Happy Nations #3: Iceland

Here is how Iceland compares to the United States in each of the six factors for Happiness:

  • GDP: 1.936 v 1.982
  • Social Support: 1.320 v 1.182
  • Healthy Life Expectancy: 0.803 v 0.628
  • Freedom to Make Life Choices: 0.718 v 0.574
  • Generosity: 0.270 v 0.220
  • Perceptions of Corruption: 0.191 v 0.177

The corruption in Iceland is the closest to the USA in a while.

Other Scoring Systems

Iceland is a country of fewer than 400 thousand people and is not on the US News Rankings. They have a great Human Development Index but not much else to warrant a number three rank in happiness.


Iceland is 50th in Global Health Security and 11th via Legatum Prosperity.

Iceland has universal healthcare and no private healthcare.

The healthcare system is primarily paid for by taxes (84%) and, to some extent, by service fees (16%).


If you’re living in Iceland, you are likely living near its capital Reykjavik.

Reykjavik is the northernmost capital on the list, and in January, you will see as little as four hours a day of sunlight. It is not significantly colder than a city like Dublin. However, it sees lots of snow and does not get much warmer than the fifties in the winter.

The climate isn’t as terrible as I expected, but it is also not a hidden gem.

Cost of Living

Iceland is more expensive to live in than the United States.

Comparing Saint Louis, MO, to Reykjavík, we see it will cost 12% more to live in Reykjavík.

Living costs less than I expected on a relatively remote island.


Icelandic is the official language of Iceland. It is an Indo-European language belonging to the sub-group of North Germanic languages.

English is almost universally spoken in Iceland, with many people very fluent. Icelanders learn English from a very early age, are exposed to English language films and TV a lot, and are very proficient in English. As a result, almost the entire population can speak it to some degree.

Acceptance of Others

Only 11% of Icelanders are immigrants.

Iceland is significantly less diverse than The United States and is frequently referred to as one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world.

The country is built on tourism and is welcoming to most people. 75% of the country feels that immigrants have a positive impact.

Moving Feasibility

Iceland’s website has options for “Living and Working in Iceland” and “Studying in Iceland.”

Those who wish to apply for a residence permit (and work permit) in Iceland must have secured a job in Iceland and signed an employment contract. The employment contract must accompany the application which should be lodged before the applicant arrives in Iceland.

Unless you marry an Icelander, study at their universities or get a job from an employer in Iceland, you’re not moving there.


The weather and island isolation are two main reasons to remove Iceland from the list. The fact that I can’t move there anyways removes it from the conversation.

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