A lot can happen in a month

One month ago I ended up on the panel of Silfur Egils, Iceland’s premier political talk show, commenting on the economic situation facing young people in Iceland. The reason I had been called up was that a week before Glitnir bank was nationalized I had written in a comment on the host’s blog that young people in Iceland were facing two options, a prison of debt or an exodus from the country.

A month has now passed and this is the situation I’ve seen first hand this weekend.

I was at a party on Friday where 12 people in their twenties had lost their jobs, all with financial obligations. Many were extremely bitter, most were in shock. One guy cried. Their world had collapsed.

One girl in her twenties with three small children had been laid off from her bank call-center job. Her husband, a builder as well. They had taken a home-loan in a foreign currency and the payments had gone up to 230.000 ISK, a monthly wage. She was rehired in a smaller capacity but has to postpone her graduation from Engineering at the Unversity of Iceland. She is thinking of sending her husband to get a job abroad. I suggested Poland.

My oldest friend’s 32nd birthday was on Friday. I called him up and he told me he also had been laid off from his job as a car-salesman. This summer, he and his girlfriend bought a new home. They didn’t manage to sell their old one. He is seriously thinking about moving abroad but he has lived in the same area in his whole life and has had a good life there. His other source of income, laying parquet-floors is non-existent as well. They have an eight month old daughter.

Another friend is going into bankruptcy  this week. He is 31 and has basically lost everything.

Another friend’s car-payments went from being 33.000 ISK per week last Christmas to being 88.000 this month. His car was worth 3.5 million ISK last year and his loan was for 2.3m ISK in foreign currency. It is now 5.2m and he lost his job last week. He wants to go to school but probably will not afford it.

My girlfriend is studying in the UK. On October 8th she transferred her student loans to her British bank from her Icelandic bank, as you do. She had to pay tuition, rent, telephone, living expenses etc. She still has not recieved the money. It is especially annoying as she had specifically taken the student loan in pounds instead of ISK to avoid currency fluctuations but now she is living off her Icleandic debit-card, losing big-time on the exchange rate and eating up her savings.

Another friend in his twenties bought a house in August, with a loan in a foreign currency. He and his wife cannot sell their old home. His job is in danger, their payments are through the roof. They have two young daughters.

A former workmate in his early thirties had to take a 10% paycut. He was one of the staff that kept their job at a computer processing company.

I met a buddy from soccer who lost his job at one of the TV stations. He has worked there forever.

I met another former workmate from a bank who lost his job. And then another. Both are in their forties, prime of their lives.

A relative lost her job at a real-estate agency last week.

I met a former workmate who lost his job at a bank but was hired to another company last week to clean up in there by firing just about everybody.

My friend’s father in law lost his CEO-job as well.

Myself, I am OK. I still have a job, have only lost two so far this year. I don’t have an overdraft running, nor big credit card debts but I am dreading inflation eating up our supposed equity in our home.

I met a cousin yesterday who went to college in the UK and has lived there since, starting a family, worked and bought a home. She is visiting Iceland and I tried explaining price indexation to her which is the common form of home loans in Iceland. She grasped for air and realized how royally screwed everyone in the country is.

And this is just the first month of the crash.

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1 Response to “A lot can happen in a month”


  1. 1 Mister Floppy November 3, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Great entry, thank you for your blog, it`s very enlighting for the foreigners like me who live in Iceland.
    It`s very difficult to find icelandics who really want to speak their minds about the crysis, and when you are able to do it then you get shock.
    At first it looked like if nothing had happened, some people even make jokes about the economical situation arguing that now maybe they have to sell their third car.
    Reykjavik looked and looks exactly the same city than it was 3 months ago.
    And then I found this guy, this lovely, down to the earth icelandic, and I asked him about the problems with the krona and he answered:

    “Well I lost the confidence in our national currency, when the krona comes back again to an exchange ratio of 100/1 with euro I will chane all my kronas in foreign currency”

    Inmediatly I started laughing, and answered “Hey, good joke”.
    But he was talking seriously.

    Now one month later people is starting to realize what is going on although the crysis have almost not started yet, the real one will begin in januaryand will peak after the summer.

    At least this is a country of hard worker people with an strong mind and in that sense we should all admire it, and certainly I do.


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