The Pros and Cons of Iceland

The Pros and Cons of Iceland
Iceland is an island which can be found in the northern reaches of the Atlantic Ocean. Nestled between Greenland and Europe, approximately 320,000 people call this country home. Many people know very little about the country of Iceland and it might be interesting to discuss the different pros and cons of living there.

The climate in Iceland is one of the first things that we should examine. This country is located near the Arctic Circle which should give you a decent indication that Iceland is not a warm place to live. In fact, the highest temperature on record is just 30.5 degrees Celsius. You might think that is not cold but keep in mind that is a the norm here. During the course of the year, average temperatures do not usually go above 5 degrees Celsius. Depending on how much you like the cold, the climate in Iceland could be a pro or a con!

If you are thinking that it sounds cold in Iceland, you might be surprised to know that it could be much colder. Iceland has a special feature which actually allows this country to remain much warmer than it should given its great distance from the equator. The Atlantic Gulf Stream sweeps by Iceland which helps to keep the country warmer. There are also a number of geothermal pools which attract a lot of people as well. The Gulf Stream certainly should be considered a pro for Iceland.

Iceland lies along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the island was produced through volcanic activity. In fact, many of these volcanoes are still active today. In total there are around 130 volcanoes in Iceland and more than a dozen of them have erupted over the last few centuries. Not to fear though, the last major eruption was back in 1783 when the Laki Fissure released around 14 kilometres of lava. The results of this eruption were pretty ferocious with around 25 per cent of the population killed from the famine that followed. The threat of an erupting volcano is a constant worry for Iceland.

Another pro for Iceland is its rating in the Human Development Index. This index considers a number of factors such as the literacy rate of a country, life expectancy, and even the GDP per capita. In both 2007 and 2008, Iceland held the top position beating out countries like Norway, Canada, and Australia. Another pro for Iceland is that they have the fourth largest GDP in the world.

Iceland boasts possibly the highest literacy rate on the planet. Nearly 100 per cent of the population over the age of 15 can both read and write. There are likely few countries that can rival such an impressive statistic which certainly makes this a huge pro for Iceland.

The official language of Iceland is called Icelandic. Learning how to speak this language could prove to be difficult simply because it is not widely spoken. Luckily for those who do not speak Icelandic, just about everyone in the country speaks both English and Danish. Study of both of these languages is considered mandatory in the school systems in Iceland. Because other languages are widely spoken in Iceland this aspect should remain a pro for the country.

Freedom of religion is granted to everyone in Iceland which is certainly a pro. The country does have a state church which is called the National Church of Iceland. An interesting note here is that the government actually keeps track of the various religious affiliations of its citizens. As recently as 2005, around 80 per cent of citizens claimed the National Church of Iceland as their own.

Environmentalists might not be happy to hear about the high percentage of car ownership in Iceland. The number one way to travel in this country is by a car and statistically speaking just about everyone over the age of 17 owns a car. This could certainly be a con for Iceland but keep in mind the relatively small population of the country.

One of the cons of living in Iceland is that workers typically work a much longer work week than most of the other countries in Europe. This would certainly influence my decision not to move to this location but others might not find this to be an issue.

If you love the outdoors, Iceland certainly has a great deal to offer. There are plenty of whales that inhabit the ocean in this particular area. This makes a great opportunity to board a boat and try to sight a few of them in the distance. Speaking of boats, many people love to fish in this area and trout and salmon are both plentiful here.

Because this country has some pretty severe winters, there are plenty of activities to do here in the snow. Grab a pair of skis and head to a mountain or hop on a sled for some thrills. About 10 per cent of Iceland is actually a glacier which certainly attracts a number of people to visit each year. If you do not mind the cold weather and love the snow, you can put these activities in the pros column for Iceland.

Iceland has had a difficult time dealing with the global economic crisis that has affected so many countries. Their banking system fell apart and then their government collapsed under the pressure. Iceland was forced to ask for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund not too long ago. Finally in February of 2009 a new government took over which is currently being led by Johanna Sigurdardottir. One interesting note here is that Sigurdardottir is the only openly gay leader of a country in the world.

Clearly there are several pros and cons for Iceland as there would be for any country. There are plenty of pros here that most people will find far outweigh the various cons. If you can handle the cold weather and you are not afraid of volcanoes, Iceland is a great place to be!