If you were being relocated to the world’s northernmost capital, where would you be going, and what could you expect to find there?
Reykjavík, Iceland, is the northernmost capital city in the world. Iceland itself is a country of superlatives: It is Europe’s westernmost country. Icelanders publish and purchase more books per capita than any other people in the world.
It also tops the World Economic Forum’s list of countries with the greatest equality between genders. The world’s first democratically elected female head of state was Iceland’s President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir in 1980, who at the time was a single mother. Progressive attitudes with regard to women’s rights are the norm.
Sparsely populated – with only three people per sq.km – Iceland has the lowest population density in Europe. There are, in fact, twice as many sheep as people on the island nation.
It is also a nation of fascinating geological characteristics – from natural thermal swimming pools to massive glaciers.
Icelanders enjoy an excellent quality of life, with very high life expectancy – Icelandic women compete statistically with the Japanese for longevity, and men live long lives as well. The literacy rate is effectively 100 percent. Newcomers will find, in Reykjavík, a cosmopolitan city that is technologically advanced, while retaining an old-world feel. At this time of year, it is also dark much of the time. Today, January 29, residents enjoy just under seven hours of light, after the sun rises at 10:17am.
The environment is clean – if widely divergent – and pollution is not a problem. You may remember the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption in 2010. It sent ash high into the atmosphere, flooded surrounding areas with glacial melt, and seriously disrupted European air traffic. Eruptions of this magnitude are rare, but scientists are watching Katla, a volcano on Iceland’s southern coast that is showing signs of a significant event.
Iceland’s banks faced a different kind of eruption during the global recession. Major banks failed, shaking the economy while unemployment spiked. Recovery is well under way, and Iceland’s per capita GDP is one of the highest in Europe, at about US$35,600.
After applying for EU membership in 2009, and beginning accession negotiations in 2010, Iceland is considering a referendum to withdraw the application. Many Icelanders have opposed joining the EU, increasingly concerned about home fishing rights and current Eurozone instability. Iceland continues to be a nation of affluent, educated people who blaze their own trails, and offers a unique experience to anyone relocating there.