People and Culture in Iceland

Iceland is a place of dramatic natural beauty, where the Northern Lights shine in the sky and geysers burst forth from the earth. During parts of the winter, the island nation sees little or no sunlight at all while the temperate summers feature near constant daylight.

Remember how your parents used to tell you to keep your elbows off the table during meals? Or that it’s rude to slurp your soup? Well there’s good news guys, these American cultures and customs don’t always translate to other countries! While the local people you meet won’t expect you to be fluent in their language, culture and customs, it is important to familiarize yourself with them.

Do you know how kissing, snoring and other things sound in other languages? That’s right, even sound effects can be translated!

The most important thing to remember while you’re abroad is that things will be different. But, different doesn’t mean wrong. Be open, be curious, and read more about the culture you will be stepping into. Get excited about LIVING the life you’ve only dreamt and read about until now!

Iceland Facts

  • Capital City: Reykjavik
  • Officially: The Republic of Iceland
  • Population: 329,100
  • Official Language: Icelandic
  • Iceland, along with Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, is one of the Nordic Countries.
  • About 63% of Iceland’s population is concentrated in and around Reykjavik
  • In Iceland, children do not adopt their parents’ surnames; children adopt their father’s given name as the first part of their surname and add a suffix to it depending on if they are male or female (-sson for males and –sdottir for females). If you were Icelandic, you could have a different surname from your siblings!



Nearly all of the world’s native Icelandic speakers live within the country. It is a notoriously difficult language to learn; it is the closest living language to Old Norse and both the written and spoken language, as a result of Iceland’s relative isolation from the rest of the world, has retained many of aspects of the ancient language (including the rune-letters þ and ð).

Fear not; English is required learning for all Icelandic school children, so the entire population has a significant exposure to the language and most Icelanders are fluent.

#CISabroadtip: Do some more research into the Icelandic customs you’ll experience while abroad.