Generally, I try to write positive things about Iceland, but by popular demand I am going to cover what I think are the downsides of living there. As I’ve done two lists of good things it’s only fair.
I’m going to stay away from “controversial” issues such as tourist numbers, that thing with the economy and why the same President has been in power for almost 20 years in the hope of not incurring a ban for life…
1. Small population – everyone knows you. Now, this can also be a good thing in that it instills a sense of responsibility towards your neighbours, you can’t get away with things, and people are likely to help you out if only because everyone will know about it if they don’t. The disadvantage is that particularly outside of Reykavík it is hard to meet anyone “new”, they all know everything about you, etc. Even *I* recognise everyone in the shops. Imagine having to do business with people who remember everything stupid you did when you were a child. This would drive me mad.
2. Lack of “career” options. This is a problem if you are a corporate person who wants to move around between companies and up the corporate ladder. There are only so many big companies in Iceland and many people have to work in tourism, which may not be their choice, due to lack of other opportunities. Sadly a lot of bright people emigrate to where there are more jobs.
3. The weather. I know, I’m always telling you that the weather isn’t anywhere near as bad as people think it is. What I do think is hard about it is the stretch between winter and summer – there really isn’t a spring, the weather is usually winter-like right up until April/May.
4. Lack of choice. High import costs dictate that there will only ever be so much fresh food available, especially out of season. Local greenhouses do what they can, but many foods that Europeans and North Americans take for granted can be hard to find, or if you do find them, are poor quality or too expensive. Many global shopping brands don’t exist in Iceland either, but you won’t save any money, because what there is isn’t cheap.
5. Big, scary nature. Most people don’t come from somewhere with all the exciting natural features that Iceland offers and worryingly tourists often underestimate them. Let’s think – how should you behave around volcanoes, glaciers, cliff edges, hot springs and rocky coastlines? As usual, people leave their brains behind when they go on holiday. This point is only a “negative” for tourists. Icelanders are perfectly capable of living amongst all of this without needing rescue.
6. Running is hard. This is a purely personal issue, but in Iceland you either have to run outside in usually mega-windy conditions or inside on a treadmill (ugh). Obviously, it can be done and you see superfit people everywhere but I like my running outside and preferably without being bent horizontally. It’s no wonder Icelanders do well in international sporting competitions. (Yes, I am going to do the Reykjavik race one year – I’ll be putting in a request for sunny skies and a slight tailwind).
7. Junk food is taking over. I love junk food as much as anyone but even I feel ill after a few days in Iceland. Some of the best things to be found there are the crazy pizza toppings (peanuts, bananas, cream cheese, need I go on), jam burgers and fun chocolate. I suppose this is another problem with being dependent on imports – you import everyone else’s bad ideas and long-term health problems and obesity.
8. They’re all night owls. Another problem for me as an early bird – nothing opens at the time I’d like it to and everyone stays up all night. You’d need to learn adapt to this or do shift work!
9. No crowds. If you live in Iceland you’ve got to leave the country to see things other people take for granted. There’s never going to be stadium concerts, F1 races, world film premieres, the Olympics, Eurovision (well, ok, maybe Eurovision). There just isn’t a big enough physical audience to put anything big on – and although I hate crowds, I do like the luxury of being able to go to “big” things sometimes without a huge amount of travel.
10. TV is crap. This is perhaps even more disappointing as there have been some brilliant TV series and they show brilliant handball matches as a main sporting event – so why is it that 95% of the time when you put the TV on it is those 10 second ads, or the news, or some kids show….
Some of these are quite personal issues – I appreciate that if you like to stay up late, aren’t a runner and hate F1 you’ll be wondering what the problem is. So why don’t you share some of your frustrations about Iceland or somewhere else you like to travel?