Reykjavik is a small city, and Iceland has been standing on its own for so long, with so very few tourists or expats coming in, that everybody knows everybody and Icelanders run into their numerous relatives at every street corner.
Nowadays, Iceland has become super popular with tourists. Hotels are packed, some more are being built all over the city, and english is the primary language heard in the streets, so it might become harder to find the true heart, the true Reykjavik lifestyle now, but I still managed to find some way to get in touch with the locals.
Indeed, here are 6 things to make you feel like a local in Reykjavik.
1 – GO TO THE LOCAL POOL
The pool is basically the after work for Icelanders. They’re fed by natural hot sources, and they’re usually outside, with one big pool to swim and several hot steam bathes to hang out. I went to Sundhöll Reykjavikur (Baronstigur 101), a local pool in the center of Reykjavik. Although the few meters outside between the building and the hot bath that I had to go through in my bathing suit, barefoot under the snow, were a bit challenging, being in a hot bath with snow falling around you is pretty magical. A handful of regulars were there, not minding the cold. That’s the local experience, forget the expensive blue lagoon.
2 – DUG YOUR CAR OUT OF THE SNOW
Well it had to happen at some point. I gave the wonderful advice to the driver to just “get into the snow, we’ve got to park somewhere anyway”, and sure enough the tire had barely touched the snow that we ended up stuck there, with most of the car still on the road. I guess there’s a reason I don’t have my license … The good thing is that Icelanders are pretty prepared against that kind of weather, they will clear the roads in the morning, dug out your car, or immediately stop to tow those foolish tourists who don’t even have their license out of the snow …
3 – FEED THE BIRDS OF THE LAKE
The huge lake in downtown Reykjavik is completely frozen in winter, except for a small spot near the dock where all the bird congregates. It was the view that welcomed me to Iceland, and combined with the snow, the night, and the little lights in the houses behind, it really looked like Santa Claus’ hometown. The locals feed these birds whenever they have the chance, so don’t throw out that old bread!
4 – BUY SOME SKYR AT BONUS
Iceland’s local specialties are rather meaty and disgusting, so not for me at all. A good way to figure out the eating habits of a country is to simply go to a supermarket. In the Bonus stores (the cheapest supermarkets in Iceland), you’ll quickly be able to observe that Icelanders survive mostly on frozen meat, mexican food (don’t ask), bread, and skyr, a kind of yogurt. Try some!
5 – DANCE TILL THE MORNING
Reykjavik’s nightlife now has a big reputation, but no one does it like the locals. They start well after midnight, and don’t stop until morning. Whatever the weather, the girls will wear dresses and heels. I saw them pass me by in the snow, while I was shaking inside my 42 layers of clothes and slipping on the ice despite my hiking boots. It’s hard to believe we’re from the same species.
6 – BE AMAZINGLY FEMINIST
Yep, gender equality is a reality in Iceland, whether we’re talking about education, rights, or even politics. Icelander men are really proud of their women and support feminists movements just as strongly as the women themselves. Iceland has been ahead of everybody else on that one for a good long time (it’s not only women, they recently elected an openly gay president), and is a real example to follow!