Christina: Sky as a Kite
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Iceland, etc.
My name is Christina also known as Tine, Efia or Efiabruni because I’m a Russian spy posing as an indecisive German. I first moved abroad after finishing high school in Germany, as I needed some time to figure out what I wanted to do. I volunteered for a year in Iceland and found myself returning again and again until I gave up and admitted this is my home now.
I’m currently trying to juggle my day job with political activism, opening a micro bakery, hacking around on my blog script and life in Reykjavík/Iceland in general.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started my blog when I lived in Blönduós, a tiny town in the north of Iceland. I had a lot of time on my hand and started playing around with the blog script on my computer and pagekite, a project of an acquaintance of mine. At first it was mainly for testing purposes, but when I started travelling (down the Pan-American Highway) it was a way for me to share my experiences with friends and family. Once I became settled again the topics on my blog expanded from: "look at that picture of me" to politics, life musings and general observations about the country I was living in. A blogger was born.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I have always been privileged as an immigrant. I have always been an expat. At some point I felt uncomfortable enough with the reversed discrimination I was experiencing that I wrote the blog post Call me Immigrant against the random categorization into desirable and less desirable immigrants.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Iceland differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My first move to Iceland was part of a lot of firsts. First real job, first time not living at home, in short, first experience of grown up life. I have yet to return to Germany, Icelandic life is the norm to me. Yet every year, sometime in the middle of winter I suddenly have the claustrophobic realization that I'm stuck on a barren island in the middle of nowhere during a snowstorm and that I cannot remember when I have last seen the sun.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Iceland? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I would have spent some more time on the website of the Directorate of Immigration and informed myself about proper immigration procedures. It seems every time I come to Iceland the process has slightly changed and I always end up going back and forth between the immigration office and the registration office until it is sorted.
I always stock up on stockings, socks and underwear in Germany, to the point that it is a running gag between my friend and me. These things are surprisingly expensive here.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Despite being almost fluent in Icelandic I still manage to amuse people on a regular basis. I once asked a patient whether he was castrated just by confusing a vowel and the other day I said I was going to see a f*lizard movie, instead of a dinosaur movie, because I often pronounce the Icelandic "i" as "í". My colleague spent the rest of the day making fun of me.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Iceland?
- Moving to any new country can and should feel like an exciting adventure. Iceland in particular can feel like this friendly, quaint little country, especially as one often finds a flat or a job via acquaintances. However, this is not a holiday and a carefree attitude can go wrong very quickly. Be aware that not knowing your rights, local circumstances or the language puts you at a disadvantage and that in Iceland, just like in any other country people might take advantage of this. Inform yourself as much as possible, take time to read through contracts and don’t be shy to ask for help.
- Plan for winter. It can be hard. The darkness has a way of creeping up on you and before you know it you spent most of Sunday in bed watching TV shows and wondering where all your energy is gone to. What one can do:
- Eat healthy, especially take care that you get enough vitamin D
- Exercise, whether this means hitting the gym every day or meeting a friend in the swimming pool on Saturdays it will help you stay active
- Force yourself to wake up and go to bed early. Icelandic winter can kill your sleep cycle.
- Get a daylight lamp.
- Learn Icelandic. In Reykjavík one can easily get by with English only, but to fully integrate speaking Icelandic is a must, not only for practical reasons, but a culture is closely connected to the language and one simply cannot understand the Icelandic mindset without being able to say "Þetta reddast" with conviction.
How is the expat community in Iceland? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There are a lot of clubs and societies in Iceland. I joined a martial arts sports club (something I always wanted to learn), then a choir, then a volleyball group, then a horse riding course, then a Bacchata dancing group, then a board games night. Basically anything I found slightly interesting I stuck my nose in. This is my advice to others, be open for new ideas and do things you have fun with.
I’m also a member of the couchsurfing community, which is quite active here in Reykjavík.
How would you summarize your expat life in Iceland in a single, catchy sentence?
Sitting in a hot pot during a snow storm.