Iceland Did Not Go Nuts for Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts in Iceland.

All four Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Iceland have now been closed, RÚV reports. According to Sigurður Karlsson, the CEO of Basko, ehf. – the company which also owns and operates Iceland’s 10-11 convenience store chain – the shuttering comes as a result of high operational costs. “It’s a disappointment, of course, but not everything you try is going to work out.” Some employees would be laid off, he said, while others would be transferred to new positions elsewhere within the company.

Dunkin’ Donuts had four locations in Iceland: one in Reykjavík’s Kringlan shopping mall, one in a 10-11 in Kópavogur, one in Reykjanesbær, and another in the Keflavík airport. All four closed on New Year’s. The chain’s first location in the country opened in summer of 2015 on Reykjavík’s main street, Laugavegur, but closed on November 1, 2017.

“The reception was good at the beginning,” remarked Sigurður, but even with selling their brand name doughnuts to other stores around Iceland (bringing the total number of Dunkin’ Doughnuts-selling locations to 11), “high labor costs, operational costs, and production costs” were, he concluded, too high to sustain the venture.

Sigurður notes that the Dunkin’ Donuts’ difficulties are not restricted to Iceland. The chain has also had problems making inroads all over Europe, with the number of locations in Denmark having been reduced and all locations in Sweden having closed as well.

ICE-SAR Earns Over Half of Annual Revenue from Fireworks

Reykjavík Fireworks New Year's Eve

ICE-SAR earned around ISK 800 million ($6.8m/€6m), or up to 60% of its total annual revenue from New Year’s firework sales in 2017 and 2016, RÚV reports. ICE-SAR chairman Smári Sigurðsson says that this year’s fireworks sales figures are not yet available, and may indeed be somewhat lower than previous years, but it’s possible that sales from this year’s new seedlings initiative will make up for any drop-off in firework sales. Smári predicts that this year’s fundraiser will yield somewhere between ISK 700 and 800 million ($5.9-6.8m/€5.5-6m).

Figures for this year’s sales are not yet available as they will continue through January 6, or Þrettándinn, which marks the 13th and last day of Christmas in Iceland. Bonfires are held throughout the country and many people save their holiday fireworks for this day, which is the last legal day to set them off until the next Christmas season. The bonfires and fireworks are, metaphorically speaking, intended to “burn up Christmas” and mark the end of the festive season.

There’s been increasing concern over the pollution caused by the annual fireworks extravaganza in Iceland, and the resulting difficulties experienced, for instance, by people with respiratory problems. As such, the idea of selling seedlings to be planted in a grove outside Þorlákshöfn next summer had been “well-received,” said Smári, and ICE-SAR intends to continue the seedling sale next year and “…develop this partnership with the Icelandic Forest Service further.”

ICE-SAR is entirely funded by donations; it receives no government support. As such, the annual end-of-year fundraiser is particularly important to the organisation’s success for the rest of the year. However, that doesn’t mean that the organisation is dead-set on the continued sale of fireworks specifically.

“We’re not defending fireworks, per se, but we but we want to spend the profits on the work that needs to be done.”

More Helicopter Callouts Than Ever Before

Icelandic coast guard

The Coast Guard’s aircraft and helicopters were called out 278 times in 2018, RÚV reports, which is more callouts in one year than there have ever been in Iceland.

Last year’s total callouts represent an 8% increase from those made in 2017, when Coast Guard aircraft and/or helicopters were summoned 257 times. In 2016, by contrast, 180 patients were airlifted for prompt medical assistance. Overall, there has been a 74% increase in aircraft callouts since 2011, when there were 160 total all year.

Half of the 2018 callouts were made on behalf of foreign nationals. In their announcement about last year’s aerial dispatches, the Coast Guard said the increased numbers really came as no surprise, given the developments of recent years.

Indeed, Iceland received upwards of 2.3 million tourists in 2017, which perhaps casts 2018’s 278 callouts in a still rather favorable light.

Burnout on the Rise Among Young People

Young people, and more particularly, young women, are experiencing higher levels of burnout at work, RÚV reports. According to Linda Bára Lýðsdóttir, a psychologist at the Virk Vocational Rehabilitation Fund, anxiety and depression are on the rise, even as employment conditions are largely positive for a good portion of the nation. This increase used to be particularly prevalent among workers over the age of 40, but recent studies show that it is now becoming more common among younger people.

“This is a problem for everyone, but there’s increasing incidence among young people, and especially young women,” explains Linda. “It’s a cause for concern. I have a recent study from Britain – tens of thousands of people took part in their study – and in it, they point to the incidence of depression and anxiety disorders among young women rising a great deal nowadays, while it’s fairly stable among men.” She says that this is a problem in Iceland as well. “I don’t think we’re any exception there. This happens in most welfare states today.”

Professional environments that could be considered “women’s workplaces” are also particularly vulnerable to burnout, Linda continues. “We’re seeing burnout in a large proportion of women’s workplaces,” she says, “in the fields of education and health care and it’s more or less women who work there.”

It’s been speculated that this burnout could be connected to Iceland’s financial collapse ten years ago, says Linda, as the crash put increased pressure on people to work harder and overcome their economic straits. At the time, a great deal of emphasis was placed on keeping a close eye on children and it was said that attention would need to be paid to these young people’s wellbeing seven to ten years in the future, which is to say: now.

There’s been a great deal of discussion of late in regards to shortening Icelanders’ work hours, but Linda says that this is not necessarily the best solution. The issue, she says, is people’s workload, and nothing will be solved if workers are simply responsible for the same amount of work in a shorter time frame.

Núpsvötn Driver Remembers Little of Crash

fatal accident Iceland

Police have designated the driver of the Toyota Land Cruiser that drove over the Núpsvötn bridge in late December, as a “defendant” in their investigation, Vísir and RÚV report. According to the police press release on the incident, this legal status is automatically given to the driver in any fatal traffic accident and affords the individual certain legal protections.

The accident – which, in terms of fatalities, is one of the worst in Icelandic history – ended in the deaths of two adults and one child. Two brothers and their families were driving in the car, seven passengers in total, all of whom were British citizens. Both brothers were seriously injured in the accident, and both of their wives died. Two other young children were transported to the hospital in critical condition but survived.

The investigation into the incident remains open while police await the results of various reports, such as field measurements, site surveys, vehicle analysis, and autopsy results. Although he has been named a “defendant” in the incident, however, the driver will not be detained in connection with the accident investigation and judicial proceedings. This decision was made in light of the injuries that he sustained, as well as the medical treatment he needs to undergo as a result.

Police reported that the driver was questioned in the hospital on Tuesday but appeared unable to remember much about the accident itself. He, his brother, and the two surviving children are still in the hospital in Reykjavík, awaiting a doctor’s certificate that confirms that they have been cleared for travel back to the UK. It is assumed that all four individuals will need to be admitted into the hospital again when they arrive home, as they have all suffered injuries of varying severity.

Reindeer Warning for East Iceland

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration has issued a reindeer warning after a large herd of the animals were spotted near Háreksstaðaleið, the road that goes through the Jökuldalsheiði heath in East Iceland. RÚV reports that the advisory was issued alongside various updates about travel conditions around the country, large sections of which are experiencing high winds or patches of ice, but very little traffic in the first days of the new year.

Reindeer warnings are not uncommon in East Iceland, particularly in the winter months, when the country’s reindeer herds generally stay in low-lying areas closer to the coast. This means that they are more likely to be found on or around eastern roadways, which causes a fair number of accidents every year.

Travelers are reminded to drive with caution throughout the countryside, particularly in the winter. Current road conditions and travel advisories can be found in English at http://www.road.is/.