Reykjavik, Iceland Report of what it's like to live there - 06/23/15

Personal Experiences from Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland 06/23/15

Background:

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

Second tour in the Nordics.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Dallas - so we start with direct flights with WOW or Icelandair to the east coast.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Six months

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

US Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The usual drill: apartments in town, and stand-alone houses a bit further out. Commuting isn't really an issue for a city this size.

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

Again, there are plenty of options available, but the prices will certainly give you pause.

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

I would have gone very HEAVY on any consummable items I could add my household shipment...grocery, dry goods, cleaning supplies, the lot.

Extra yak-trax (against icy sidewalks) and reflector pins (against winter darkness).

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

Considering the size of Reykjavik, there is a good number of restaurant/coffe shop/cafe options. Be prepared for sticker-shock, though.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch, which usually takes two weeks in one direction.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Nothing available at the mission but there are numerous private gyms in town. Shop around.

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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?

Credit cards for just about everything. You can use cash if you must but you'll get funny looks.

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

Always a nice touch, but not strictly necessary.

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

Yes, definitely. There are a few places in town that have access for people with disabilities but not many. And the mission itself is not ADA compliant.

I will add that there's no snow/ice removal in the winter, so a even a simple walk down the sidewalk can be dodgy. Yak-trax/crampons are the answer.

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Transportation:

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

Buses and taxis are safe, and affordable. You can get bus passes for one month (or longer), which represent some savings and convenience.

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2. 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?

Suggest 4WD, fully kitted out for serious winter driving.

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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?

Yes

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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?

The Embassy issues cell phones to its employees.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I don't have a pet, but gather that the city regulations about having a pet in town (e.g. in an apartment) are extremely strict. Ask before you get here!

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Very few - and Icelandic language ability is a key factor for those.

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

Tends to be more formal at work, and in public what I call "Eddie Bauer Bright."

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Health & Safety:

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

None.

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

No concerns but be aware there's no health unit at post.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Pristine.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Icelandic diet is heavy on seafood and dairy, FYI.

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

Variations on cold. Summer months (with the very long days) mean up to the 50's or even 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter brings the darkness and a wide variety of weather patterns: snow, sleet, ice, rain, and winds strong enough to knock you over.

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Expat Life:

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

Fairly good sized expat community, all things considered.

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

The great outdoors, & Reykjavik's famous night life.

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

Yes to all, and I would say particularly good for families with young children. It's very safe here.

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

I believe yes.

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

No

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Having the opportunity to see the Northern Lights.

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

Again, the great outdoors: northern lights, whale watching, hikes, visiting waterfalls, glaciers, hot pots, etc.

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

Woolen sweaters

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The great outdoors.

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10. Can you save money?

Not a chance.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Iceland's remoteness, and the price of things (even with COLA) can be challenging.

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

Probably not (great place for a vacation, though).

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

Reykjavik is one of the Nordic's capital cities. That said, it is quite different from our neighbors to the east. It's unique!

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4. But don't forget your:

Yak trax

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

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0679767924/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0679767924&linkCode=as2&tag=thesunspousunder&linkId=2UOATJUJAXJ3CZJR

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Don't know of any specific movies, but Iceland has been featured in multiple films and videos.

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