Adapting to Icelandic Culture

During my time in Iceland I came across small differences that I would have loved to have known about before coming. Here are some regarding the Icelandic culture:


  • Firstly very expensive as most of the fruit and vegetables are imported so anything fresh is practically double what it is in the UK
  • I would recommend the frozen section in the maintown supermarket ‘Bonus’. They have other shops in the centre of town such as 10/11 but be careful as they charge much more
  • The opening times are very limited with bonus so make sure you are aware
  • Vinbudin is the liquor store and the only place to buy alcohol, this also has very limited opening times


  • Icelandic people are extremely fluent in English and so you will never struggle with a language barrier. The humour is also very similar and they run comedy nights in English at some bars
  • You will be mostly surrounded in classes by international students who have English as a second language which is quite interesting but sometimes there is a cultural barrier.
  • Google translate is also very good with documents, but the people in Iceland are always happy to help


  • Icelandic people love to drink but only on weekends
  • There are plenty of gigs on mainly in the hostel and bars with such a variety of different music
  • I would suggest going to any festivals in Reykjavik as sometimes they are free to wander around
  • There are plenty of cinemas showing both mainstream and independent films
  • Swimming is something really popular as an activity in Iceland. Although in England we tend to associate going swimming as something for young families, in Iceland they treat it as a social event. I would recommend checking out the swimming pools with an outdoor thermal pool and the thermal beach as it is very different to anything in England.
  • You can also get a bus during the summer that takes you to a thermal river which you can swim and bathe in
  • With regards to shopping, there is a shopping centre just outside of 101 Reykjavik called Kringlan. This is where you can buy things like clothes, food and go to the cinema. It has a Zara, Topshop and some other recognisable brands. There is also a free bus from the centre of town that runs every hour.
  • I would recommend getting a job as for one it is expensive as I’ve already mentioned, and it’s a great way to meet new people. The bars and restaurants are always looking for staff and it lets you get to know the culture and meet more Icelandic people.

icelandic landscape

Written by Amber Hunt – University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland


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