A group of Islamic tourists have been under the spotlight this week for refusing to be driven by a female bus driver on a sightseeing tour through the countryside, reports visir.is.
The driver, who prefers to remain anonymous, had already driven the group to Leifsstöð, the Blue Lagoon and a hotel in Reykjavik when the group leader noticed that the individual operating the vehicle was female. He promptly called the travel company that had helped him book the tour and demanded a different, male bus driver.
Respect the law
Unsurprisingly, the incident prompted a social media storm like only Iceland can conjure. From indignant to harsh, everyone is throwing in their two cents. On her part, the director of the Centre for Gender Equality Kristín Ástgeirsdóttir immediately commented on the incident as a simple matter of respecting the law.
As it is, Icelandic law protects the right of women to work wherever they want regardless of their sex. Discrimination on the basis of gender in the workplace is therefore illegal. It comes naturally then, Katrín says, that if women who travel to Islamic countries have to respect the laws concerning their behaviour, such as being veiled, the same kind of respect for Icelandic laws needs to be ensured when it comes to tourist visiting these shores.
Inevitable culture shocks
Considering that the number of tourists visiting Iceland reached about a million two years ago and has kept increasing since, experiencing some sort of culture shock once in a while is inevitable for Icelanders. And how we react when cultural differences clash with the law matters.
We have gone from being amused by the occasional open umbrella that dares to challenge the Icelandic God of Wind, to being floored by the inappropriate public displays of excretions.
But we should be ware of the peanut gallery. Online competitions for who’s got the moral high ground, as much as they can be entertaining, get old, fast. Instead, we should take this as an opportunity to look at the world from someone else’s perspective and learn from each other. As difficult as it is, it’s still the most rewarding part of living in a country where we’re increasingly being exposed to different stories and experiences.