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Social Life in Iceland

Behavior

The Icelanders are very well aware of the world around them as well as the differences in opinions and behaviors. Because of this they are quite understanding of various cultures and foreigners so odd behaviors are generally accepted (but not encouraged).

Your behavior should begin with modesty as being loud, rude, showing off wealth, or dressing provocatively will get you stares. Likewise, placing yourself above others or boasting is viewed negatively, whether that be in your attitude, talking about finances, making others wait for you at a meeting, polluting their environment, or even in personal relationships. Putting others down gets the same reaction; Icelanders view men, women, minorities, and people of all sexual orientations as equals and not doing the same can be very offensive.

As a visitor to Iceland, try to follow the lead of the locals by being modest, dressing in like manner (see below for details), dining in the local etiquette (see our Iceland Dining & Food Page), and avoiding sensitive conversation topics such as politics, finances, and business unless initiated by your local counterpart.

Dress

The traditional dress of Iceland is based on that of other Scandinavian countries as Iceland was settled by these people. This traditional dress, called Þjóðbúningurinn, includes a dress for women called a faldbúningur as well as underwear called upphlutur, but in more recent times these outfits have evolved and have inspired other traditional outfits. The faldbúningur was a dress with a long, loose-fitting skirt and a tighter blouse with long sleeves, which came in various styles and with multiple decorations. For men the traditional dress is a bit of a mystery, but it seems the outfit likely consisted of simple pants, a shirt, a jacket, and perhaps also a hat and boots.

Today these traditional outfits are only worn by a small number of people at particular celebrations or occasions. Nearly everyone in Iceland today wears modern western-styled clothing, but due to the country's northerly location seasonal variations strongly affect the dress. Sitting on the ocean, the country doesn't experience vast temperature differences from season to season, but the weather has significant variation and the people dress to reflect these changes.

As a visitor to Iceland you may wear any western-styled clothing, but be prepared for the weather variations and try to dress for the occasion or location. Churches, business, and some formal restaurants encourage more formal and conservative dress, but the people are fairly liberal so are accepting of nearly anything; the people are also quite modest though so don't wear anything that will draw particular attention to yourself.

This page was last updated: November, 2013