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Business etiquette

Business etiquette

For the business person who works internationally, doing business in a foreign country brings with it certain intercultural communication challenges. From the simple differences in the way people meet, greet and eat to the more complex differences in communication, presentations and negotiation it is always a benefit to get to understand  a country's business culture, protocol and etiquette.

This guide to doing business in Iceland offers some introductory points around the topic of business culture and etiquette. It is not intended to summarise all 'doing business tips' nor meant to stereotype the Icelandic people. Rather, it highlights some important key areas for consideration when doing business in Iceland such as how to meet and greet, communicate and conduct business meetings.
Meeting and Greeting

The handshake is the traditional form of greeting when meeting with your Icelandic hosts both at both the start and completion of meetings and you should ensure that you shake hands with all meeting attendees.  Ensure that this is coupled with good eye contact and that your handshake is firm.

You may note when doing business in Iceland that very few Icelanders have original surnames and for this reason telephone directories list individuals by their first names.  Surnames are based on the father's Christian name plus 'son' or 'daughter' (e.g. Matthew, the son of Magnus, would be called Matthew Magnusson whilst Jane would be known as Jane Magnusdóttir). Individuals address each other as Fru (Mrs) and Herra (Mr).

It is common practice to exchange business cards when you meet your hosts for the first time.

Individuals in Iceland take great care over their appearance and it is certainly expected that you should dress smartly for any formal occasion when doing business in Iceland.  Although you may see a small number of Icelandic individuals dressed casually within the business environment, it is recommended that you personally dress formally.  Part of this is driven by the Western expectations that outside visitors should dress in appropriate business wear.


It is normal for individuals in Iceland to be direct in their speech.  This should be expected therefore and not taken offensively.

English is widely spoken in business forums.

Meetings and negotiations

You should ensure that appointments are made in advance and that you state the intended meeting time using the 24-hour clock as this ensures that potential misunderstandings in respect to the language used (e.g. the use of half / quarter past / to) are avoided.

Individuals in Iceland place great value on punctuality and for this reason it is strongly advised that you contact your respective meeting host if you are likely to be late.  Always arrive in advance of the start time so that you are in a position to participate in the meeting at the agreed start time.

If you use any presentations or other supporting information during the meeting then you should ensure that any information used is precise and to the point with relevant data included where necessary.