Despite contentions to the contrary, immigrants in Iceland do receive “cultural education”, as a part of learning the Icelandic language.
A recent article on Vísir, bearing the headline “No cultural education for immigrants”, put forth the contention that immigrants to Iceland are not taught about local culture and values. Vice Chairperson of the Immigration Council Tatjana Latinovic says this is incorrect.
Commenting on a post of the article in Facebook, Tatjana points out the Icelandic classes for foreigners devote a substantial portion of the class material to understanding Icelandic culture.
“Alongside teaching Icelandic to foreigners there is also the aim that students are better prepared to take an active part in an Icelandic, democratic society,” the course policy reads. “Coursework emphasises personal skills, social skills and finally work skills.”
Tatjana points out that the subjects of the Vísir article are clearly talking about their clients, i.e., refugees brought into Iceland. She says that volunteers working with refugees do, however, try to teach refugees about Icelandic culture to the best of their ability, and she objects to the framing of the piece, as she believes it casts aspersions on all foreigners living in Iceland.
“It is condescending and patronising and it assumes that all foreigners belong to one group on one side and them Icelanders to another,” Tatjana told Grapevine. “I just think that we will never reach equality if we have to add the caveat to every discussion ‘of course not all foreigners are the same’ instead of just being mindful of how we talk about the topic. That is not to say that I think we shouldn’t be concerned about matters like proper integration or that the rights of foreigners are not being broken, but we should rise above generalisations like this.”