Iceland Business Etiquette

Velkomin til Íslands(‘‘Welcome to Iceland!” in Icelandic)

Does the Icelandic greeting seem familiar to you? It should, because like other countries that we have covered in our Travel Tuesday series (namely: Norway and Denmark), Iceland is considered a Scandinavian country. As such, Iceland shares some key elements with its Scandinavian counterparts. The Icelandic language is a Scandinavian language, also known as a North Germanic language, and shares many similar fundamentals with both Norwegian and Danish.

Because Iceland is an island country, whaling and fishing are still thriving industries. In addition, Iceland is a leading producer of renewable energy. As of 2014, Iceland ranks #8 on the list of the world’s greenest countries.

Before you fly on over to Iceland, let’s first learn about the dos and don’ts of Icelander business etiquette.

The Lowdown

  • The capital Iceland is Reykjavík, which is also the country’s largest city.
  • The official language of Iceland is Icelandic.
  • Icelandic people are referred to as “Icelanders.”
  • 93% of the population identifies ethnically as Icelander.
  • Iceland is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic.
  • Iceland is a member of NATO. In fact, it has the smallest population of any current member of NATO. The country also has no standing army.
  • Fun fact: Iceland has over 20 active volcanoes! In fact, said volcanoes have become a popular ecotourism attraction in recent decades.

Dressing Sharp

  • Icelanders take pride in their appearance, and many business people will be dressed quite fashionably.
  • For business meetings, dress formally unless otherwise told. This will impress your Icelander business counterparts.
  • It is always better to underdress than over-dress.
  • Men should wear: dark, well-tailored suits with a pressed shirt and tie.
  • Women should wear: dark, well-tailored suits (with either pants or a skirt).
  • Ensure that all accessories, including shoes, are well-presented.
  • Remember to bring a coat! Iceland’s temperatures can drop quite low.

Make or Break Meetings

  • Schedule meetings a few weeks in advance. It is also a good idea to reiterate the meeting time in military form so as to avoid potential confusion.
  • Punctuality is highly valued, but if you are running late, an apology should suffice.
  • Although Icelandic is the official language of the country, English is widely spoken in business. Check to ensure your business contact speaks English before arriving.
  • Greet your business contact with a firm handshake and good eye contact to assert confidence.
  • Business cards are exchanged at the initial meeting.

Dining Decorum

  • It’s very common to have a business meal in Iceland. Icelanders enjoy mixing business and fun.
  • Dress well for the dinner, although the dress code will probably be more lax than in the office.
  • Iceland has some fine restaurants with traditional Iceland foods such as reindeer, berries, mushrooms, lamb, and, of course, fish.  Whale meat is also available in many establishments.
  • Table manners are formal and similar to other Nordic countries. Check the aforementioned blogs about Norway and Denmark for additional pointers!
  • The cost of eating out in Iceland is usually pretty steep; however, the gratuity is included in the bill, so no need to tip on top of the bottom line.

Giving and Getting Gifts

  • It is relatively common to be invited to the home of an Icelander; if this occurs, it is polite to bring a small gift for the host.
  • Acceptable gifts include: liquor, wine, an item bearing your company logo, or an item from your home country.
  • Because Iceland has several long-standing wineries, make sure that any wine given is of a very good vintage.

Down to Business

  • Business communication is quite direct in Iceland, similar to communication in the United States and Germany.
  • Because business people are direct, negotiations are not as drawn-out as in other countries.
  • Icelanders are honest people and value transparency in business talk.
  • When an agreement is reached, Icelanders will keep their word and will expect you to keep yours.
  • Don’t be alarmed if you are asked to meet at the home of an Icelander to discuss business. This is normal!


Now that you're well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Iceland, don't forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb! Bless! ("Goodbye!" in Icelandic)