History of Iceland is considerably young and didn’t begin until pillagers, rapists and murderers, in other words vikings from Norway, settled in Iceland after the year 874 and became farmers. The world’s oldest parliament Alþingi was established in 930 and in the year 999 from the influence of Norway’s king, Ólafur Tryggvason, Christianity came to Iceland.
From the year 1262-1397, Iceland was under the rule of Norway and from 1397-1523 under the rule of the Kalmar Union. After its dissolution Iceland fell under Danish rule and had Danish laws and customs implemented to Iceland for more than 400 years after. Famous events in Iceland are for example the Slaying of the Spaniards in 1615, Turkish Abductions in 1627 and Laki eruptions in 1783-1784 which sparked the French Revolution.
In this period of time the average Icelander was always hungry and cold and was obliged to serve the farming industry, whether as a landowner or as a worker. The legal system punished those that didn’t own much but wanted to start their own family. So if you didn’t own much, you couldn’t marry. And if you had children outside of marriage, you were cruelly punished. If you travelled within Iceland without owning a certain amount of valuables, you were punished. With this legal system the social structure in Iceland was designed for the farming industry to increase food security. Farms were not only a place of labour but a place for upbringing and education. Farmers had the role of teaching children and teenagers to read, work and survive in Iceland. Húsbændur (e. head of the house) were legally obliged to educate and foster children and teenagers because schools in Iceland were only for upper class males or future priests.
That system began to collapse after mid 19th century. Icelanders were more reluctant to sacrifice their liberty to serve the farming industry, so 20% of Icelanders moved to America from 1863-1912 and never came back. Other reasons of why they may have moved from Iceland were freezing winters, volcanic eruptions and diseases following plagues.
Because of these hardships the fight for the independence of Iceland fully began in 1851 at the “National Assembly” when representatives of the Danish Empire arrived to Iceland to present the idea of making the Danish constitution valid in Iceland, with an exception concerning the legislative power. If accepted, Iceland would then get 6 seats in the Danish parliament. Icelandic representatives protested this, all stood up and famously shouted: “Vér mótmælum allir” (e. “We all protest”).
In the beginning of the 20th century there was a huge shift in Iceland’s social structure and people moved in masses to urban towns. Modern comforts created space for different beliefs and ideologies in Iceland, whereas christianity was challenged by spiritualism and other superstitious thoughts rooted in Icelandic society. The need for social activities grew, unions for different causes were created and family patterns changed rapidly.
Right before the end of WW1 Iceland became a sovereign country and Icelanders were in almost full control of their nations future. In 1944 the independence of Iceland was then finalised by removing the Danish king as from Iceland’s constitution. Funny to say that after the declaration of independence of Iceland, no Danish royal had a public visit to Iceland in 30 years. To name other big political moments in Iceland, the nation joined NATO in 1951, EEA in 1994 and has been in and out of negotiations to join the EU.
Many things have been lacking in Iceland’s history and for example the government didn’t provide electricity to all homes until in the 1970s. The road around Iceland wasn’t a thing until in the 1980s and even today some parts of the main road are still gravel roads. Today there are people in their 50s that were born in turf houses, in which their grandmothers and grandfathers lived in. Per capita Icelanders exceed in many fields of areas but as a nation the cultural variety wasn’t as big as it is today and the reason? Globalization after joining EEA. But that didn’t really arrive to Iceland until after the year 2000 with more foreigners and asylum seekers settling here to start a new and a better life, in which Icelanders are more happy with than any country in the world today. In a country where the fish and the farming industry provided livelihood to the majority of the nation in the 20th century, something needed to change for increased sustainability. By focusing more on industry (aluminum smelting) and later tourism, Iceland has become one of the richest countries in the world per capita. With over 2,5 million tourists every year, Iceland with a population of about 350.000 needs to decide whether to shut Iceland off to maintain something as artificial as national identity, or to open up the country completely for a new and most likely a better identity.
As the capital and the only city of Iceland, Reykjavík gives you the vibe of a small town but big enough to enjoy varied culture, entertainment and exciting opportunities. With a mountain view by the sea and within 1 hour drive to world famous nature pearls, Reykjavík is also filled with museums, shops, galleries, exciting new restaurants and a stunning nightlife. That alone makes Reykjavík one of the top destinations in Europe, if not the world.
With a short history as a town, Reykjavík wasn’t really considered an urban area until in the 19th century soon after Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, was moved to Reykjavík in 1844. Since then Reykjavík has been the main destination for travelling abroad, meeting influential people and a place to have the opportunity to become something else in Iceland than a farmer or a sailor.
With companies like CCP, Marel, Össur, Actavis and WOW air, companies from Iceland focus on specification when heading to the global market. For the past decade the startup scene in Iceland has been evolving rapidly. With more focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, the government is implementing fields of studies of innovation into primary and secondary schools, and more importantly universities. Startups from Iceland have been growing immensely on a global scale with the help of community builders and other organizations providing selflessly a huge network of investors, VC’s and other funding. It is certain that the future in Iceland is brighter than ever.
Famous individuals that come from Iceland are for example the first democratically voted female president in the world Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, Nobel prize winner Halldór Laxness, Hollywood director Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns, Everest), first openly lesbian prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, actor Stefán Karl Stefánsson famous for playing Robbie Rotten in Lazytown among other many great characters that the Icelandic nation has been inspired by and have greatly benefited from.
You have most likely heard of musicians like Björk and Sigur Rós and you most likely know that they are from Iceland but other bands like Of Monsters and Men, Kaleo, FM Belfast, Retro Stefson and Milkywhale have also been doing great things outside of Iceland.
Finding a nice place to live in Iceland can be difficult. Getting good accommodation at the right price can be hard, especially in Reykjavík. The housing market can be quite competitive, making it relatively difficult to find housing. The best is to start searching in advance and being open to moving to smaller areas close to the capital area.
You should also be prepared to stay in temporary accommodation, such as a hostel, hotel or guesthouse (depending on your budget) for a short period upon arrival. If you are arriving with your family, it may be more comfortable for them to arrive after you have found suitable accommodation.
Useful accommodation links:
There are also plenty of Facebook groups where you can post your needs and wait to be contacted or where you can check posts from landlords and then PM (private message) them.
The biggest English speaking groups in Reykjavík are:
Walking distances to whatever you need never exceed more than an hour. Over normal hours the bus has maximum 15 minutes waiting time. It is recommended to focus on housing in numbered areas like 105, 108, 109 and 111. Areas like 101, 103 and 107 are really expensive in Reykjavík.
If you own a credit or a debit card you can manage anywhere in Iceland. Banks are working on other options, but for now this is the only way.
Reykjavík is getting more cycling friendly every year but only 5-10% use that for travelling. Public transportations in Reykjavík consists of only two options: bus or taxi.
You can find the site and download an app for the bus or “strætó” here: www.straeto.is
Taxi: www.hreyfill.is and www.bsr.is
Going out of the city you can take the bus (expensive) or rent a car (less expensive for long trips).
Please contact Útlendingastofnun through this site: www.utl.is You can find all the information for migration there, but migrating from Europe is easier than migrating from Canada, US, South America, Africa, Asia or Oceania.
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant - 12.00 €
Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course - 92.00 €
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught) - 7.70 €
Cappuccino (regular) - 4.60 €
Lunch menu - 15.00 €
One-way Ticket (Local Transport) - 3.75 €
Monthly Pass (Regular Price) - 94.70 €
Taxi Start (Normal Tariff) - 5.70 € Taxi 10 minutes (Normal Tariff) - 16.00 €
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment - 35.00 €
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) - 46.00 €
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult - 70.00 €
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) - 25.00 €
Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat - 12.00 €
Average Monthly Net Salary (After Tax) - 3080 €
Icelandic is the official language of Iceland. Icelandic today hasn’t changed that much from the 12th century. Nearly the entire population of Iceland speak Icelandic with most speaking it as a first language and the rest as a second language. The Icelandic language is a North Germanic language that doesn’t resemble any modern languages except the grammar system in German. It only resembles to old-Norwegian and old-English.
Everyone can read and write in Iceland. Education in Iceland has no class structure, so your children can go to the same school as the prime minister’s child. Secondary schools are cheap and also universities. But it is really expensive being a student in Iceland, so most people work with school. Summers for students aren’t holidays, but a 3-4 month period of working to prepare for the winter. Yes, just like squirrels. No books or any study materials are provided by the government while in secondary school or in universities.
Icelandic policy provides support for parents of children of all ages. Generous paid parental leave, reduced working hours for parents with young children are followed-up with the access to regulated, subsidized day care facilities that stay open from 6:30 in the morning until 6:30 at night.
Icelanders really use that ideology of trust raising their children and for example it is normal to see a baby wagon outside of coffee shops and restaurants unattended.
In Iceland, parents are entitled to 360 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted.
A child has the legal right to be around both their parents equally until it reaches the age of 18.
Aside from paid leave, the government provides an additional monthly child allowance (barnabætur) until a child reaches the age of 18. If you have more than one child, you also get an extra family supplement.
Primary school for children aged 6 to 16 is free of charge.
Dental care is free for children under 18.
One of the luxuries raising a child in Iceland is the access to nature. The majority of land in Iceland is owned by the nation, so families can travel almost anywhere in Iceland without paying any access fee to beautiful nature pearls.
Iceland has a strong literary culture geared towards children. There are child-specific libraries around the country
Or as Icelanders call it: Róló.
Most Icelandic companies are flexible regarding parental duties, and employees 12 sick days for 12 months of work to stay home with sick children or dependents.
The nightlife in Iceland is amazing. On Fridays and Saturdays it usually lasts till 4 or 5 in the morning. The number of events past 10 years has grown rapidly and you can find interesting events close by everyday by searching on Facebook. It helps having any sort of a hobby to mingle with the locals, but if you are a part of a company or any other organization, no worries, Icelanders are really helpful, welcoming and warm, so if you ask for a help or invite them to dinner / drinks, they’ll most likely accept with a smile.
Although the population of Iceland is only 350.000, Icelanders are known for punching above their weight. As you might know the seafood industry has been the biggest export from Iceland and Icelandic seafood produces in total 25 million meals per day. Therefore there are a lot of food technology processing companies in Iceland. The best known is Marel, the world leaders in food processing technology, with a market cap of over 2 billion dollars. But we have more companies than just in the seafood industry. Oddly the biggest company in non invasive orthopaedics in the world comes from Iceland, Össur.
In Iceland there programs for startups have been growing rapidly past 20 years or so and today you can find programs in Iceland the whole year round. Today the startup world in Iceland has its focus on growth in which has been a problem for many Icelandic startups. In 2015 only 143 companies had 100 or more employees of total 26.000 active companies in Iceland. 25.000 had less than 10 employees and 23.000 had less than 5 employees. So the problem isn’t a lack of space to come up with great ideas, the problem is the small market in Iceland. International relations was a big problem before but today many successful 5-10 year old startups are reaching out to international markets and investors with promising results.
The history of the startup ecosystem in Iceland is not long and can be traced back to the history and origins of Icelandic Startups in the year 1999. In that time Nýherji, one of the largest IT company in Iceland, founded the incubator Klak as a way to support the local startup scene. Later on did that provide startups with opportunities to pitch their ideas to investors at Seed Forums and study entrepreneurial skills in Viðskiptasmiðjan (e. Business Workshop), which was a study program for entrepreneurs. In 2007 three university students founded Innovit, a student driven non-profit identity helping students to start their own companies. That all started with initiatives such as Gulleggið business plan competition, Startup Weekends workshops as well as Global Entrepreneurship Week and TEDxReykjavik as celebration for innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2013 the two companies, Klak and Innovit, merged after launching the first accelerator program in Iceland, Startup Reykjavik in cooperation with Arion Bank. Initially called Klak Innovit, the company rebranded as Icelandic Startups in 2016, emphasising the importance of international relations by connecting Icelandic Startups to leading experts and startup communities abroad.
Today there are numerous accelerators, incubators, hackathons, competitions and over hundred events held every year in Iceland that aim to build a healthy and sustainable ecosystem that serves the community that speaks for innovation in Iceland.