Katherine: A Year In Fire And Ice
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Iceland, etc.
Hi there! I'm Katherine (sometimes Katie, never Kathy). I was born in Utah, raised on an Alpaca ranch at the base of a beautiful mountain, and have a special knack for games like “Catch Phrase” and “Bananagrams”. I started solo traveling at age 20 and officially became an expat at 25 when I moved to Iceland to be an au pair. I've been living in Iceland since February 2013 and will be here for about a year. After that, I'll go where the winds (and visa regulations) take me!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
When I was planning my move to Iceland, other people's blogs were incredibly valuable in my preparations. My hope is others can find my blog just as insightful as they plan their move or visit. It also serves as a journal of my experiences so I'll be able to look back and remember all the little details of my time here.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- My big photography road trip around Iceland with my dad.
- My brother died of cancer in June 2012, and so much of this trip is a pilgrimage for him, so I often blog about my experiences revolving his sickness and death.
- I re-read my first post a couple weeks ago. It's always funny to see your fears before you dive into the unknown. As much as you think you’re ready (or not ready), you really just have no idea.
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?
You know, I was expecting a bigger transition than I experienced. I remember feeling absolutely comfortable from the moment I arrived. I'm a very adaptable person who doesn't really get home sick, so I think that helped, but Iceland is also simply not that culturally unusual (except for the lack of McDonalds, which I really don't miss anyway). There are a few quirks, like having to scrub down fully naked with a bunch of other naked people before entering the pools, always taking your shoes off before entering houses, not having your check brought to you at a restaurant, having intermission during movies at the theater, or the water smelling like sulfur, but it's nothing that I didn't get used to almost immediately.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Iceland? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
No one can ever be fully (or even partially!) prepared when moving to a country they've never been to before. Not only had I never been here, but I didn't even know anyone from here (except for my host family who I had only emailed). All my information about Iceland was coming from stuff I read on the internet, but you can't ever tell how reliable that information is until you experience it for yourself. It was kind of nice to come with a completely clean slate.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Let's just say the dating world has been... interesting. It's so completely different from home where the normal succession of things goes: guy and girl meet at a party, guy asks girl out, if things go well they go out again, then again, then again until their a couple or not. Here, if a guy is into you, he doesn't just ask you on a date. That's not how it works. How does it work, you might ask? I have no idea. I'm pretty sure my dating life here reflects a painfully awkward independent film starring Michael Cera.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Iceland?
- Don't go with expectations. Be open to all the new experiences without your preconceived ideas messing everything up (and they WILL mess things up).
- Plan on getting out of the capital area. For the love of everything, GO SEE ICELAND. Sometimes we feel a need to nest and hold down the fort when we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory. Resist this urge! Make all of Iceland your territory.
- Remember that this is fun. Life is fun. Yes, yes, it's hard and all that too. But first of all, it's fun. Soak it in.
How is the expat community in Iceland? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Iceland has some great Facebook groups for expats to come and ask questions, post tips, or advertise get-togethers. It's been a lot of fun to befriend people from all over the world through these groups. I think Iceland draws a great crowd. But I definitely recommend immersing yourself in the Icelandic community as well. Icelanders might seem a little rough on the outside, but I've never met such genuine and helpful people in my life.
How would you summarize your expat life in Iceland in a single, catchy sentence?
Sometimes windy, sometimes rainy, always an adventure.