If you’re planning to run the business in Iceland or you want to exists on this market somehow you need to remember that it’s a proud yet open nation.
I’ll clarify everything in a minute.
A bit of nationalism in business
Relatively recently (cause in 1944) Iceland liberated itself from Danish protectorate. They are in the middle of the ocean in between two continents with great influence of English language. And it’s a small country with small population, yet they do have their own language.
Luckily they’re also open and they eagerly welcome everything that’s new or unknown (especially if they don’t have Icelandic counterpart). There’s one more reason for their openness – they’re not self-sufficient. Being an island with limited resources of land, people and material forces them to be open. As a consequence they import a lot, paradoxically from Denmark, but also from Norway, Germany, USA or China.
It starts to explain things. As much as they are concerned about preserving their language against all odds, similarly they act about home made products or local companies. That’s why they’ve got Menu and not McDonald’s, Lögreglan not Police and (my favourite) Leðurblökumaðurinn not Batman 😉
Great. Now we know a little bit more about Icelanders but what does is mean for us?
Does it mean that first thing we should do before any business attempt on this market is signing up for Icelandic language course?
Not only language
Surely it would be an asset but luckily it’s not necessary as almost all Icelanders have a very good command of English. It’s mainly due to 40,000 US troops that were stationed in Iceland during II world war (and stayed till 2006), secondly because of TV programmes in English (only with Icelandic subtitles) as well as because now it’s taught in schools as a primary foreign language (together with Danish) and is present everywhere from Internet to manuals of various equipment.
It’s more about small things, like Icelandic domain (.is) or using Icelandic words on posters or in Facebook ad campaigns.
As much as it’s worth to ensure an Icelandic version of our website, it is expensive! At least, from my regular domain supplier. Luckily I found an Icelandic source of domains where you can obtain one for reasonable price – www.isnic.is. Sometimes there are problems with redirecting hosting, so here’s a link for local cheap hosting provider – https://x.is/.
To use Icelandic phrases we can either hire a translating company or for a start ask someone on Facebook or look for students. The truth is, all Icelanders know English so such acts should be perceived as fawning until we start to get documents in Icelandic. That’s where we should re-think a long-term cooperation with a translator or language course.
Actually, the tendency is reversed – it’s Icelanders who strive for customers and foreign companies’ attention. They are heading towards Canada or States with their projects. They are looking for investors from across the water encouraging them with numerous tax and financial credits. Thus, everything depends on offered services or products but there shouldn’t be any problems with running your business in English.
Nevertheless, knowing their tendency of choosing Icelandic over foreign it’s wise to look for local equivalent and the demand for it as well check interest in our products before we ship them. It’s especially important with food what is visible on the Black Beach Restaurant movie – how much emphasis they put on the right selection of local meat and vegetables.