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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Iceland

Iceland: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Iceland

Businesspeople are expected to dress smartly. Local businesspeople are conservative but very friendly and most speak English. Previous appointments are not generally necessary, although visits between May and September should be planned in advance as many local businesspeople travel abroad at this time.

When meeting a business counterpart in Iceland, a handshake is the normal form of greeting. Although an Icelander's second language is generally Danish, a very high proportion of the population is fluent in English. Characteristically, Icelanders can be quite reserved but very direct. Visitors are often invited into homes (especially if on business) and bringing a gift for the host is the norm (a bottle of foreign wine is always welcomed). Instead of surnames, the majority of Icelanders use the system of patronymics. The first name of the father is used plus son (son) or daughter (dóttir) instead of a surname. Because of this, the telephone directory is listed by first name.

Standard office hours are Monday to Friday 0900-1700 (although many firms alter this to 0800-1600 during the summer).

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1600 (summer) and 0900-1700 (winter).

Economy

Iceland made headlines around the world in October 2008 when the country’s three banks suffered an economic collapse. Iceland was hit hard by the global recession, and as a result the Icelandic government had to step in and seize control of the country's biggest banks in a rescue operation that sent shockwaves around the island and beyond.

Until that point Icelanders enjoyed a per capita income that was amongst the highest in the world at US$21.3 billion (2007)/US$17.64 billion (2008 estimate). The country had been in a positive economic period; in 2007 economic growth was at 2.5% and unemployment at a very low 1%. Latest figures for 2017 showed unemployment at 2.8%. The future is uncertain but the country has started to rally and with increasing numbers of tourists visiting for some of the best Northern Lights shows of recent times, as well as volcano tourism, there have been some positive signs.

Iceland is short of raw materials and so relies heavily on foreign trade; exports of goods and services account for more than one-third of GNP. The largest proportion of these derives from fishing, Iceland's most important export (around 40% of its export earnings). The economy is therefore particularly susceptible to fluctuating fish prices and maintains a broad fisheries exclusion zone of 320km (almost 200 miles) to protect its earnings. The government remains opposed to EU membership, primarily because of concern about losing control over their fishing resources.

Aluminium smelters are playing an increasingly big part in Iceland's economy, and have polarised Icelanders in recent years. While some argue that the pristine nature of the interior should be preserved at all costs, others think it should be tapped to regenerate areas where traditional industries are no longer viable.

There are several large hotels in Reykjavík equipped for conferences and business meetings, while smaller conferences may be held at venues outside the capital. The new Icelandic National Concert and Conference Centre, also known as Harpa, offers state of the art conference facilities and aims to encourage European and North American businesses to meet mid-Atlantic. As well as a large 750-seater lecture hall, the centre has a world-class concert hall attracting international musicians and performers.

GDP

US$23 billion (2017).

Main exports

Fish and fish products, aluminium and alloys, agricultural products, medicinal and medical products, and ferro-silicon.

Main imports

Machinery and equipment, petroleum products, foodstuffs and textiles

Main trading partners

EU, China, Switzerland, Norway, Brazil, and USA.

Keeping in Touch in Iceland

Telephone

Public telephones are increasingly hard to locate, but can be found at the post office in central Reykjavík as well as other roadside areas. Skype is a good option for calling abroad cheaply. The majority of Icelanders use mobile phones.

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with many international companies. Coverage is good. Pre-paid GSM phonecards, which travellers can use with their own GSM phones, can be purchased at petrol stations around the country. GSM phones may also be rented at several locations.

Internet

Internet cafes can be found, especially in Reykjavík, and Wi-Fi is widely available in hotels and hostels throughout the country.

Media

Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RUV) is a public-service broadcaster owned by the state, which runs national radio and TV services. The RUV has to promote the Icelandic language, history and culture. There is guaranteed press freedom.

In terms of printed press dailies include Fréttablaðið and Morgunblaðið, whilst Viðskiptablaðið is a business paper. Baejarins besta provides West Fjords local news and Iceland Review (www.icelandreview.com) is an English-language magazine focusing on all aspects of Icelandic life, and also has news. The Reykjavík Grapevine (www.grapevine.is) is free and has listings and up to the minute information on the city in English. It is available widely in cafes and shops.

Stöð 2 is the main private television station but other ones include Sjónvarp Símans, whilst The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service operates the public network Sjónvarpið. In terms of radio, Bylgjan is the main private station. The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service operates two national networks and four regional stations of public radio.

Post

There is an efficient airmail service to Europe.

Post Office hours

Mon-Fri 0830-1630. The post office in Kringlan shopping centre is open on Saturdays 1000-1800. Some offices open Mon-Fri 1000-1800.