Iceland is a tiny country with a monolithic population. Is it racist? Are Black travelers safe there? Find out what I experienced!
Iceland has been at the top of the list of must-visit destinations since 2014. After visiting, I can see why. The island is easy to navigate for tourists and offers views that rival a postcard. I can admit that I was apprehensive about going to Iceland because the country has a small and fairly monolithic population. The entire country has a population of just above 300,000 which is almost 3 times smaller than my hometown. On top of what, the foreign-born population only consists of 6% of the total population.
As a Black woman in a foreign and overwhelmingly white place, I worried about experiencing discrimination, racism, and other negative experiences that Black people experience while at home and abroad. What’s the truth? Is Iceland racist?
Are Icelanders friendly?
I was really worried about attracting unwelcoming stares from the natives. Although I drove to many places across the entire country, I never experienced anyone starting at me. According to the accounts of white bloggers and travelers, I expected people to be warm and friendly. However, I did not experience that. People were not especially friendly and I definitely did not get warm vibes from the locals. I didn’t think that this was racist because I don’t find Nordic people to be particularly warm and fuzzy to outsiders in general. They definitely do not have Southern Hospitality, but they are also not mean.
Are there Black people in Iceland?
I counted 28 Black people during my 4-day trip, including the people at the Reykjavik airport. Most of the people I saw were either at the airport or worked at one of the malls in Reykjavik. Compared to other European cities like Paris, Amsterdam, and even Copenhagen, this is a minuscule amount of Black faces.
Whenever I shopped or visited various locations, locals first spoke to me in Icelandic before I told them that I did not speak the language. Oddly enough, I appreciated it. I interpreted this as them not assuming anything about my nationality or identity. Coming from the States where people are quick to make assumptions about you based on your skin, I found this refreshing.
What about the police?
Although there were less Black faces, I felt safer in Iceland than I do in America. There were hardly any police officers around; I may have seen two in total. Additionally, Icelandic police officers don’t carry guns. Due to my experiences living in the USA, I was worried about being pulled over for driving while Black. However, I quickly reminded myself that I didn’t need to be worried here. No one would pull me over and if they did, I was not in danger of losing my life.
So is Iceland racist? I am going to have to say no. I did not experience any racism while I was there. It’s a beautiful country and I recommend that everyone visits.