Eliza Reid—once a Grapevine food reviewer—has been working as a journalist and writer in Iceland for over a decade, and is now Iceland’s new First Lady. The Grapevine touched based with Eliza to see what the future holds for her and the country.
I imagine the Canadian press has been all over this. Is it overwhelming getting all this media attention, from two countries?
It’s not overwhelming, but it’s certainly a change! We actually have someone booking all the interviews for us now. I just feel so fortunate to be in this position, so it’s no problem.
What are you most looking forward to as a part of the presidency? What do you believe will be the most challenging?
I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to meet people from around Iceland, and to help promote Iceland and its culture to the rest of the world. I probably cannot even imagine what the most challenging dimension will be, but I guess having to pick and choose between events and balancing that with family life, especially in making sure our kids make the transition to their new home and school smoothly.
How do you view your role in this new position?
My sense at this early stage is that I can shape it as I wish. Of course I will be by Guðni’s side during official and ceremonial functions, but I also hope to be able to actively participate and assist in ways where I can be of benefit, perhaps giving speeches, meeting people and helping with various causes.
As an immigrant to Iceland who is now moving into this influential position, what kind of relationship do you hope to have with the immigrant community? Do you believe there are expectations placed upon you in this role?
I think that the fact that Guðni has been elected with a foreign-born wife helps to show that Iceland is generally a very tolerant and open-minded country. I have not experienced any negative sentiment from the fact that I am foreign-born and -raised and that my Icelandic, while good, is not perfect. As the President and First Lady, we will be representing all Icelanders, including of course foreign-born Icelanders.
Are there particular causes or projects you hope to be able to emphasise and move forward?
With my own work co-founding the annual Iceland Writers Retreat, my interest in Iceland’s rich literary and cultural heritage has grown, and I can see how I might be able to help promote this heritage abroad. I can also relate to some of the challenges facing new immigrants to Iceland. But I have an open mind about things and there are no doubt innumerable causes and projects that I hope to be able to help with.
It is an immense privilege that the people of Iceland have elected Guðni to serve the country in this way, and it will be an honour to help him to do so to the best of his ability.