It’s the little things

I’m always writing about the things I love about Icelandic culture. Here are some more little things that I either discovered or re-appreciated on my recent Reykjavík trip that reaffirmed to me that this really is the most civilised place on earth:

  • Book stores open late – and early! You can walk around and everything is closed. Absolutely everything except the book stores. Icelanders have their priorities right! On a side note I was very proud of myself and my Icelandic language “skills” for being able to read the words on my plastic bag from Eymundsson. It says:
    Hvað ert þú að lesa? (“What are you reading?”)  and I didn’t know any of these words on my last visit in October…
  • Patient drivers. Laugavegur is a very long and narrow street full of intersections, tourists, shops, parked cars, etc. Anywhere else this would become a street full of honking horns, slammed brakes and speeding traffic narrowly missing pedestrians. Not here, everyone seems to serenely cruise along at a slow consistent speed, patiently waiting while people cross, tourists stand in the road taking pictures, other cars stop and leave their doors open while sorting passengers out, someone can’t park….they all just drift along with no bad driving and no signs of temper, although I don’t know what the in-car conversations are like! Maybe I’m missing out on all the shouting!

Really, there usually are lots of cars here! Except on a Sunday morning!

  • Leaving cars running outside a shop unattended while the driver goes in and does errands. Now I admit that this did happen in the small town where I grew up – but never have I seen another city where this would still happen. Unfortunately most of us live in a culture of mistrust where we are sure someone will steal things the minute we turn our backs. Madness.
  • I still love the whole first-name-basis egalitarian society. I got a chuckle out of watching the news and hearing the President referred to as “Ólafur” throughout. The rest of us are not on first name terms with our politicians and take them very seriously and must always refer to them by first name and last name and/or title.

Yes, ok, I will run again...

  • BooztBar – this is a shop at the mall where you could basically make your own sundaes by filling up your paper cup with ice cream and then add whatever toppings you want and then you pay for it by weight. If they had this in my local mall, everyone would be stuffing their face eating everything and not paying for it and just trying to get away with getting a free ice cream and throwing the toppings at each other…ridiculous really, but little things like this can tell you a lot about a society and how trusting it is.
  • A knitters paradise. I wouldn’t have appreciated this before I took up knitting last year. But where you may see just an ordinary department store, I see this – and this is just the Icelandic wool section!

Even the trees are knitted!

  • Because so much always seems to be happening there, you forget it really is a small place. This can be a good or a bad thing. I actually recognised a lot of the people working in shops from the last time I went. It’s quite fun – but would probably drive me mad if I lived there.
  • Finally, if all of the above fails and you’re having a bad day, you aren’t too far away from this:

Do you have somewhere you never get tired of visiting?

Related post: 10 Good Reasons to Live in Iceland


40 thoughts on “It’s the little things

  1. I love getting to visit places through the eyes of others. I would LOVE a bookstore that was open early and late! I also took up knitting a couple of years ago. I still prefer crochet (easier), but love the look of knit. I’m pretty sure I won’t be doing the outdoor knitting anytime soon, though. 🙂 Angie

    • I’ve heard that crocheting is easier. I have some patterns that I’d like to try that are both knitted AND crocheted, so would be useful to learn that too. Maybe once I get a bit more advanced with knitting I’ll start over again with crocheting! I’ve seen some nice crocheted necklaces that you can make.

      Outdoor knitting sounds like a sport!

  2. I just want to tell you how much I love reading your blog! I’m Icelandic but I live in Italy and reading your log always makes my day 🙂 It’s so nice to see that someone cares so much about my beautiful country 😀 Sometimes I get homesick when reading it though but thats fine because I’m moving back home in 4 MONTHS!! 😀

    ps. Good job on learning our language (it’s a hard one) 😀

    • Thank you Sif, that is so nice to read. I’m sure I must come across as naive to my Icelandic readers sometimes but I really do love Icelandic culture and find it so interesting. If I can make you homesick than I must be doing something right! 🙂 But please do feel free to correct me if I get things wrong sometimes…

      Italy is very different, I’m sure you have found some things to love there but will also appreciate your own country now for different reasons. Do you live in Reykjavik?

      Og takk…Ég er að reyna…

      • Actually I don’t find you naive at all, and as for the correcting there is no need for that yet, you have gotten everything right (good job) 😀

        and yes Italy is very different from Iceland and I love both countries so much! But I will appreciate everything so much more when i get back home! And I live in Hafnarfjörður just about 10 minutes away from Reykjavík 😀

      • Aw thanks, you are a very good reader. 🙂

        Maybe you can clear something up for me – why does your town have the Taco Bell and not somewhere where more tourists would be? This is a bit sad but I haven’t had Taco Bell in about 15 years (we don’t get it in England) and when the Flybus goes the way where it goes past the Taco Bell I am devastated every time! If they had one around Laugavegur it would do huge business. But would be a little depressing. (actually I think the memory of Taco Bell may be better than the food really is?? please tell me it’s not as good as I remember!)

      • I have never really thought about the Taco Bell thing but I guess you’re right it would get huge business if it was round Laugarvegur. And I haven’t actually had something from Taco Bell for a long time now because there is no Taco Bell where I’m living in Italy and I don’t really remember what it tastes like so I’m just going to tell you what you want to hear! ”It’s not as good as you remember”

      • Thanks Sif, just what I need to hear! (although if you do happen to stop in on your return, give them my regards!) Sadly I will be with husband and car on next trip and we have actually talked about if we should make a detour to the Taco Bell or not. How touristy is that. I would almost feel the need to explain to them that it’s because I haven’t been to one in so long rather than it’s because it’s all I eat!

  3. I LOVE the knitted trees! What a neat idea. Especially during the winter months, would add a bit of color. 😉 I like calling politicians by their first names too, maybe if we all did people, politicians and citizens would feel a connection with each other they most likely don’t now!

  4. I remember that about the bookstores! And the wall of yarn at nearly every store? AWESOME! I bought a ton of yarn in Iceland for my friend who knits and have yet to send it to him…really need to get on that!

  5. I agree with the other Icelandic girl, you do start some imotions in me by your writing about my birth country 🙂 I miss Iceland sometimes when i read your blog, and i love the way you see things as an outsider. It’s different. I love my country but not enough to live there, not for now at least, but i do miss the nature, I dont miss that everybody knows everybody and they all know what you did, or did not do.. ,-) that is how small sociaty works, like Iceland. And knowing the people in the store, it was funny to read, because i get that all the time when i go home, i dont know the persons name, but have seen hers or his face 1000 times before.. 😉

    • I’m lucky to have such wonderful readers! Much more fun than just writing to myself in a diary like I did when I was a teenager. 🙂

      I agree, the recognising everyone everywhere would drive me crazy. But it must be part of what makes people act nicely to each other there, there’s nowhere to hide! Now, when Icelanders start recognising ME everywhere I will know I have visited too much.

  6. p.s about the taco bell in Hafnarfjordur.. Did you know that people from Hafnarfjordur and Reykjavík have a funny kind of relationship 🙂 not a bad one, but there are ALOT of jokes out there about Hafnarfjordur and people from there, allthough i’ve laways liked that place. I guess that Taco Bell is thriwing better there than it would in Reykjavík!! but i really dont know. I think Iceland is the only country in the world where Macdonalds HAD to close because they had almost no buiesness there… 🙂

    • I did know! There are always these silly rivalries between places that are next to each other! It must be human nature. I’m sure I am the only person who hopes the Flybus goes the Taco Bell way and not the other way…

      It would be depressing if Reykjavik was full of these fast food places, I know. And I’m sure it’s not as good as I remember!

      I think you need to a stop in England on your world tour, but we might have so much fun laughing about things that you wouldn’t get much sightseeing done.

  7. Whenever Americans refer to their politicians by the first name, it’s usually to be condescending or as a nickname (good or bad). There is no was in any school in America that I could get by as a teacher with kids calling me Mike. It just wouldn’t happen. They need to know that they are the children and I am the adult. Here in Taiwan, it’s ok because the kids don’t take advantage of the situation, and they don’t know that “Mike” isn’t my family name.

  8. awww I loved reading this post so much! It is so nice when people have positive things to say about my ´´little´´ island! To see Iceland through someone elses eyes, makes it all so magical!

  9. I tried to go to Eymundsson early once, and it doesn’t open until 10. Book-shops open earlier in the UK. They are open unusually late here, though – defs cool. The dawdling traffic on Laugavegur is kind of annoying if you are actually trying to get anywhere! It’s nice to cruise down on a Saturday afternoon though.
    I think you might be idealising Iceland a bit… I work in an Icelandic mall and there are just as many pricks as there are in any British mall. We had some teenagers in the other day who were trying to set fire to something and then one came over and was like, “Má ég aðeins fá beittan hníf lánaðan?” Uuuugh, nei…

    • Yes, I should probably say that nothing opens early in Iceland! Which is a bit of a nightmare for an early bird like me. I’d have to adjust my timetable if I was spending any length of time there.
      Of course I idealise it – that’s the fun part about not living somewhere, you can choose to ignore all the bad bits. : ) I take your point about mall rats but I find it difficult to believe there can be as many losers hanging around your place. Maybe it helps not being able to understand their conversations!

  10. I too fell in love with Iceland when my husband and I visited for our fifth wedding anniversary in December 2010. I dream of moving there but doubt that they have much use for an English lawyer! I also was inspired to learn to knit after my visit to Iceland and asked for needles and wool for Christmas. Just over a year on I am now learns stranded colourwork and am ready to knit my own Lopapeysa. Hope you stick with the knitting and keep the blog going.

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