Observations from a foreigner, or: how to clean a sofa

  Illustration/Linnea Granstöm

Illustration/Linnea Granstöm

Coming as an exchange student from Sweden I was somehow expecting to find a lot of similarities between my forested home country and this barren volcanic island. Like the seemingly constant darkness descending upon the societies of the upper northern hemisphere every winter (which the summer-me always forgets that the winter-me lived through only half a year ago). However, as the foreigner I am, I have also inevitably noticed some of the peculiarities this absolutely charming country has to offer. So, here comes a very subjective list of more or less useful observations at your disposal!

  • Many Icelandic people sound just like Sean Connery when speaking English. It’s adorable.
  • Reykjavík is a town of cats. Apparently you need a special permit to even own a dog.
  • You can’t pay with credit card on the city buses and if you don’t have exact change you gladly have to pay your whole big note in some sort of involuntary donation to the Icelandic public transport. So be sure to get the Strætó-app before going on any bus adventures.
  • A lot of the vegetables sold here are actually grown in Iceland, in geothermally heated green houses.
  • People give away so much stuff for free in this country! If it is riding boots or the cutest wrapping paper with a cat pattern – grab it! If it is a two seat sofa, optimistically judged to fit five, which smells suspiciously of cigarette smoke – don’t grab it. It’ll soon turn out to smell a lot more than just a little and it doesn’t help to spread half a can of baking powder on it. It’ll only make it even less inviting.
  • Baking powder is not what you’re supposed to put on your sofa to reduce smell. It’s baking SODA. So if your considerate Icelandic classmates share their household tricks, be sure to listen carefully so you get it right.
  • Avocados here have a percentage of perfection touching on 95! (This is empirically proven by yours truly through eating ridiculous amounts of avocado.)
  • Even though many things in Iceland are kind of pricey for foreigners the majority of cultural events, concerts and clubs are for free! It’s absolutely amazing.
  • Sometimes it rains horizontally. That’s not a very favorable direction unless you’re really into wet trousers.
  • If you go to a movie in the campus cinema, Háskólabíó, (or basically any cinema in Iceland) you’ll get a most unclear intermission in the middle of the movie, offering opportunities to head off to the toilet or snack shop or (for less experienced Háskólabíó visitors) ten minutes of amused confusion.
  • It’s not possible to be a spontaneous morning- or night shopper in this town because the reasonably priced grocery stores (read: Bónus) are only open during the hours when you are (supposed to be) in school. Except on Fridays. On Fridays Bónus is open until 19:30.
  • And ultimately, if you don’t know what to buy a Friday night at Bónus: buy mayonnaise. It’s literally the base to all things good! And it goes perfectly with the flawless avocados.

Article first published in the 2nd issue of Stúdentablaðið 2016-2017

Journalist: Linnea Granström

  Illustration/Linnea Granström

Illustration/Linnea Granström