Cultural Etiquette: Doing Business In Iceland - Answers & Video

Cultural Etiquette: Doing Business In Iceland

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Cultural Etiquette: Doing Business in Iceland

Doing business in Iceland requires understanding and respecting the country’s unique cultural etiquette. Icelanders place great importance on mutual respect, egalitarianism, and punctuality. This article provides valuable insights into the cultural norms and practices that can help you navigate the business landscape in Iceland successfully.

Business Meeting Etiquette

When attending business meetings in Iceland, it is essential to be punctual. Icelanders value time and expect others to do the same. Arriving a few minutes early is considered respectful. However, avoid arriving too early, as it may be perceived as impolite.

  • Greetings: Begin meetings with a firm handshake while maintaining eye contact. Icelanders appreciate a formal greeting, even if you have an established relationship.
  • Formality: Business attire is typically formal in Iceland. Men usually wear suits, while women opt for professional attire.
  • Introduction: Introduce yourself with your full name and title. Icelanders value credentials and professional accomplishments.
  • Business Cards: Exchanging business cards is common in Iceland. Ensure your card includes your full name, title, and contact information.
  • Small Talk: Icelanders often engage in small talk before diving into business matters. Topics such as the weather, nature, or Icelandic culture can help build rapport.
  • Language: While most Icelanders speak English fluently, it is polite to learn a few basic Icelandic phrases as a sign of respect.
  • Direct Communication: Icelanders appreciate directness and honesty in business communication. Avoid excessive flattery or beating around the bush.
  • Decision-making Process: Icelanders prefer consensus-based decision-making. Expect discussions and debates before reaching a final decision.
  • Follow-up: Sending a follow-up email or thank-you note after a business meeting is considered courteous in Iceland.

Negotiation and Business Practices

Negotiating business deals in Iceland requires a respectful and collaborative approach. Icelanders value fairness, transparency, and trust in business relationships. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Patience: Negotiations in Iceland may take longer than expected. Icelanders prioritize thorough discussions and consensus-building.
  • Hierarchy and Egalitarianism: Iceland has a relatively flat hierarchy, and decision-making is often decentralized. Treat everyone involved in the negotiation process with equal respect.
  • Agreements: Written agreements are crucial in Iceland. Clearly outline the terms, conditions, and expectations to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Punctuality: Being punctual for negotiation sessions demonstrates your commitment and professionalism.
  • Flexibility: Icelanders appreciate flexibility and adaptability during negotiations. Be open to compromise and finding mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Non-confrontational Communication: While direct communication is valued, confrontational or aggressive behavior is not. Maintain a calm and respectful tone during negotiations.
  • Building Trust: Establishing trust is vital in Icelandic business culture. Demonstrating reliability, honesty, and integrity will contribute to successful negotiations.
  • Patience: Icelanders value patience and expect negotiations to proceed at a reasonable pace. Rushing or pressuring the other party is likely to hinder progress.
  • Business Gifts: Gift-giving is not a common practice in Icelandic business culture. However, if you wish to present a gift, choose something modest and avoid extravagant gestures.

Business Dining Etiquette

Business meals in Iceland are an opportunity to build relationships and discuss matters in a relaxed environment. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Table Manners: Familiarize yourself with basic table manners, such as using utensils properly and keeping your napkin on your lap.
  • Seating Arrangement: Wait for the host to indicate where you should sit. It is common for the host to sit at the head of the table.
  • Toast and Skál: Icelanders often raise a toast called “skál” before taking the first sip. Wait for the host to initiate the toast.
  • Alcohol Consumption: If alcohol is served, drink moderately. Excessive drinking is generally frowned upon in Icelandic business settings.
  • Conversation Topics: Engage in light conversation during the meal. Topics such as Icelandic culture, nature, or sports are generally safe choices.
  • Respect for Food: Icelanders take pride in their cuisine. Show appreciation for the food served by trying a bit of everything and expressing gratitude.
  • Bill Payment: The host typically pays the bill in Icelandic business dining. Offering to split the bill may be seen as impolite.

Business Communication

Effective business communication is essential for success in Iceland. Here are some important considerations:

  • Language: While English is widely spoken in Iceland, it is beneficial to learn some Icelandic phrases to show respect and cultural appreciation.
  • Email Etiquette: Maintain a professional tone and respond to emails promptly. Icelanders value efficiency and clear communication.
  • Phone Calls: When making or receiving phone calls, introduce yourself and state the purpose of the call clearly.
  • Video Conferences: Dress professionally and ensure a distraction-free environment when participating in video conferences.
  • Written Communication: Proofread your written communication for accuracy and clarity. Icelanders appreciate well-structured and concise messages.
  • Respecting Personal Space: Icelanders value personal space and may prefer more formal modes of communication, especially in initial interactions.
  • Timeliness: Respond to communication promptly to demonstrate your commitment and professionalism.

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Business Gift Etiquette

While business gifts are not common in Icelandic culture, you may choose to present a modest gift as a gesture of goodwill. Here are some considerations:

  • Appropriateness: Choose a gift that aligns with the recipient’s interests or reflects your own culture.
  • Modesty: Avoid extravagant or overly expensive gifts, as they may be perceived as excessive.
  • Quality: Select a gift of good quality that reflects your attention to detail and thoughtfulness.
  • Gift Wrapping: Present the gift neatly wrapped or in a gift bag. Icelanders appreciate the effort put into presentation.
  • Timing: If presenting a gift during a business meeting, offer it at the end to avoid disrupting the flow of discussions.
  • Thank-You Note: Follow up with a thank-you note expressing your appreciation for the recipient’s time and hospitality.


Doing business in Iceland requires understanding and embracing the country’s cultural etiquette. By adhering to the norms of punctuality, respect, and direct communication, you can build strong business relationships and navigate the Icelandic business landscape successfully.

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