Hoping to befriend «our kind» in Bergen

CORRESPONDENT: Being away from home, Icelanders find comfort when hearing others talk Icelandic, and have the instant urge to communicate with their fellow countrymen.

GREETINGS. Icelanders happily greet other Icelandic strangers in a foreign country. Illustration: Elina Ulén
Publisert Sist oppdatert

When we hear other Icelanders speaking Icelandic abroad, we are immediately drawn to them with magnetic force. 

One might even consider this as a built-in system, in that we want to inform other Icelanders that we are also Icelandic, even though our nationality and language are the only thing we really have in common.

The Icelandic «greet a stranger syndrome»

A couple of weeks ago I was having coffee at Nobel Bopel café when a couple walked in and sat down at the table next to me. Shortly after they ordered and were seated, I heard them speak Icelandic. My ears grew double in size and my eyes widened as I instinctively looked at them. 

THE INSTINCTIVELY LOOK: Shortly after they ordered and were seated, I heard a couple speak Icelandic. My eyes widened as I instinctively looked at them. Illustration: Elina Ulén / Photo: Sara Nystad

Fortunately, they did not notice the weird lady sitting alone at the table next to them with twinkling stars in her eyes. I thought about greeting them or even doing the famous Viking Clap, just to inform them that I was Icelandic as well.

I could feel the urge building up inside me.

A part of me wanted to speak to them in my mother tongue so much. Unfortunately, it took me too long to think about what to say. Before I got a chance to greet the two Icelandic strangers they were gone.

Hoping to befriend our «kind»

Regardless of whether we are strangers to each other, it is a sudden urge to inform the other Icelander that we are also Icelandic. Let them know that we understand everything they say and that we know where they come from. As if we want to befriend others of our «kind.»

I am not sure what we really expect.

THE FAMOUS VIKING CLAP: I thought about doing the famous Viking Clap just to inform them that I was Icelandic as well. Illustration: Elina Ulén

It is the same feeling you get when you see a celebrity or an idol of yours. Your instinct tells you to approach them, even to run towards them just to get close, and then what? Talk to them and inform them that you are a big fan? Take a picture with them and post it on Instagram?

I know that if I would have greeted the Icelanders at the café, they would have happily talked to me. It is something completely different in Norway. Every time I say good morning to Norwegians on a hike or ask a local to point me in the right direction, they look at me with a side glance and wonder why on earth I am talking to them.

The Icelandic solidarity

Icelanders are quite open to talking to strangers. Not to mention if you go to the swimming pool back home, you will most likely enter a discussion with other locals about the weather, politics, or how Iceland will definitely win Eurovision this year.

This has presumably something to do with the fact that the population of Iceland is only about 364.000, which gives us the opportunity to form closer contact with one another. Icelanders living in Norway even have a Facebook group where they share news feeds from home and where you can buy the Icelandic chocolate Easter eggs in Norway because naturally, we only want Icelandic candy for Easter.

NATIONAL PRIDE. There is no denying that Icelanders are proud of their roots. Illustration: Elina Ulén

Icelanders are proud people and since there are so few of us. It is perhaps not surprising that we want to feel at home when we come across our neighbors in the streets of a foreign country.


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