Living as an Expat in Iceland

1. What are the visa and residency requirements for living as an expat in Iceland?

1. To live as an expat in Iceland, you will need to obtain the appropriate visa and residency permit. If you are from a non-European Economic Area (EEA) country, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, etc., you will typically need a residence permit to stay in Iceland for more than 90 days. The type of permit you need will depend on factors like your purpose of stay, whether you have a job offer, or if you plan to study in Iceland.

2. The main categories of residence permits for expats in Iceland include work permits, student permits, and family reunification permits. To obtain a work permit, you usually need a job offer from an Icelandic employer. For a student permit, you must have been accepted into a recognized educational institution in Iceland. Family reunification permits are granted to family members of Icelandic citizens or residents.

3. It’s important to note that the application process for a residence permit can be lengthy and may require various documents, such as proof of accommodation, financial stability, health insurance, and a clean criminal record. Additionally, you may need to demonstrate proficiency in the Icelandic language, depending on the circumstances.

4. Overall, the visa and residency requirements for living as an expat in Iceland are structured to ensure that individuals meet certain criteria and contribute positively to Icelandic society while respecting the country’s immigration laws and regulations.

2. How difficult is it to find accommodation in Iceland as an expat?

Finding accommodation in Iceland as an expat can be challenging due to the country’s high demand for housing, especially in popular areas like Reykjavik. Here are some reasons why it can be difficult:

1. Limited availability: The rental market in Iceland is tight, with a limited supply of housing compared to the demand. This can make it difficult to find a suitable place to live, especially in urban areas.

2. High rental prices: Rental prices in Iceland, particularly in Reykjavik, tend to be quite high compared to many other countries. This can be a barrier for expats who are looking for affordable housing options.

3. Language barrier: While many Icelanders speak English, the official language is Icelandic. As such, navigating the rental market and understanding rental agreements may be challenging for expats who do not speak the language fluently.

Despite these challenges, with thorough research, patience, and possibly seeking assistance from local real estate agents, expats can find suitable accommodation in Iceland. It is advisable to start the search well in advance and be prepared to be flexible in terms of location and budget in order to secure a place to live.

3. What is the cost of living like for expats in Iceland?

The cost of living for expats in Iceland can be relatively high compared to other countries. Rent, utilities, and groceries are notably expensive in Iceland. Rent prices in major cities like Reykjavik can be particularly steep, with a one-bedroom apartment costing around 150,000 ISK to 200,000 ISK per month. Utilities such as electricity, heating, and internet can add up to about 30,000 ISK to 40,000 ISK monthly. Groceries are also on the pricier side, with basic items like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products being more expensive than in many other countries. Dining out and entertainment activities can also be costly in Iceland. However, healthcare and education are typically subsidized by the government, which can help offset some of the living expenses for expats. Overall, it’s important for expats to carefully budget and plan ahead to manage the higher cost of living in Iceland.

4. How easy is it to find a job as an expat in Iceland?

Finding a job as an expat in Iceland can be influenced by several factors:

1. Job Market: The job market in Iceland is competitive, with opportunities largely concentrated in industries such as tourism, IT, finance, and healthcare. Expats with specialized skills in high-demand sectors may find it easier to secure employment.

2. Language Barrier: While English is widely spoken, especially in urban areas and within certain industries, knowledge of Icelandic can be advantageous for accessing a broader range of job opportunities.

3. Work Permits: Expats from outside the EEA (European Economic Area) and EU will need a work permit to work in Iceland. Obtaining a work permit can be a lengthy process and may require a job offer from an Icelandic company.

4. Networking: Building a professional network in Iceland can significantly enhance job prospects. Attending industry events, workshops, and social gatherings can help expats connect with potential employers and increase visibility in the job market.

Overall, while finding a job as an expat in Iceland may pose some challenges, being proactive, leveraging specialized skills, and networking effectively can improve the chances of securing employment in the country.

5. What is the healthcare system like for expats in Iceland?

The healthcare system in Iceland is known for its high quality and accessibility, making it an attractive option for expats living in the country. Here are some key points to consider about healthcare for expats in Iceland:

1. Universal Coverage: Iceland has a universal healthcare system, which means that all residents, including expats with legal residency, have access to healthcare services. This system is funded through taxes and provides a wide range of medical services.

2. Low Cost or Free Services: While expats may have to pay a small fee for some medical services, such as doctor visits or prescription medications, overall healthcare in Iceland is relatively affordable compared to many other countries. Emergency services are often free of charge.

3. Quality of Care: Iceland is known for its high-quality healthcare services, with well-trained medical professionals and modern facilities. Expats can expect to receive excellent care for both routine check-ups and more serious medical issues.

4. Language Barrier: One potential challenge for expats seeking healthcare in Iceland is the language barrier, as Icelandic is the primary language used in medical settings. However, many healthcare providers in Iceland also speak English, which can help expats navigate the system more easily.

5. Health Insurance: While Iceland’s healthcare system provides comprehensive coverage, some expats may choose to purchase private health insurance for additional benefits or coverage for services not included in the public system. It’s important for expats to research their options and choose a plan that meets their individual healthcare needs.

Overall, expats living in Iceland can expect to have access to high-quality healthcare services through the country’s universal healthcare system, with the option to supplement their coverage with private health insurance if desired.

6. What are the best ways to meet other expats and make friends in Iceland?

1. Join expat groups and communities: There are several expat groups and communities in Iceland where you can meet like-minded individuals who are also living away from their home countries. Websites like Internations and Meetup often have expat events and gatherings where you can connect with others in a similar situation.

2. Attend language exchanges and cultural events: Participating in language exchange meetups or attending cultural events can be a great way to meet both expats and locals. You can improve your language skills while socializing and making new friends at the same time.

3. Take up a hobby or join a club: Whether it’s hiking, photography, or board games, pursuing a hobby or joining a club related to your interests can help you meet people who share similar passions. Check out local clubs or activity groups to find a community of individuals you can bond with over shared activities.

7. How easy is it to adapt to the Icelandic culture and language as an expat?

Adapting to Icelandic culture and language as an expat can be both rewarding and challenging. The Icelandic culture is unique, with strong emphasis on traditions, nature, and community. To adapt successfully, it is crucial to immerse yourself in the local way of life, participate in community events, and make an effort to understand and respect Icelandic customs and social norms. Learning the Icelandic language can also greatly enhance your experience as an expat. While Icelandic is considered a difficult language to learn due to its complex grammar and pronunciation, many Icelanders speak English fluently, which can be helpful for day-to-day communication. There are resources available for expats to learn Icelandic, such as language courses and online platforms, which can aid in language acquisition. Overall, adapting to Icelandic culture and language as an expat requires an open mind, willingness to learn, and patience, but the rewards of fully integrating into Icelandic society can be incredibly fulfilling.

8. What are some common challenges faced by expats living in Iceland?

Some common challenges faced by expats living in Iceland include:

1. Language barrier: The Icelandic language can be difficult to learn, and many Icelanders are fluent in English but may prefer to speak Icelandic, making communication challenging for expats.

2. Cost of living: Iceland is known for being an expensive country, with high prices for housing, groceries, and leisure activities, which can be a shock for expats coming from countries with lower living costs.

3. Weather: Iceland has a harsh climate with long, dark winters and unpredictable weather patterns, which can be challenging for expats who are not used to the extreme conditions.

4. Cultural differences: Icelandic culture can be quite different from what expats are used to, and adjusting to social norms, customs, and traditions can be a challenge for some newcomers.

5. Limited job opportunities: The job market in Iceland can be competitive, especially for expats who may not speak Icelandic fluently or have the necessary qualifications to secure employment in their desired field.

6. Integration: Building a social network and feeling a sense of belonging in a new country can be difficult for expats, especially if they are living in a small town or rural area where the community is tight-knit.

7. Healthcare system: Understanding and navigating the Icelandic healthcare system can be complex for expats, especially if they are not familiar with how healthcare is structured and accessed in the country.

8. Residency and paperwork: Obtaining residency permits, tax identification numbers, and other necessary paperwork can be time-consuming and bureaucratic for expats, requiring patience and persistence to navigate the process successfully.

9. What are the educational options for expat children in Iceland?

Expat children in Iceland have several educational options available to them. These include:

1. Public Schools: Expats can enroll their children in the Icelandic public school system, which is free and provides education from primary school through to high school. Icelandic public schools are known for their high educational standards and focus on creativity and critical thinking.

2. Private Schools: There are also private schools in Iceland that expat children can attend. These schools may offer different curricula, languages of instruction, or educational philosophies compared to public schools.

3. International Schools: For expat families who prefer an education more aligned with their home country’s curriculum, there are international schools in Iceland that cater to the expat community. These schools often follow British or American educational systems and offer classes in English or other languages.

4. Homeschooling: Some expat families choose to homeschool their children in Iceland. While this option requires careful planning and compliance with Icelandic regulations, it allows for a more personalized educational experience.

5. Language Schools: Expats who want their children to learn Icelandic or improve their language skills can also consider language schools in Iceland, which offer language classes for expat children at various levels.

Overall, expat children in Iceland have diverse educational options to choose from, allowing families to find the best fit for their children’s learning needs and preferences.

10. Is it common for expats to buy property in Iceland?

1. Yes, it is not uncommon for expats to buy property in Iceland. However, there are certain regulations that non-residents must adhere to when it comes to purchasing real estate in Iceland. Non-EEA citizens must obtain permission from the Ministry of Justice in order to buy property in the country. This permission is usually granted for properties that will be used as a primary residence or for business purposes.

2. The process of buying property in Iceland can be complex and it is recommended that expats seek the help of a local real estate agent or a legal advisor to navigate through the legalities and paperwork involved in the transaction. Additionally, expats should also consider factors such as the fluctuating real estate market in Iceland, the cost of living, and the long-term residency plans before making the decision to invest in property in the country.

11. What are the transportation options like for expats in Iceland?

Transportation options for expats in Iceland are generally reliable, albeit limited compared to larger cities. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Public Transportation: Reykjavik, the capital city, offers a decent bus system operated by Strætó. Buses cover most areas in and around the city, making it convenient for daily commuting.

2. Driving: Many expats in Iceland choose to own a car due to the flexibility it provides, especially for those living outside Reykjavik. The Ring Road (Route 1) connects most major towns in Iceland, making it relatively easy to travel around the country by car.

3. Cycling: Reykjavik is a bike-friendly city with several dedicated cycling paths and bike rental services available. Cycling can be a convenient and eco-friendly way to get around, especially during the warmer months.

4. Walking: Iceland’s compact urban areas and scenic landscapes make walking a pleasant and practical way to navigate within city limits. Many expats enjoy exploring Reykjavik on foot, taking advantage of the pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.

Overall, while transportation options may not be as extensive as in some larger cities, expats in Iceland can still easily get around using a combination of public transportation, driving, cycling, and walking, depending on their preferences and needs. It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local transportation system and explore different modes of getting around to find what works best for you as an expat living in Iceland.

12. How is the climate in Iceland and how does it impact expat life?

1. The climate in Iceland is characterized by its variability and unpredictability. The country experiences a subarctic climate due to its high latitude, resulting in relatively cool summers and cold winters. The weather can change rapidly, with strong winds, frequent rain showers, and even snowfall possible at any time of year. The proximity to the Arctic Circle also means that Iceland experiences long summer days with almost 24 hours of daylight, as well as long winter nights with very little daylight.

2. The impact of Iceland’s climate on expat life can be significant. Expats need to be prepared for the often harsh and changeable weather conditions, especially if they come from warmer climates. Dressing appropriately with layers, waterproof clothing, and sturdy shoes is essential to stay comfortable and safe in Iceland’s weather. The climate can also affect daily activities and social life, as outdoor events and travel plans may need to be adjusted according to the weather forecast. Expats living in Iceland should embrace the unique climate and seasonal changes, finding ways to enjoy outdoor pursuits like swimming in geothermal pools, hiking, or skiing in the winter.

3. Overall, adapting to Iceland’s climate is an important aspect of expat life in the country. By understanding and respecting the weather patterns, expats can better integrate into Icelandic society and make the most of all that this beautiful but sometimes challenging environment has to offer. Embracing the outdoor lifestyle and learning to appreciate the beauty of Iceland’s natural landscapes in all weather conditions can enhance the expat experience and create lasting memories of life in this unique Arctic nation.

13. What are the best cities or regions in Iceland for expats to live in?

1. Reykjavik is the obvious choice for many expats due to its bustling city life, cultural scene, and job opportunities. As the capital and largest city in Iceland, Reykjavik offers a range of amenities and services that can make everyday life as an expat more convenient and enjoyable.

2. Akureyri, located in the north of Iceland, is another popular choice among expats. Despite being the second-largest urban area in Iceland, Akureyri offers a more relaxed and laid-back lifestyle compared to Reykjavik. The city has a strong sense of community, beautiful surroundings, and is known for its vibrant arts and music scene.

3. If you prefer a smaller town vibe, places like Selfoss, Hafnarfjörður, or Ísafjörður may be suitable options. These towns offer a more close-knit community feel, slower pace of life, and easy access to nature.

4. It’s worth considering your personal preferences and priorities when choosing where to live in Iceland as an expat. Factors such as job opportunities, cost of living, proximity to nature, and community vibe can all play a role in finding the best city or region for your expat lifestyle in Iceland.

14. How safe is Iceland for expats?

1. Iceland is generally considered a very safe country for expats. It consistently ranks high on global safety indexes and has low levels of violent crime. The Icelandic society values social cohesion, trust, and equality, which contribute to the overall sense of safety in the country.
2. The low population density and close-knit communities also play a role in creating a safe environment for expats. The infrastructure in Iceland is well-maintained, and public services are efficient, adding to the overall feeling of security.
3. However, like any other country, expats should still exercise common sense and take necessary precautions to avoid becoming victims of petty crimes such as pickpocketing or theft, especially in tourist areas.
4. Overall, expats residing in Iceland can feel confident in the safety and security of their daily lives, making it a desirable destination for those looking for a secure and peaceful environment to live in.

15. What are the best local activities and events for expats to participate in?

Expat life in Iceland offers a multitude of exciting activities and events for individuals seeking to immerse themselves in the local culture. Some of the best local activities and events for expats to participate in include:

1. Outdoor adventures: Iceland is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, and expats can partake in various outdoor activities such as hiking, glacier walking, horseback riding, and kayaking to experience the country’s beauty firsthand.

2. Cultural festivals: Throughout the year, Iceland hosts a range of cultural events and festivals celebrating music, art, literature, and food. Expats can enjoy traditional Icelandic music at the Reykjavik Folk Festival, explore local craftsmanship at DesignMarch, or indulge in delicious Icelandic cuisine at the Food and Fun festival.

3. Language exchanges: Attending language exchange events is a great way for expats to practice Icelandic while meeting locals and other expats. These gatherings provide an informal setting to improve language skills and make new friends.

4. Seasonal celebrations: Participating in Icelandic seasonal celebrations like Þorrablót (Thorri Festival) in mid-winter or the arrival of summer festivities during the Icelandic National Day on June 17th allows expats to experience the unique customs and traditions of the country.

5. Social clubs and groups: Joining social clubs or groups catering to expats in Iceland can provide a sense of community and opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals. Whether it’s a photography club, hiking group, or book club, expats can find activities that align with their interests.

Participating in these activities and events not only introduces expats to Icelandic culture but also helps in building a fulfilling and enriching experience while living abroad.

16. How easy is it to open a bank account in Iceland as an expat?

Opening a bank account in Iceland as an expat can vary in terms of ease depending on the specific bank and your individual circumstances. Generally, opening a basic current account in Iceland as an expat is relatively straightforward if you have the required documentation. Typically, you will need to provide your passport, proof of address in Iceland, and in some cases, proof of income or employment. Some banks may also require a reference from your current bank.

1. It is advisable to check with different banks to compare their requirements and services before choosing where to open your account.
2. Be prepared for the process to take some time as banks in Iceland can be thorough in their verification procedures to prevent money laundering and fraud.
3. Having a good understanding of Icelandic banking practices and regulations can also help streamline the process.

17. What are the best ways to learn Icelandic as an expat?

1. Enrolling in Icelandic language courses offered by local language schools or community centers is one of the best ways to learn Icelandic as an expat. These courses are designed to cater to the needs of foreigners and provide a structured approach to learning the language.

2. Immersing yourself in the local Icelandic community can also greatly aid in learning the language. By interacting with native speakers on a daily basis, you can practice your language skills in real-life situations and pick up colloquialisms and nuances that you may not find in textbooks.

3. Utilizing online resources and apps specifically designed for learning Icelandic can be incredibly helpful. These tools often offer interactive exercises, vocabulary drills, and pronunciation guides that can supplement your formal language studies.

4. Hiring a private tutor who can provide personalized lessons tailored to your learning pace and goals can be a highly effective way to accelerate your progress in learning Icelandic. A tutor can offer one-on-one instruction, feedback, and encouragement to help you navigate the complexities of the language more efficiently.

5. Immerse yourself in Icelandic media such as TV shows, movies, music, and books. Listening to Icelandic radio stations or podcasts can also help you become more familiar with the language’s cadence and intonation.

6. Lastly, practice, practice, practice! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes when speaking Icelandic, as it’s all part of the learning process. The more you use the language in everyday situations, the more comfortable and proficient you will become over time.

18. How is the quality of the food and dining options for expats in Iceland?

The quality of food and dining options for expats in Iceland is generally very high. Iceland is known for its fresh, high-quality ingredients such as fish, lamb, and dairy products. The country also has a growing food scene with many restaurants offering a mix of traditional Icelandic dishes and international cuisines. Expats in Iceland can enjoy a variety of dining options, from casual cafes and food trucks to upscale restaurants. Additionally, Icelandic food culture emphasizes sustainability and locally sourced ingredients, which can be appealing to expats looking for a more environmentally conscious dining experience. Overall, expats living in Iceland can expect to enjoy a diverse and high-quality culinary scene during their time in the country.

19. What are some important cultural norms and etiquette for expats to be aware of in Iceland?

1. Respect for nature: Icelanders have a deep connection to their unique natural surroundings, and preserving the environment is a top priority. As an expat, it is crucial to show respect for nature by not littering, following designated trails when hiking, and being mindful of the delicate ecosystems.

2. Punctuality: Icelanders value punctuality and being on time for appointments, meetings, and social gatherings. It is considered impolite to be late, so make sure to plan ahead and arrive at your destination on time.

3. Personal space: Icelanders tend to value their personal space and may not be as physically demonstrative as in some other cultures. It is important to respect others’ personal boundaries and be mindful of personal space when interacting with locals.

4. Tipping: Tipping is not common in Iceland as service charges are usually included in the bill. While it is appreciated to round up the bill or leave a small tip for exceptional service, it is not expected or customary to tip excessively.

5. Dress code: Icelanders generally dress casually but neatly, even in formal settings. When in doubt, it is better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed. Additionally, due to the unpredictable weather, it is advisable to dress in layers and be prepared for changing conditions.

6. Communication style: Icelanders tend to be direct and straightforward in their communication. It is important to be honest and clear in your interactions to avoid misunderstandings. Additionally, politeness and courtesy are highly valued in Icelandic culture, so be sure to use please and thank you appropriately.

7. Alcohol consumption: Iceland has strict laws and regulations regarding the sale and consumption of alcohol. It is illegal to drink alcohol in public places, and the legal drinking age is 20 years old. It is important for expats to familiarize themselves with these regulations and drink responsibly.

By being aware of these cultural norms and etiquette in Iceland, expats can navigate social interactions and daily life more effectively, while also showing respect for Icelandic customs and traditions.

20. What resources are available for expats in Iceland, such as expat communities or support services?

Expats living in Iceland have access to various resources and support services tailored to help them navigate life in a new country. Some of the key resources available for expats in Iceland include:

1. Embassies and Consulates: Most countries have embassies or consulates in Iceland that can provide assistance with legal issues, visa applications, and other consular services for their citizens living in Iceland.

2. Expat Communities: There are several expat communities in Iceland where newcomers can connect with other expats, share experiences, and build a social network. Websites like InterNations and are popular platforms for expats to find community events and activities.

3. Social Media Groups: Platforms like Facebook have numerous expat groups specifically for those living in Iceland. These groups can be valuable for asking questions, seeking recommendations, and meeting new people in similar situations.

4. Language Courses: Learning Icelandic can greatly enhance the expat experience in Iceland. There are various language courses available in Reykjavik and other cities to help expats improve their language skills and integrate better into Icelandic society.

5. Legal and Administrative Support: Organizations like the International Organization for Migration (IOM) provide support and guidance on legal issues, residency permits, work permits, and other administrative matters for expats in Iceland.

6. Counseling and Mental Health Services: Moving to a new country can be challenging, and expats may face issues such as culture shock or homesickness. There are counseling services and mental health support groups in Iceland that cater to the expat community.

7. Job Search Assistance: Expats looking for employment in Iceland can seek assistance from job search platforms, recruitment agencies, and career counseling services that specialize in helping foreigners find work opportunities in the country.

Overall, expats in Iceland have access to a range of resources and support services that can help them settle in, connect with the local community, and make the most of their experience living abroad.