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Wearing many hats

January 16, 2015

What do you do when there are only 323.000 people living in Iceland, but the country needs firemen, chefs, teachers, musicians, politicians and so on? Well, you put another hat on!

Once you meet an Icelander, your conversation won‘t go far until you realize that this particular individual wears many hats.

Blending in withe the statues

A rock star will not just be a rock star

If you are from New York, you‘ll probably have met waiters who are also actors. However, In Iceland the school teacher will also be a rock-star, the sailor a poet and the banker a Zumba teacher. We all have to take on multiple roles to make our sparsely populated community work. Talk to somebody long enough and you‘ll understand why there is very little class distinction in Iceland.

When the going gets tough, in winter storms, earthquakes and avalanches, we have to rely on each other. The Member of Parliament may have a license to drive a bus for evacuation. The beautician may be a seasoned search-and-rescue volunteer. Ask your tour guide what he or she has studied and what else they have done for a living. You will hear the most amazing and surprising answers.

Wearer of many hats

Oh, I know a guy!

Something else that you may note: whatever the topic, the Icelander you are conversing with will either know all about it or know someone who knows all about it. While the former may often be exaggerated, the latter is usually true.

With the tiny population and our incurable interest in genealogy, we all have a rocket scientist (well, a seismology expert) in our close family or our group of friends.

Please note that “close family” to Icelanders is a somewhat loose term although, if prompted, your interlocutor can undoubtedly trace the link and prove it. Even if the family link may be somewhat far down (or up) the family tree, when people become friends and then establish a blood relation, they sort of move closer to your own family branch.

Contributed: Ester Auður Elíasdóttir