jump to content



1. Work-life balance

Icelanders are very family-centric—not surprising given the island's population of 369,000—and they value a healthy work-life balance. An average Icelandic workweek is 40 hours, and companies are typically family-friendly and flexible, understanding that there are dentist appointments, teacher's meetings, and calls to pick up a sick child. 

2. Equality at work

Iceland has been a leader in gender equality since 2009. While there is room for improvement, the gender pay gap for the same job is 4.5%. In 2017, the Icelandic government instituted Equal Pay Certification for transparency. Larger workplaces must prove that they pay their employees the same wage for the same job without discriminating based on sex. 

3. Easygoing business environment

People in a meeting at a workplace

Icelandic business culture is not very hierarchal, and no matter where you work in the company, equality is paramount. Because of the patronymic naming system, everyone is addressed by their first name, making the business environment less formal than elsewhere. Meetings are to the point and often happen over lunch or coffee.

4. Strong social protection

Iceland functions under the Nordic system of tripartite collaboration between employers, unions, and government. The three parties work together to seek mutually beneficial improvements, such as worker safety, wages, and the working environment. Tripartite collaboration encourages politicians and social partners to compromise and seek agreement to solve challenges while building societal trust and legitimacy. 

5. Value innovation and creative approach

Despite its small size, Iceland is remarkable at producing innovative solutions and creative output. Perhaps this is due to Iceland's long winters or inspirational scenery. More than likely, it boils down to the robust and inclusive Nordic welfare system. The social benefits of healthcare, childcare, parental leave, and affordable, high-quality education promote individuals to pursue their passions and explore opportunities without fear of "falling through the cracks." Combined with the Icelandic knack for ingenuity, many startups have flourished, discovering novel local solutions that happen to meet needs globally. Iceland ranks #4 in the World Economic Forum's World Talent Ranking 2020. The assessment accounts for three factors in countries:

  • Investment in and development of home-grown talent
  • A country's appeal to overseas talent
  • The quality of skills and competencies available

6. Safe and clean

Iceland has an extremely low crime rate, with violent crimes practically non-existent. Icelandic police do not carry guns, and the country tops the IEP's Global Peace Index. Children play outside unsupervised from an early age, often only returning when their dinner—or curfew starts! 

Iceland is a leader in sustainable energy and is powered almost 100% by hydroelectric and geothermal energy. Green energy and the lack of polluting industries have left Iceland's water, soil, and environment remarkably pristine. A diet rich in fish, clean air, and pure water has helped Icelanders reach an average life expectancy at birth of 83 years! 

7. Equality

Iceland has made tremendous progress toward equal opportunities for women and men in society and their lives. Efforts toward gender equality are a matter of national pride. Annually, Iceland scores very high on the worldwide Social Progress Index in Inclusiveness and Acceptance of gays and lesbians. Well-known Icelanders are open about their sexual orientation, including former prime minister (2009-2013) Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the world's first openly gay head of state in modern politics. 

8. Nature everywhere

Kirkjufell mountain

Wherever you may be in Iceland, you are not far from the sea or the mountains. A 20-minute drive from downtown Reykjavík, you can find some alone time for a hike in the mountains or walk along the beach. There are countless sightseeing opportunities with a wide variety of hiking and biking trails, horseback riding, golf (and frisbee golf) courses, and even surfing! It allows you to leave the office at the end of the day and get outside, especially during the long summer nights. Find out more on Visit Iceland.

9. Society and culture

Since Iceland has such a small population, there is no surprise that it has a strong sense of culture and community. Even the largest city, Reykjavik, has more of a seaside village feel. Iceland strives to maintain ties to its settlement (Viking) past while promoting music, art, and literature. While Iceland was not historically known for its culinary delights (rotten shark, pickled lamb testes, anyone?). Thanks to the recent tourism boom, the Icelandic food scene has stepped up its game and offers world-class fine dining.

10. Affordable healthcare and education

Children in school

After living legally in Iceland for six months, you will become part of the Icelandic Health Insurance system and not pay more than ISK 25,000 for healthcare in a month. Pregnancy check-ups and childbirth in Iceland are free of charge. 

Education in Iceland is affordable and very good. The schools are free (primary through high school), with optional afterschool programs for minimal cost. Subsidized daycare is available for all children from the age of two to support both parents working. University education is reasonably priced and depends on the school and where the student is from.