A few months ago a friend and reader, partly in jest (I think) commented that I never say much in a positive light about the people who inhabit this island, just the landscape and the scenery. Since then I've been thinking about why exactly this is. First of all I am still interested in preserving some level of anonymity (not sure how effective this is for the Icelandic readership) so getting super specific about people I know would likely make that impossible. Second of all, the time I am most likely to think about things to write is when I am alone, contemplating some lonely expanse of landscape and making mental notes as to where this experience differs or compares to the years Before Iceland.
And finally, I am reluctant to go all sweeping generalization on the people I've met and gotten to know in the past two years. Still, it's thanks to all these people that I am still here, living the foreign land life that is not fun or perhaps even possible without the people that have helped me navigate through all the complexities.
There's the endless funnel of advice I've gotten on all the little things that make up the infrastructure of life- translating the Icelandic tax-form terminology, knowing what kind of salary range to ask for, understanding the health care system, the housing, the leasing, the visa process, cooking a Christmas ham properly, even the instructions on the all-Icelandic washing machine at the last apartment. It's a lot of life-bits to have to learn all over again, and these guides have been the difference between thinking giving up was the easiest answer and soldiering on in the face of words that are 20 letters long.
There are the rides I've gotten on so many mornings, so many frigid afternoons or late evenings that have made it possible to avoid the miserably inefficient bus system, and the trips I've been invited on as the spare rider. It's the chance to borrow a car when a friend comes to visit, a detail that made the difference between a pleasant visit and an amazing, memorable trip.
It's the people who have opened their houses to me and to my family and friends, the ones with the advice about places to visit, secret hot springs, and how it just might be possible to get an extra portion of the alcohol allotment past the guys in the airport. Some people say that people here are rather rude because they're not all napkins snapped into the lap, doors opened for the ladies, and holding coats. I say that after a shared cab ride from the edge of the world through Kópavogur and finally to Reykjavík, when you're the last out of the cab and find that the guy that got out just before you paid so much he covered your share and left you with 500 krónur extra, that's real chivalry.
There are quite a few foreigners who live here for the sake of the landscape, the air & water, the social benefits, and really don't care much for the locals, but I have to say I'm not one of them. Sure, some of the features of Icelandic society are still befuddling or a bit unappealing to my more straitlaced New England mentality, but for the most part I am overwhelmingly grateful to all the people who have made my life here so varied, so interesting, and so much easier than it would have otherwise been.