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Longed for Icelandic nature — became head of an aluminium plant

Longed for Icelandic nature — became head of an aluminium plant

| Text: Guðrún Helga Sigurðardóttir, photo: Jón Tryggvason

When US aluminium giant Alcoa built a smelting plant in Iceland in the 2000s, Danish Janne Sigurðsson quit her job in Denmark and moved to Iceland. She was a stay-at-home mother for a while. Now she heads Alcoa’s largest aluminium smelting plant in Europe.

Janne Sigurðsson wanted to live closer to nature in eastern Iceland. The family had long been considering a move to Iceland where Janne’s relatives live, but hadn’t dared because of bad job prospects. When aluminium producer Alcoa started up an aluminium smelting plant in eastern Iceland in the early 2000s, her husband could get a job.

“We reckoned I would be able to find work too,” says Janne Sigurðsson. 

It was hard leaving her job in Denmark. As head of department Janne was responsible for 40 to 45 employees at the mobile development centre Siemens Mobile Phones. Her man worked in the construction industry and baked rye bread in Denmark. 

They moved to Iceland in August 2005. Early on Janne took it easy but soon started looking for a job. Alcoa needed someone to head the IT team at the smelting plant. It suited her perfectly. She started working there in May 2006. In early 2012 she became the Managing Director for the entire Icelandic smelting plant.

“Life in Iceland is lovely,” says Janne Sigurðsson happily. 

“Me not being Icelandic has never been a problem. I got a warm welcome from day one, both here in the town and at work.”

Perfect timing

Janne had been living in eastern Iceland for one year when she was 18, but of course it was a great change for the family to go and live in Iceland. Janne had always longed to move there. The children were interested in living there too. They were 11 and 15 when they moved, and spoke no Icelandic. So the move was a major decision. And perhaps not a particularly sensible one at that stage in their lives. 

“We were living on a beautiful farm in Denmark and had family and many friends. We had fantastic jobs. The family had a good life in Denmark,” explains Janne. 

But the timing was actually perfect, it was now or never. And it was a happy decision. 

When the Sigurðsson family debated whether to move to Iceland they were wondering about their finances and how it would change. But the family economy is neither better nor worse than is was before. They knew from the start that life would not be the same as it had been in Denmark.

Today Janne lives in the small town of Eskifjörður in eastern Iceland. The smelting plant is in the neighbouring town of Reyðarfjörður. 

Janne and her children are Danish citizens. The paperwork only took two to three weeks for them. Janne’s husband is Icelandic, and it took him six months to get into the Icelandic system, strange as it may seem.


The great advantage of living in a small community is that they have good contact with neighbours and are close to nature. 

“I love getting out into the wilderness, far away from anyone else,” says Janne.

The Icelandic language is her greatest challenge.

“Icelanders are patient and we laugh heartily when I email staff in bad Icelandic,” she continues. 

It is hard to live so far away from family and friends. They have bought a summer house near Ålborg in Denmark and can meet everybody when they are on holiday. That is a good compromise.

Janne always looks forward to going to work.

“I like it best when I’m not in the office all day, but am allowed to go to the factory for two to three hours and meet the factory workers,” she says. 

At work there are 500 employees who say hello and chat when they meet, and it doesn’t matter whether it is factory workers or management. 

“I am also happy when I’m back home again, enjoying the view,” says Janne, looking out at the beautiful mountains on the other side of the fjord. 

“I love living in Iceland.”


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