Iceland: Best place to live?

IcelandNearAirport.leochaIceland was just selected by the United Nations as the best place in the world to live. When all the factors in their statistical data, such as life expectancy, standard of living, average income, school enrolments, are taken into consideration, Iceland wins. It unseats Norway, which had been at the top of the U.N. list for six years. The United States sits at number 12 on the list behind France and Finland. However, do studies like this make a difference?

Admittedly, Iceland has an idyllic society. But one has to realize that Iceland is only about the size of Ohio with almost 70 percent of its 300,000 residents living in and around its capital city Reykjavik, the size of Akron (without its suburbs) or Reno, Nevada. A sparse road network with more dirt roads than paved ones link the rest of the barely habitable island. Trees? Forgetaboutit. Weather? If you don’t like it, wait 15 minutes. I think a beer costs about a day’s salary.

Gullfoss.leochaThe statistics in the U.N.’s Human Development Report look good not only because of the small size but also, because of the country’s unique situation. Iceland is relatively homogenous, they don’t face an energy crisis because of limitless thermal energy, electronic communications and a geographic setting midway between the U.S. and Europe help its economy and nature on the island is raw and exciting.

There are some basic drawbacks in the way most humans select a place to live. During Iceland’s winter there are only four hours of sunlight and the average temperature in the summer hovers around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Unless one leaves the island, the choices of cultural activities are limited. Then again the expansive indoor recreation centers and thermal baths do much to help forget about the lack of sunshine and warm weather.

In spite of cute Icelandic horses, fine woolen sweaters and tasty lamb and fish my verdict is that Iceland is a fine place to visit, but I don’t necessarily want to live there. Of course, I probably wouldn’t qualify for residency under their systems.

Skogafoss.leochaThat being said, Iceland is a wonderful place to explore the grandeur, beauty and power of nature. A drive around the coastline provides breathtaking views and dramatic mountain panoramas. Astonishing waterfalls thunder down cliffs marked by rising clouds of mist, glaciers cover the center of the island and a geyser, even more faithful than Old Faithful, spurts water almost 100 feet into the air about every 20 minutes or so. The word Geyser comes from the Old Norse word that means to gush. And where else can one stand with one foot on the European tectonic plate and the other in North America.

Comparing Iceland to the United States, Russia or China is a bit ludicrous, however, based on the statistics, Iceland deserves congratulations. But frankly, I’d rather live in Boston.

Hear Charlie and Karen Cummings talking about Iceland on NPR’s Bryant Park Project.