Ten Things I Hate About You, Iceland (KH)

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katharinahauptmann02_dlUsually I write about stuff that is great in or about Iceland. Usually the content of my articles is very much in favor of the country. But, although I love Iceland and chose to live here, there are a few things that really annoy me from time to time.

Today I will start playing hardball.

- Food: The lack of fruit and vegetables. Sure, you can buy a decent variety of local and exotic fruit and greens here, but things just aren’t as tasty as elsewhere. Say ‘goodbye’ to delicious, sun-ripened tomatoes or succulent pineapples, and don’t even think about buying strawberries. Just don’t.

- Parking: Icelanders are very patient and relaxed drivers, but many of them have poor parking skills. Taking the space of three cars, letting the engine run during a shopping trip, one or even two tires balancing on the curb, parking in the middle of sidewalks or half way into a junction—it’s all happening here.

- Bankruptcy: When opening a business in Iceland, one receives a kennitala, which works like a social security number. Once somebody runs their company into bankruptcy, this person can easily get a new kennitala and just open another business. And the game can start again. This is a very common practice in the Icelandic business world, especially in the restaurant and bar scene. It is unbelievable how people are allowed to ruin business after business without any obvious restrictions.

Where I’m from, one cannot simply start another company after running the first company into financial abyss. I know many people who have been the victims of such business practices, myself included. Because the ones who suffer from this malpractice are the employees who suddenly lose their jobs. It’s absolutely puzzling how few restrictions there are and how easy it is for a bunch of crooks, I mean businessmen, to just bankrupt company after company with no obvious consequences.

- Recycling: I have complained about the lack of a proper recycling system before. Two years later there still hasn’t really been any improvement, except for an additional trash bin in my front yard that collects plastic and paper. Still, that is just not enough.

- Communication: Yes, Icelandic is a very difficult language but it would be much easier if Icelanders were a little bit more cooperative with people that do not speak this insane language perfectly. First of all, from my experience, most Icelanders have little imagination when it comes to trying to understand a non-Icelander speaking Icelandic with a foreign accent. Even though your pronunciation might only be slightly off, the Icelander will often not understand you.

Occasionally, you might not try to speak Icelandic but rather choose English because you just have to make sure everything is understood. Some Icelanders seem not wanting to speak English to you, not because they are insecure about their language skills but for reasons I cannot understand. Especially when the Icelander in question is holding an official office and one needs to communicate. Almost every time the police, which sometimes come into the bar where I work, they immediately turn away from me and only talk to my Icelandic colleagues. Also the staff working at the office of the district commissioner (sýslumaður) doesn’t like to speak English.

- Noise pollution: I have often taken issue with people here for not having any regards towards their neighbors when it comes to noise. Signaling their arrival by honking their car’s horn repeatedly, having a loud party until 3:00 am on week nights, walking home from the bar through a residential area in the middle of the night singing and screaming...

- Slippery slopes: please, dear Íslendingar (‘Icelanders’), sand your sidewalks when they are covered in snow and ice! Thank you.

There are many other little things that sometimes bother me about Iceland that are so typical for this nation, and I’ve heard the same complaints from other foreigners about the same issues.

But as I said before, I love this country and its people, but sometimes they simply drive me a little mad.

Katharina Hauptmann – katha.hauptmann@gmail.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.