In the last few years, traveling in Iceland has become incredibly popular. Initially put on the map by the now-bankrupt ultra-budget airline WOW air, it was essentially advertised as “Europe light”. Minimal culture shock and a perfect mastery of English by most of the population, Iceland was initially considered a good place to start learning to travel. The idea was that you’d jump on the plane, be incredibly uncomfortable during a long-haul flight, spend a couple of days in Reykjavik, come home, and tell everyone it’s actually pronounced Kepelbik. Your friends would hate you for ten minutes, then continue discussing the latest football scores.
Traveling in Iceland now is a very different story. People do indeed land in Reykjavik, but most spend at most two days there and then move on partake in some of Iceland’s incredible nature-based activities. But as new travelers may or may not know, there’s a certain degree of travel etiquette that should be followed. Though Iceland is a comparatively comfortable destination, some rules must be obeyed.
First of all, and this is the case for traveling anywhere really, it is highly frowned upon to demand special attention because of where you come from. This can take place in many kinds of contexts, such as shouting the name of your country because there’s a game on at a sports bar that you just had to go to. Even in this setting is this rude. Other similar behaviors include demanding that your language be accommodated for and acting entitled because of the place you come from (well I’m from so and so).
Speaking of etiquette, there’s a good chance you’ll end up doing some water-based outing while you’re in Iceland. The mineral-filled waters have a myriad of benefits for the body and are a pleasure to soak in. However! Be sure to wash your body well before entering the pools. You aren’t the only person who has sweated through their layers throughout the day, so making the rest of the tub users endure yours is incredibly rude.
Returning to language, Icelanders will appreciate any attempts you make at speaking their language. Yes, you’ll probably mispronounce every other syllable, but your effort will be appreciated. Because of the recent appearance of their country on the travel-friendly map, the population has been bombarded with American tourists automatically assuming they speak English. Your poor enunciation will for sure be a breath of fresh air.
Make sure you try Icelandic cuisine during your wanderings. Yes, you’ll see cooked whole sheep heads in the frozen section, which is quite off-putting when you see it for the first time, but be brave and give it a shot. If you simply can’t get behind it, try some of the many different kinds of fish dishes that the country is famous for. Iceland has been sustaining itself on fish for centuries and has become well-schooled in its preparation and preservation. A popular snack is dried fish, which sounds and smells a little strange, but is incredibly delicious. Think sushi flavored beef jerky.
When you’re wandering around the big city, you’ll likely encounter a chain called 10-11. A local 7-11, 10-11 is famous for one thing: being incredibly overpriced. Iceland isn’t cheap to begin with, but when you decide to save money by cooking and then spend twice as much on groceries as you would at a restaurant, there’s a serious problem. Like other Icelandic businesses, they also raise their prices after 11 PM.