Welcome to Iceland! If you want to experience Icelandic culture, it can be nice to escape the tourist hot spots for a while and just sit down and talk with a local. Of course, when you’re visiting a country for the first time it can be difficult to find the best places where locals meet, because these are generally not advertised so much. Relax, and let us help you finding ways to strike up conversations with locals!
These days, downtown Reykjavík is not the best place to meet locals anymore (except in bars during weekends), as a lot of people have moved out of the city centre to suburban areas. You might have more luck at the following locations!
Icelanders are really into swimming pools, and often use their time in the pool to chat about current affairs and catch up with friends. Going to a swimming pool is probably the easiest way to get to know locals. More specifically, soaking in a hot tub is the way to go. Hot tubs are a place to relax, soothe aching muscles after working out and last but not least, to socialise! The conversations in the hot tubs can get lively, with people discussing everything from politics and the state of society to the weather and their cats.
Laugardalur is a recreational area in Reykjavík. A sports centre, botanical garden, swimming pool, spa, ice-skating rink, family park and zoo are all a stone’s throw away. Locals love this area and go there often for a stroll or a run, to go to the gym or to spend a day out with the kids. It’s a good spot to casually start a conversation, for instance by saying: “Það er gott veður í dag!” More suggestions for conversational topics later!
Kópavogur, literally “seal pup bay”, is a neighbouring city of Reykjavík. It’s home to Iceland’s largest shopping mall, Smáralind. Perfect to go grocery shopping, to find some good deals on Icelandic design products or just to have a cup of coffee. Located on driving distance from downtown Reykjavík, it’s less likely you will run into fellow tourists. A little bit south of Kópavogur, in Gardabær, is another shopping area well-loved by locals, since Costco opened up a branch there in 2017. Even though the country seems split when it comes to opinions about Costco, you can be sure to find it packed with locals!
Iceland is among the top countries in the world in terms of Internet accessibility. In most coffee houses, there’s free Wi-Fi. Like in the rest of the world, Tinder is popular app in Iceland, and it’s a good way to start conversations with locals, make new friends, get advice and find the best meeting places.
Now you know where to meet locals, but what to talk about after the first encounter?
The first popular subject is the weather. Locals know the weather is changeable and it’s a common subject for conversations. “Það er gott veður í dag,” means “It’s good weather today.” You could also ask: “Hvernig verður veðrið á morgun?” or: “What’s the weather like tomorrow?”
If you don’t feel like talking about the weather, try politics. Most Icelanders will have an opinion about the political leaders and the latest societal developments, proven by the many protests organised in the past. You could, for instance, mention “Pineapplegate”, a heated discussion that started with the president announcing his dislike of pineapple on pizza! A good way to break the ice before starting to talk about politics, is to buy locals a drink. Alcohol is expensive, so this gesture will most likely be appreciated.
If you feel desperate, you could always ask for directions (start your sentence with: “Hvar er …?” and then add where you want to go). Good luck and enjoy your time in Iceland!