Icelanders Asked To Show Foreign Workers "Patience And Goodwill" - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelanders Asked To Show Foreign Workers “Patience And Goodwill”

Published May 28, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Ólöf Hugrún

Two different petrol station chains have taken to setting up a sign at select locations that asks Icelanders to show foreign employees a little more courtesy. Management for both of these chains told reporters that while most Icelanders show kindness to employees who do not speak perfect Icelandic, there have been enough incidents involving rude customers that they felt compelled to put this sign up, Vísir reports.

The above sign, posted at select locations for the N1 and Ólís service stations, reads as follows:

Dear customers

Please show our foreign employees patience and goodwill.

We know that they put effort into providing good service.

The sign caught the attention of one Ólöf Hugrún, who shared a photo of it and tweeted, “How much have Icelanders bellowed at and scolded foreign workers for this sign to become a reality?”

Vísir contacted management for both petrol station chains to hear their reasoning behind putting up these signs.

“There are about 600 people working at N1 and we are lucky to have people from around the world on our team,” director of operations at N1 Jón Viðar Stefánsson told reporters. “Some places have more foreign employees than others. At these locations, we have put up this sign to inform our customers. In addition, foreign workers who don’t speak Icelandic wear a badge that says so. In most cases, our customers show patience and understanding, but of course it’s happened that our employees get criticised for not speaking Icelandic perfectly.”

Ragnheiður Björk Guðmundsdóttir, the director of human resources at Ólís, took much the same angle, saying that most customers are kind to foreign employees who are still learning Icelandic, although everyone has different levels of patience. She also emphasised that saddest of all is when these foreign employees are subjected to verbal abuse on account of their race, and that negative responses from customers are more common with foreign employees of colour.

“We are helping them put down roots in our environment, and so we are asking people to treat foreign employees the same way they’d treat any other Icelander that works for us and show them respect,” she said. “These are people who are trying their best to do their jobs well.”

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