Pale As Hail Is A Pasta-Eating Expat

There are a few things you should know before moving to another country. A few examples, and I’m just spit-balling here, are; knowing something about the culture, how the city is mapped out and, you know, how to speak the language.  I didn’t know any when I got here. But I am very good at figuring them out the hard way. 

We landed in Keflavik, Iceland at 1am and spent a short time roaming around the airport. The airport itself makes you feel like you are inside a new-agey IKEA. I was thrown by how modern the geometric ceiling and sleek cement walls were. How innovative it seemed to have open ceilings showing the constellations, and how the grab-n-go restaurants looked like the inside of a night club. Over all, I felt like I was entranced in a modern art museum… until our Airbnb guy apologized for how 80’s the airport is. Apparently, I am way behind. 

Certain cultural norms were pretty easy to pick up on after roaming Reykjavik for a day. The cool kids wear all black. Head to toe. It’s more a strict and unyielding uniform than a fashion statement. “Fortunate” I thought, picturing the all-black wardrobe I had acquired from almost 18 months in hair school. “Unfortunate” I thought, as I reminisced over throwing away my old black clothes in exchange for bright patterns that insisted on not matching with anything else I owned. As I stared down at my forest green and fuchsia floral dress jacket paired with a leopard print pencil skirt, I knew I would fit right in. Somewhere else. 

My sense of direction has been obliterated. In the states, I knew that the mountains were East, the valley was West, and North had the stores, so South must be toward nothing. Here, the ocean is East, the ocean is West, the ocean is also South. And the mall is North. Do I regret that I already use the mall as a sense of direction? Yes, slightly. It just says far more about myself than I want to know. Because I have lost obvious natural landmarks to guide me, and because the city is only a half hour walk from the Airbnb we are in for the next 2 weeks, I’ve been looking up. Toward the sky. The city’s most famous landmark is a Lutheran church called Hallgrímskirkja. And because I am a direct descendant of Martin Luther, I look to the church for direction. I also look to it because it is placed at the very top of a hill which marks the center of Reykjavik. If I’m lost, Hallgrímskirkja will help me find my way. Unfortunately, Reykjavik also has a lot of trees. And I’m pretty short. And that steeple is sometimes hard to find. That’s why I got lost in that cemetery earlier today. 

Downtown Reykjavik

The food downtown is great. I know because I was a tourist here once. I say this, after having just stolen a bite of my husband Christian’s teacup full of Lucky Charms, because we can’t actually afford to eat the food here. So far our meals have looked quite like that of a picky six year old. Tonight we made hot dogs. I cut mine up to trick myself into thinking I was eating more than half the size of hot dog I am used to in America. I added a side of canned peas because they were also cheap, and to trick myself into thinking I was having a nutritious meal. Pro Tip; don't buy the canned peas. It will never be worth it. Pro Pro Tip; buy the canned peas if you are on a diet and want to remind yourself you actually hate food. Those will help. Twice before tonight, we have had pasta. Bowtie pasta, because we wanted to class up our dining experience. Also because we recognized the picture of the pasta on the box. 

Before I moved I wanted to learn valuable Icelandic words. But Icelandic is hard. All I learned was fruit. I’m not sure if you speak another language, but if you do, you would know how often fruit comes up in everyday conversation. The answer is not a lot. And when you are living in an desolate Nordic country? It never comes up. I also learned how useless knowing the word for “banana” was when I went grocery shopping for the first time. You can see fruit. If you are buying an apple, you just look straight at the apple and know, for example, that it is an apple. I was going through the produce thinking “banani, epli, citron” while my eyes were going, “banana, apple, lemon… you KNOW this stuff already!” Why I chose fruit over practical grocery words, things that are packaged like; shampoo, deodorant, or tampon is completely beyond me. But I know my personal hygiene is lacking because of it. And my cupboards. What are we having for dinner tomorrow? Pasta. 

I’ve gotten pretty good at googling words in Icelandic in order to figure out things around me. I’ve learned about habits here that I can’t wait to experience, like celebrating Christmas for months on end. I’ve also learned about habits I can’t wait to avoid, like having to shower completely naked in public bathrooms before using the swimming pools (really, they are not messing around with that one.) Either way, I have a lot of time to post about the new experiences I’m having and I don’t have much patience left to add it to this. Moral of the story, I love it here. It’s different. And it’s keeping me on my toes.