What Is Life Really Like In Iceland?


In May 2016, the United Nations released its
annual World Happiness Report, which ranks more than 150 countries according to their
quality of life. Perhaps surprisingly, the tiny nordic country of Iceland ranked higher
than nearly every nation on this list, despite its isolation, extreme weather and long, dark
winters. So, what is life like in Iceland, and why are Icelandic people so happy? Well, in just about every sense, Iceland is
small. At just under 40 thousand square miles, the entire country could fit inside the US
state of Kentucky. Iceland’s population of just over 300 thousand is extremely homogeneous,
with nearly 95 percent ethnic Icelandic. About two thirds of its people live in or around
the capital, Reykjavik, which ranks as one of the safest, cleanest, and most eco-friendly
cities in the world. And Reykjavik is not too different from the
rest of Iceland, as the country runs almost completely on renewable, geothermal energy,
and boasts extremely low crime rates. In fact, it has one of the lowest per capita murder
rate in the world, with one for every 100 thousand people. As a result, police and security
have little presence, and even the country’s larger cities function more like small towns.
Icelandic people have high levels of collective trust, and, as such, are known to keep valuables
in plain sight and send their young children to school by themselves. This cooperative mentality is reinforced by
Iceland’s government infrastructure. The country is a parliamentary republic, and maintains
a generous social welfare system that provides free education through college, as well as
health care and nine months of paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers. As a result,
most Icelanders are healthy, well-educated and employed. The unemployment rate is just
five percent, and the average citizen lives about 83 years, which is 12 years longer than
the global average. This can also be attributed to Icelanders’ healthy lifestyles. A typical
Icelandic meal is a smörgåsbord of organic produce, yogurt and local fish, and the most
popular leisure activities are ice climbing, kayaking and going to the gym. Another national pastime is reading and writing.
Iceland publishes more books per capita and translates more international literature than
any other nation in the world. And, studies show that roughly one in ten Icelanders will
publish a book in their lifetime. But perhaps the best symbol of Iceland’s
ubiquitous health, happiness and unity, are its huge heated public pools, also called
sundlaugar. These pools are widely regarded as a kind of civil right, and families, teenagers
and seniors are known to lounge in them in near nudity every day. Sundlaugar are not
only lauded for their health benefits, but also their ability to unite the community
and build public trust. Experts say Iceland’s strong sense of community
has solidified their so-called ‘happiness maintenance’, which is a consistently high
happiness rate even when the country is in crisis. For example, after the 2007 global
recession decimated the country’s economy, some Icelanders actually reported greater
happiness. Experts say this is because those who lost their jobs tended not to feel isolated,
as Icelanders can count on their friends, family and government for support. With a
healthy, educated populace and a strong safety net, life in Iceland doesn’t look too bad. And Iceland isn’t the only happy-go-lucky
Nordic country, the rest of them are pretty well off with a high standard of living. But
are they powerful politically or economically? Find out by watching this video! Thank for
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Daniel Yohans

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