Iceland at a Glance
Moving to Iceland
Before moving to Iceland, you should be aware that the country is prone to natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. However, as TV presenter Magnús Magnússon put it, the people of Iceland have chosen to stay and tough it out for more than 1100 years. You will thus get in touch with a society which has prevailed, despite hardships, and formed a modern society over the years.
Location and Climate
Iceland is Europe’s westernmost country. Located between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, it is famous for its fjords and volcanoes. Moreover, more of Iceland’s landmass is covered by glaciers than that of any other European country. If you are moving to Iceland from another European country, you’ll be happy to learn that it only takes three hours by plane to travel there from most major European cities.
Unlike what you might expect when you move to Iceland, the climate is rather temperate. The North Atlantic Current makes for moderate temperatures in this northern country. You will experience exceptionally mild, yet windy winters and cool summers.
Politics in Iceland
Upon moving to Iceland, you’ll soon learn about its constitutional republic with a strong democratic background. The Althing, the world’s oldest legislative assembly, was established in 930 by Norwegian and Celtic settlers. Subsequently ruled by Denmark and Norway, Iceland gained independence about 300 years ago. However, the country’s civil law system is still influenced by the Danish model.
The president, currently Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, is the chief of state while Iceland’s prime minister is the head of the government. He is elected by popular vote for four-year terms. The next election will take place in June 2016. The prime minister, a position currently occupied by Johanna Sigurdardottir, appoints the Cabinet. Iceland’s unicameral parliament (Althing) consists of 63 members who are elected by popular vote. In 2013, when the last election was held, the Social Democratic Alliance won 30.16% of the votes and thus occupies most seats in the parliament.
The Icelandic Language
Iceland not only has an amazing landscape but also a language which has hardly changed throughout the last few centuries. Icelandic derived from Old Norse and belongs to the North Germanic Languages, along with Norwegian and Faroese. Except for some Celtic influences in Icelandic literature, Icelandic has not been affected much by other languages, due to the lack of foreign settlers moving to Iceland.
Until the 14th century, Icelandic remained very similar to Norwegian. Only when Norwegian changed due to the influence of its Danish and Swedish neighbors did it begin to differ greatly from Icelandic. Even today, Icelandic schoolchildren are able to understand Norwegian texts from the 12th century.
Upon your move to Iceland, you will quickly find that the language is considered one of the cornerstones of the country’s culture and that people take great pride in it. In the 18th century, a language purism movement developed. Thus, Icelanders usually do not adopt foreign words for new things, but try to invent new words or give old words a new meaning. Although you should try to pick up at least a basic knowledge of Icelandic, English and Danish are still widely spoken.