Keflavik, Iceland Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Keflavik, Iceland

Keflavik, Iceland 04/07/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I was there with the Military (1999-2001). Things may have changed since, but I wanted to add my experience.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

BWI on Iceland Air. Excellent airline.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Lived on base. My Icelandic friends' houses tended to be small, same with apartments. IKEA was big there because the furniture helped them make do with the limited space.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It is a bit more expensive in town. We shopped at the commissary.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Warm clothing, parka, sled.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Fedex was available.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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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?

No problems at all, they are available in the cities.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

On base, we had some British channels. Be careful watching TV with the kiddies because they show a little more skin than on American TV.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

They learn three or four languages in school, and English is one of them. Older folks may not speak it as much, but the young people speak it well. Learning a few greetings would be polite, but not necessary. It is a difficult language to pick up. Icelandic is pretty much spoken the same way it was spoken a thousand years ago.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Winter could be difficult with the ice and snow.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Same as the U.S.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis were safe, didnt seem more expensive than San Francisco orLondon.

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3. 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?

I would recommend 4WD or AWD.We drove a Subaru. My friend had a Honda Civic and still got out and about. If you plan on exploring, go with a 4WD.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Not when I was there, we had dial-up.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There were plenty of prepaid in 2000.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None while I was there.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No. Good.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Cold winters, spring-like summers.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. 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?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. Winter is tough because there is not a lot of sunlight. My friends and I stayed active. We drank a lot on the weekends, but we also went out and saw the sights.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Again, fun club scene. Nice restaurants. Seafood and dairy are delicious. I loved the yogurt and still think about it to this day. Fage is the only close comparison. Lamb dogs (lamb hotdogs) are great. The sandwich shop near the clubs is really good, roast beef with fried onions, mmmmmmmm. Kringlan mall had good stores, more European fashion than American.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes to all. Good clubbing scene. Nice restaurants. Swimming is very big with the kids. They compete all over.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes, I had other women come on to me, and I am straight. They seemed pretty open about it. Icelandic people seem comfortable with sexuality. There was at least one gay club, Starlight, I think.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I am a black American female. I had local friends. There are very few non-White people there, so sometimes people would stare, because they had only seen Black people on TV. Racism seems to be more of a problem with the older generation. Again, I personally did not have any problems, people were generally polite.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Reykjavik has a good club scene. During the summer, they stay open til breakfast time because the sun does not set. You step out of the club at 3am and you will see the sun. Akureyri is up north and is surprisingly warm, and has some scenic activities. The waterfalls are great, Dettifoss, Goddifoss, and others. They have Geysir, within the Golden Cirlce tour.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

The wool products, sweaters, socks, gloves.

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9. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

Swim suit. There are a lot of geothermal pools. The Blue Lagoon is really nice. The rotten egg smell the other person spoke of is from sulfur.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Like any place, it is what you make of it. Get out and meet people. Go to Vik and see the largest glacier in Europe. Go to Lake Myvatyn, and see a place that looks like Mars, or just look up at the night sky and see the Northern Lights.

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