Skip to Content (Press Enter)

English / Français

One on One with Eliza Reid, Iceland's Canadian First Lady

Eliza Reid talks gender equality, maple syrup cravings and how she met her husband in graduate school at Oxford.

Eliza Reid

Hometown Ottawa

Home Base Bessastaðir, the official residence of the President of Iceland, a 15-minute drive from Reykjavik

Claim to Fame Becoming the First Lady of Iceland in 2016 after her husband, Guðni Jóhannesson, was elected President

Current Projects Participating as writer, editor and co-founder of the annual Iceland Writers Retreat

Travel Tip “When I’m travelling with our four kids (all under 10), I try to be excited and relaxed so that they feel the same way.”

How did you and your husband meet?
We met at Oxford in graduate school. We were both on the rowing crew, and there was a fundraiser where the girls wrote our names on tickets and put them in various cups marked with the guys’ names. Then the guys drew a name and took that person out. I bought 10 tickets and put eight in Guðni’s cup.

What does your role as first lady involve?
Though I’m not required to have a formal role, I focus a lot on gender equality and empowerment for women and girls. For the last eight years, Iceland has topped the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. I’d like to increase Iceland’s international profile in this respect. The lessons our nation has learned would be beneficial to other governments looking to empower women and girls.

How’s your Icelandic?
Imperfect but functional. When I deliver speeches in Icelandic, I write them in English, and then have someone translate them for me. One of the first phrases I learned was “Keep your seatbelt fastened while seated.” I used to see it on the tray table when I’d fly to Iceland to visit before moving here in 2003.

What do you miss about Canada?
I miss my parents being able to pop over for Sunday dinner, but I visit fairly regularly. And when I do, I always bring back Canadian maple syrup.

Any tips for visitors to Iceland?
Drink the tap water because it’s the best in the world. And bring your bathing suit so you can visit the wonderful outdoor swimming pools, called “hot pots.” The mayor of Reykjavik said the best way to get to know Icelanders always involves liquids – either late in the evening at the pub or sitting next to them in the pool.



Please leave a comment

HTML tags will be removed
Web addresses starting with http:// will be converted to links