Being Icelandic always gives you a good way to start conversations. Most first response is “wow” and they are so shocked that they are talking to an Icelandic person. Almost all know about this small island in the middle of Atlantic Ocean but the what they know about the inhabitants can really depend on who you talk to!
The most common stereotype is of course Vikings. Everyone knows about our Viking blood and how we live in the cold and dark. The Vikings are a Scandinavian thing but everyone I meet think that we are the most real Vikings as we also have the oldest language (or most similar to old Norse). We still have people in Iceland who really fit this stereotype like Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson who plays the mountain in Game of Thrones. But this does not apply to all Icelanders as we are also known for being quite soft.
There are also some that think that we still live in holes in the ground and only eat rotten fish and drink shark fat. Well the houses in the ground are called “torfhús” and are our traditional houses and it’s maybe not so long ago that we moved out of them, (in the beginning of 20th century most people lived in them). But the fish is true, most of the traditional food is really disgusting for foreigners and we do drink some kind of a fish fat every morning. I was talking about this with my friend, then he asked me if it’s true that sometimes an eruption comes and everyone dies? Hahaha this is very wrong, it’s actually not so dangerous to live in Iceland, when eruption happens most of the time no one dies but houses and land can get destroyed.
Knowledge about Icelandic culture is really depending on who you ask. Very often I get “BJÖRK” screamed at me after telling where I’m from. Icelandic music is really well known, for example I was talking to a girl in my school and told here where I was from and she really lost it! She’s a huge fan of Sigur Rós and has learned some Icelandic because of it. Another one of my friend was so into JóiPé and Króli which are young rappers in Iceland, she knew the lyrics better then me. Really often I start to speak about Icelandic music when I meet people, it’s really great because I also like it a lot.
It does happen that people have no idea where it is, those are my favorite conversations. Everything can happen then, I have got the question if we have penguins in Iceland way too many times! Also that we live in Igloos and just fish for food.
But there are many who know a lot about us. About our equality movements and strong feminism community. That we are all related and we are supposed to use a app to know who related to us, used before you hookup (it’s true). Almost everyone that I talk to says that they want to go to Iceland and that makes me very happy.
This is one of my favorite part of the exchange! Because at home you can’t know about how other countries see you. I feel like it actually gives me a better understanding of my own country. And these conversations can be so fun!
Júlíus Waage z Islandii (program roczny na Polsce 2017/18)