A Local's Guide For Tourists On How To Befriend The Locals

Ten handy tips on how to get to know all those lovely Icelanders
21.8.2012
Words by Nína Salvarar
So you’ve seen it all. You’re on your third Golden Circle and you probably know more about Icelandic geography than any local high school student. You’ve spent all your money on watching whales and the rest of your gold was eaten by the bars. You are lonely and penniless in Iceland and what you really need is a friend. The people you came here with are not your friends anymore, you’re so sick of them that you are on the verge of hating yourself simply for being their friend. You have a few days left. You have emptied the minibar. What to do?

Here is a guide to getting a bit closer to the locals. I’m not talking about sex. The airlines provide that kind of information. I’m simply talking about platonic friendships, if you need someone to lighten your spirit, join you in a crazy tequila fiesta, someone to wake up in a dumpster with, reeking of fish oil.

1. Numero uno—and this is one of the biggest tourism conspiracies in this country. If I disappear after writing this article, it’s probably because I let you in on this secret. Here it goes: Take off that bright coloured coat. Even if it’s a normal shade, like black, grey or maybe white—one of those colours that doesn’t give you a third degree welder’s flash in a second—it will still keep you warm. Trust me.  Icelanders are insanely shallow and fashion aware people and you just have to join in the nonsense.

2. Seek out the right crowd. Find someone over thirty that is professionally obliged to tell you the truth. This person may be a bartender or some of the hostel staff. Or that hot guy from the whale watching thing. Tell them who you are and what kind of company you are looking for. You don’t want to be outnumbered by latte-drinking Eurohippies in your Wall Street suit.

3. Speak English. It’s fine. We don’t expect you to do anything else. Don’t think making an attempt to speak the language will get you anywhere. Icelanders are very sarcastic and judgemental when it comes to that sort of thing.

4. Throw away your street map. Do it. No, really. Throw it away. All you need is this paper you are reading right now. Why? Because I said so. Talk to the locals about where to go and what to see. You stand a better chance of getting acquainted with people and besides, most of the interesting cafes and bars switch locations every two months, so any map that tells you that this place or the other is the tits is full of lies, unless it was published this morning.

5. Start smoking. It’s such a fine way to get to know the people, if you don’t mind the yellow fingers, stained teeth, smelly hair, the insane price of tobacco and the slow and painful death that follows.  It makes you look cool, and slightly suicidal. You will also become better acquainted with Iceland’s lovely weather, as smoking indoors is strictly prohibited.

6. Go swimming. There are loads of young people, especially in the hot tubs. Some are even good looking. Since you’re not from around here you’ve probably got some fabulous tan lines and exotic swimwear. And boy, do we like tan lines.

7. Yes, do get some tan before your arrival. Not like bottle tan, or beauty pageant tan. I’m talking about the kind you get when you are gardening. It makes you look exotic, as most of the locals are greyish looking; for them, that yellow thing in the sky is merely a myth.

8. Read books. Smart people are more interesting. This applies to any friend making method anywhere in the world. You can also pull the cynical sarcastic type. Sarcasm works. Go to the bar and tell them you had a wonderful day in the nice weather and the most awful thing that could happen to you now would be a nice, cold beer and a shoulder to cry on. Hilarity will ensue.

9. Smile, but not too much. We as a rule are not smilers, due to our horrible dental healthcare system. It’s not because we don’t like you, so please do not take it personally if everyone seems a bit angry looking.

10. Ask around for information, it makes us feel important and feeling important is the national sport. Where is the bathroom, which direction is the ocean? It’s all good. We love you. Welcome.


Subscribe to daily news from Iceland



Most recent grapevine.is:



From our sponsors