How to be a local in Iceland
Tourism to the little Nordic island of Iceland has sky-rocketed since the turn of the century and it has received plenty of publicity. Some would say the 2010 eruption of Mount Eyjafjallajökull put it on the map, others would cite the fact that it takes a starring role in the HBO hit Game of Thrones.
Whatever springs to mind when you think about the land of fire and ice, it seems to be one of those places that sits on many a bucket list.
Whatever your reasons to visit, as with any location, knowing a little bit about the locals will help your enjoyment. To aid you with this, here are the Flexicover team's top five tips to know before you go.
Few places on earth demonstrate the fragility of our ecosystem as obviously as Iceland. As expected in the home of the original geyser numerous volcanoes and naturally heated swimming pools, there's an enormous respect for Mother Nature. So if you're going to visit, be a responsible tourist and consider the impact of all your actions on the earth. To do as the locals do, at the very least ensure you recycle as much as you can but also remember you can offset your carbon footprint for a guilt-free trip.
Have a dry sense of humour
One of the very best and noticeable things about Iceland is their strong sense of humour. We're not just talking about Björk's tongue-in-cheek dress sense - from shopkeepers to presidents, interactions are peppered with smart asides. As Icelanders find humour in even the smallest of oddities, jokes may pass us by - or we may be too quick to assume it's the result of the language barrier. But Icelanders are smart people and they're always looking for the next source of amusement, even if that source is the straight-laced tourist who's a little slow on the uptake.
Icelandic people have a strong sense of style, which makes them stand out from the crowd. Men tend to dress smartly in lumberjack chic; with their thick beards and jeans, you'd be inclined to think that the hipster look was inspired by Iceland. On the other hand, women's style is more daring. You'll find them wearing neon colours, bold designs and new styles of dresses with ease and grace. But both sexes are equally comfortable not being dressed at all; at swimming pools, tourists are the only ones trying to get changed by wriggling underneath a towel. Instead, do as the locals do and change freely with the knowledge that no one's judging you.
Believe in fairytales
Thanks to their strong Viking roots, the belief in folklore hasn't disappeared. Records dating back to 1000AD show the Vikings acknowledged the existence of Huldufólk - hidden people - in their native land. This belief continues today; the latest studies show that over half the population believe in these magical creatures. The need to protect their environment is taken so seriously that clairvoyant consultants are employed to make sure building projects don't interfere with supernatural residences. So if you hear talk of elves, dwarves and other mysterious creatures, listen with an open mind.
Be tolerantHappily for such a near-homogenous community, tolerance is a key element of the national psyche. Perhaps it's the overall level of foresight and understanding within Iceland that makes it so, but everyone is accepted with an equally warm welcome regardless of religion, background or social position. In 2009, Iceland became the first country to elect an openly gay female leader (and a year later, the Mayor of Reykjavik joined the Pride parade in drag). So do as the Icelanders do and come to Iceland with an open heart, which fits nicely with that open mind.
Wherever you plan to head to this year it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.