From Iceland — Sour grapes and stuff

Sour grapes and stuff

Published July 20, 2009

Sour grapes and stuff

Dear Scumbag who stole my scooter from the garden behind my house last friday night,
If I ever find out who you are my father is going to remove your eyes and shove them up your ass so you, along with me can watch him kick the shit out of you.
Sincerely, Áróra.
Dear Áróra,
thank you for your lovely, threatening letter, and the accompanying lovely, threatening photograph. We are sure that the scumbag that was audacious enough to steal a young girl’s scooter from the garden behind her house is trembling with fear right now, as he should be. Stealing is rotten, stealing from kids doubly so.
That said, we do hope you realise that violence is never the answer, and neither are threats of violence (even adorable threats of violence, such as yours). Us at the Grapevine sincerely hope you aren’t being raised as some sort of George W Bush Jr. We also hope you find your scooter as soon as possible.
Also, Áróra, even though yours is our most awesome letters, we can’t very well be bestowing cases of beer on minors such as yourself. That’s why we’ve decided to keep your prize for you until you turn twenty. Give us a call when you get there.

Hello there Grapevine,
I’m from a school called Bathgate Academy in Scotland. A couple of weeks ago a few of us came to visit your lovely country and did the Laugavegur Trek. We stayed in Reykjavik at the start and the end of the holiday, and on our second day in Reykjavik I discovered your newspaper. It’s awesome! Why can’t we have newspapers like yours? Ours seem incredibly dull compared to the Grapevine.
We’ve heard a lot about the crisis in Iceland at the moment, but keep going guys. You have a beautiful country full of wonderful people. I loved ice climbing on the glaciers and lazing about in the blue lagoon spa. Keep up the wonderfulness!
While we were staying at Reykjavik City Hostel we went to an amazing cafe called Just Food To Go. The chef, Stefan, had been having a bit of a hard time because of the financial crisis, but he was still cheery and doing a great job. If any of you are staying at the City Hostel get your bum over to Stefan’s.
I’m afraid to say, that while in Iceland I learnt very little Icelandic. I do have one phrase for you though: Ne hoppipolla! Eg er vikinger! I hope that’s right and doesn’t turn out to mean something really offensive!
Thanks for a great newspaper 🙂
Imogen, UK
Dear Imogen,
thank you for the kind words about our paper. As for being awesome, and your newspapers not being awesome, well. I don’t know what to say. We’re not really a newspaper, for one. Also, I’m sure you’ve got some good papers over in Scotland. Scotland is so cool. Anyway, we try really, I guess that counts for something, and we are fortunate enough to have a dedicated staff of designers, photographers, writers and some of the best damn interns this side of whatever side we’re on right now.
Now, as for your Icelandic slang. I really wish you wouldn’t have written that. Esquire is crying as I type this, and I’m thinking of packing it in. Thanks a lot, Imogen.

Dear Haukur and Grapevine’s staff,
First of all I intend to congratulate you all for the excellent job you do with this magazine. It’s really helpful for us, young people and foreigners who are looking for some juicy news in an international language.
I’m writing this letter to you to ask your opinion (and possibly the one of other readers as well) about one issue: the attitude Icelanders show towards foreigners. It’s known that Iceland and its inhabitants are peculiar in more than one trait, but it never occurred to my mind that racism was among them. Yet this seems to be the case.
Far from me any implication related to some sadly well known manifestations of the phenomenon. According to the Cambridge Dictionary of English, racism is defined as “the belief that people’s qualities are influenced by their race and that the members of other races are not as good as the members of your own, or the resulting unfair treatment of members of other races”. These are quite though words, so I do not want to be misunderstood: I love Iceland to the point that I decided to move here even though the situation is currently not the best one, and I still strongly believe that Icelanders are wonderful people, like anyone else in the world. But I have been disappointed in more than one occasion. Just to report some facts: in late may I was looking for a new place where to live. I found an interesting advertisement written in Icelandic and, considered my decent knowledge of the language, I decided to write an e-mail avoiding to use English as a communication’s problem-solver. After two days the owner of the apartment told me to meet him at the place for a visit and the contract’s signature. There the problem began…He quicky understood from my pronunciation that I am not a native. He showed me the place anyway, but with an almost rude behaviour that I would have never imagined from the polite tone he used in his e-mails. Then he said he had forgot the contract home, and that we should meet after two days. That night I got an e-mail saying the place had been rented to someone else (does this tell you anything about “unfair treatment of members of other races”?)
Another fact is that since I got my job I have constantly been bullied by my boss. If there is something wrong, apparently I am the only one to blame. When I was once able to prove that a mistake had been made not by me but by another employee, he replied with a short: “Ha, do you think I will believe this? You are a foreigner!” (“members of other races are not as good as members of your own”).
Sadly, I can also notice a certain degree of rudeness coming from young people. For the records, I can easily be taken as Icelander because of my aesthetical apperance; the point is that anyone who might start a conversation with me somewhere, almost immediately backs up when he realize his “mistake”. What then, am I not worth a chat only because I was born somewhere outside this island? Is there any Icelander who might like someone even if his or her passport has another country on the cover?
I am sad about it, and I wish these things came to an end. So what I wanted to ask you is: do you think I might have been extremely unlucky and crossed my path with a bunch of assholes, or will I really be isolated because of my racial difference? Shortly: what would you say about Icelanders’ attitude towards foreigners?
Hanna (Netherlands)
Dear Hanna,
Thank you for your compliments, and your intriguing questions. You actually might be starting a conversation worth pursuing here.
Firstly, I encourage you reader types out there to respond to Hanna’s queries with your own thoughts and observations. As a born and bred Icelander, I am perhaps not the best person to make any sort of judgement on this. So come on, folks, what are your thoughts on Icelanders’ attitude towards foreigners? Do y’all feel Hanna will be isolated because of her racial difference? Send ‘em in.
As for my own thoughts on the matter, here they are: Yes, you have been unlucky and encountered a bunch of assholes. For one, I do not like grouping entire nations together and assigning them opinions, character traits, etc. I believe that to be boring and essentialist and a kinda… racist? I also happen to know for a fact that there is indeed a bunch of goddamn assholes in Iceland, as in any other country. I also know there is a great big bunch of really lovely, awesome people over here. But their awesomeness or assholeness has nothing to do with their nationality, the colour of the skin or their mother tongue.

Re: email by Graham Bell ? of June 28th
I was a passenger on the ship that sailed round Iceland.  I would like to apologise and advise you that his comments regarding whales and puffins were not shared by all the passengers although his email appeared to indicate that.
Sylvia Duckworth

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