Iceland Customs – What You Should Know Before Your Trip to Iceland
Article by Isabella Olsen
The Land of Fire and Ice, Iceland is littered with majestic volcanoes and glaciers. It is also a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, especially bird-watchers and whale-watchers. It is a dream come true for those who love outdoor adventure, as well, since it offers various activities such as horseback riding, skiing and whitewater rafting. Indeed, Iceland is a popular European tourist destination. Before you go on a trip there, though, it is good to learn some of the basic Iceland customs first.
Just like other countries in Europe, it is one of the customs in Iceland to shake hands and say ‘hello’. Kissing each other’s cheeks is acceptable, too, along with wishing each other happiness by saying ‘Sael’ (to a man) or ‘Saell’ (to a woman).
Another Iceland custom is to take off your shoes in the hallway when you enter someone’s home. Also, don’t be surprised if someone asks you to be a guest in his or her house since Icelanders love to have guests. Just make sure you bring a bouquet of flowers or a similar token of appreciation when you show up.
If you have been invited to dine, keep in mind that you don’t need to say grace or express gratitude before meals like the French or the Japanese. Rather, follow customs in Iceland by eating heartily then thanking your host afterwards by shaking his hand.
Keep in mind, too, that believing in mysterious or ‘hidden’ beings such as elves and trolls is part of the traditions in Iceland, so don’t bring up the subject about them casually. Indeed, most of the unique and sometimes bizarre rock formations in Iceland is attributed to elves or trolls, Elf ‘habitats’ are protected, as well.
Tipping, on the other hand, is not one of the Iceland customs, whether you’re in a hotel or a restaurant. This is something you’ll be happy to know since prices are relatively steep in Iceland compared to the countries in mainland Europe.
Are you planning on spending Christmas in Iceland? If so, make sure to practice saying ‘Gleileg jol gott og fars!’ first, which is the local Christmas greeting. Keep in mind, too, that it is part of the traditions in Iceland to have long Christmas holidays – 26 days, to be specific. There are 13 Santa Clauses, too!
These are just some of the most common Iceland customs. True, there may be no law requiring you to follow them, but there is no harm in doing so. In fact, you might just be rewarded with a rich cultural experience and a more meaningful trip to Iceland.
About the Author
Isabella Olsen is a writer for various travel magazines who has toured global tourist destinations, including Iceland, by car. To book your Iceland car hire or learn more about car rental worldwide, visit www.zencarhire.com.