• Regardless of the cruel local weather, Iceland usually finds itself among the many world’s happiest nations
  • Researchers credit score neighborhood swimming pools, which break down social boundaries

On a snowy February afternoon, the outside West Finish pool within the capital metropolis of Reykjavik was busy. Steam rose off the new tubs, heated by Iceland’s huge geothermal community.

Laughter and chatting crammed the air. That is Iceland’s assembly place. And in a rustic with minimal daylight within the lengthy, grey winter, these swimming pools is perhaps the important thing to Iceland’s happiness.

Iceland’s pure environment, although beautiful, will be harsh and desolate. Snow, sleet and rain blow wildly within the wind through the winter. The island’s inhabitants of 332,000 individuals, principally centered round Reykjavik, hunkers down to attend it out, normally indoors.

Tourists gather at the well-known Blue Lagoon, while locals are more likely to be found in a local neighborhood pool.Tourists gather at the well-known Blue Lagoon, while locals are more likely to be found in a local neighborhood pool.

But when they’re outside, you may discover them within the swimming pools and scorching tubs that dot the nation; practically each neighborhood has one. Vacationers have a tendency to collect on the well-known Blue Lagoon. If you wish to discover the locals, you want a neighborhood pool. And this distinctive tradition has drawn curiosity from researchers on the College of Iceland, together with folklorist Valdimar Hafstein.

“At this level, it’s thought of kind of a civil proper to have one (of those swimming pools) inside strolling distance of your private home,” he mentioned. “It is change into a spotlight level of public life, actually.”

Regardless of the cruel local weather, Iceland usually finds itself among the many prime three of the world’s happiest nations. Hafstein and his fellow researchers imagine the swimming pools are a giant purpose why.

“If you happen to consider well being and wellness not simply as a matter of bodily well being and being free from illness but additionally the psychological and social elements, I believe the geothermal warmth and communal swimming pools have lots to do with that,” Hafstein mentioned. “We really feel good right here. We all know our neighbors, as a result of we meet them within the swimming pools. It creates a superb vibe, and you’re feeling at residence in there.”

Within the 1950s and ’60s, Iceland switched from coal-powered warmth to geothermal, harnessing the ability of the island’s volcanic exercise. The infrastructure created by the change allowed the formation of communal swimming pools, which have been breaking down social boundaries ever since.

“After we meet within the pool, we chat, and that is an area of liberty the place you are comfortable to speak to others,” Hafstein mentioned. “Folks from all walks of life go to the pool. So you’ve, mixing in the identical scorching tub, individuals dwelling within the space, whether or not it is the professor or the scholar, development employee or the businessman, the billionaire or automotive salesman — all of them meet up.”

There are some guidelines to watch. Do not talk about something too private; maintain it to broader social points. Do not shake fingers; a easy nod will do. And ensure to bathe totally earlier than and after getting within the pool. Icelanders take pool hygiene very significantly.

Hafstein has his personal pool routine. Each Monday morning, he meets his mates on the West Finish Pool at 7 a.m., earlier than work and the calls for of life take over. They sit in one of many scorching tubs, snow flurries falling on their heads, and discuss life — an expertise as uniquely Iceland as this place and its individuals.