or the Overseas Briefing Center at State for more details. Some people have imported pets but it is expensive and takes a lot of planning. Pets are rarely allowed in apartment buildings.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Some spouses have worked on the local economy at good wages. There is not a formal work agreement with Iceland but I think the embassy is working on it.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Same as DC or slightly more casual.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None - this is one of the safest posts in the world.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Fantastic air, some of the cleanest in the world.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
As far as I know, no one has had SAD, despite the darkness in the winter. Sometimes all the round-the-clock light in the summer is harder to deal with than the dark in the winter.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Not warm but not bitter cold. Summers are in the 60s and winter is in the 30s with strong winds. Not much snow.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Two small schools. Families are happy now but contact CLO for current information. The higher grades are less adequate.
2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Preschools are very cheap and subsidized by the government. They are based on where you live.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Pretty much anything, though maybe not in English. Lots of classes are available through the international schools in English.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small like the country. Morale is good. Reykjavik is safe, clean and has plenty to do. At the US embassy, it is so small that there is not a strong community. You have to find friends outside of work.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Pretty much good for everyone.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes - Iceland is extremely progressive and recognizes same sex partners. Nobody thinks twice about it.
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
None, though this is a relatively homogenous society.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The great outdoors. This is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The opportunities are limitless.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Anything other than the tourist treks around the golden circle. 95% of the country doesn't have any tourists and is just as good as the 5% every tourist goes to.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not really since the prices are high. Maybe an Icelandic sweater, volcano glass jewelry, local artwork.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
As mentioned, this is one of the most clean, safe and picturesque countries you could live in. Children play alone (gasp) at playgrounds and ride the bus to kindergarten. You can fly to destinations all over Europe for $100 one way. This is a modern society with all the benefits of any European capital, though on a smaller scale.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Shorts and flip flops.
3. But don't forget your:
4WD and sense of adventure.