Monday, July 25, 2011

I Am Different, And That's OK!

I think my cousin Kris (whom I ran into at Kaffibarinn the other night, he’s visiting from the States) said it best the when he described the fashion in Reykjavik as “intense.” At the risk of offending people (although that is not my intention) I will now reveal that I have come to affectionately/jokingly refer to the current trend that’s sweeping the city as “trashy chic.” Last year when I visited Reykjavik, the girls only wore black, and leggings under a miniskirt or dress were the required uniform of the day. Now people have embraced colors, but the outfits they put together look like… Well, it looks to me like they were blindfolded, then walked into a thrift store and picked out seven items and wore them right out of the store. Sometimes the combinations are really cute and creative, and other times they are…not so cute. Then, if you’re a girl who wants to be truly stylish, you must wear hot pink, red, or orange lipstick and put your hair in a bun on top of your head. If you’re a guy, either stop washing your hair entirely and/or put a lot of product in it and then stop washing it. On Saturday night when everyone’s going out, it’s fun and adventurous. On a weekday at two-thirty in the afternoon, it just looks like everyone is trying too hard. The funny thing is that in a place this small, whatever the fashion is, almost every single person adopts it immediately. I love outrageous new looks, but sometimes when I’m hanging out at a bar or café, I find myself yearning for the fashion of the 1940s, when men looked so clean and groomed and handsome, and women’s clothing was so tailored and gorgeous and flattering for the female figure. Of course, I’m always yearning for that time period’s fashion, so it doesn’t say much that I do so now. Luckily for me, by next year there will be a new craze for me to judge and form an opinion about, and it won’t be a big deal in the grand scheme of things either. Nonetheless, my fingers are crossed for a resurgence of the Golden Era of Glamor!

Living in a little place is interesting. No, I don’t mean the apartment, although that is little too, I just mean in a small population. For one thing, gossip among females is just as “intense” as this year’s fashion, and it’s only amplified by the fact that the population is so tiny. I made the mistake of participating at work, to a certain extent, in an effort to fit in (childish, I know), and within a couple weeks a veritable tornado of negative energy was tearing down the proverbial Kansas homestead of my personal life. Woo, what a ride! It was a good lesson to be learned. Negative thoughts and speech breed… more negative thoughts and speech. It wasn’t pretty. But the conflict highlighted a certain characteristic of mine that I’m thinking must be distinctly American: individualism to the point of defiance, when necessary. For example, when things got to a certain level of hostility at work, or if there’s a certain amount of drama surrounding friends or acquaintances, my inner American Rosie the Riveter says, “I don’t have to stand for this kind of treatment! I’m out of here!” and I feel perfectly within my rights to defiantly remove myself from the situation or social circle. Then I roll up my sleeves and go back to building airplanes for the war effort. Figuratively speaking.

I don’t know if that’s usually done here, but I think the customary view is that on this tiny little island, all the social circles are woven together within one big scene, so really there never is any escape from the ebb and flow of the tides of gossip, rumors, and news. I have a feeling all small towns or really close-knit communities are this way in varying degrees of “intensity” (what a handy word in this blog entry!). I mean look at high school for crying out loud, don’t get me started. But what was interesting was that when I compared notes with Icelandic friends about the situation at work, for example, I was the only one who naturally felt that I was within my rights to defiantly “walk out” in protest, so to speak. My American friends, however, totally understood where I was coming from. It’s interesting how when I was in America, I was always noticing the ways in which I was different from other Americans, and now that I’m in Iceland, I’m noticing the ways that I’m different from the Icelanders. It’s kind of fun!

Either way, what I’ve decided is that I am no longer going to attempt to change myself in order to merge with the Icelandic culture. I can go with the fashion to a point (any excuse to wear red lipstick!), but not all the way. I enjoy keeping up with the news of friends and family, but have learned not to share every opinion I have with anyone who will listen. I like being a mixed bag of cultures and characteristics, and hereby proudly embrace the Icelandic, American, and even Austrian (thanks Dad!) traits I exhibit. I already use the excuse, “Well, I’m American,” whenever my opinion on something differs from that of an Icelander I may be talking to (or when I forget how to say something in Icelandic). Although my uncle’s Colombian-American wife says that my sense of time (“It’s not like Earth will drop out of orbit if we’re late.”) and my attitude about when meals should be served (“Dinner can be consumed any time between seven and ten.”) are distinctly Latin, so who knows any more?

Anyway, we’re going on our camping trip this week, finally! I can’t wait to get out of the city again and savor the natural world. I’m going to see if I can find a little Celtic flute before we go, so I can pretend to be an elf and skip around our tent playing songs and NOT annoying the bejeezus out of my boyfriend. I will also definitely NOT try to wake up before him so I can greet him first thing in the morning with the sound of a magical, Celtic version of “Good Morning, Starshine,” being played directly into his ear. Of course not…


  1. Again Inga,great blog. This what you are saying,I can relate to and understand. Keep up the good work and enjoy your camping trip,the boyfriend and the flute. Heyrumst.Swany.

  2. Takk Swany mín! I appreciate your support of my blogging efforts. :)

  3. Love seeing my peeps through your eyes, and find that I agree with you on many points :)

    Kveðja, D´Mondragons.