föstudagur, september 23, 2005

boston and new york

Much has been made of comparisons between Boston and New York over the years, mostly by Bostonians. New Yorkers don't generally compare themselves with anyone, believing their city to be maybe only comparable to the largest city in some as-yet-undiscovered galaxy. (And even then, New York would probably come out ahead on account of the better Broadway offerings.) But this being the Iceland Report, I feel compelled to cast my lot into the debate and talk about the Icelandside implications of the differences between Bostonians and New Yorkers.

People from Boston (and New England generally) seem to have a great time when they visit Iceland. They fit right in, and really "get" the laid-back culture and charms of the society and landscape. My friends from Boston who came earlier this month were just the latest example. And people from Boston who move here to live put a lot of effort into learning Icelandic and make an effort to slot themselves into the society.

I think that this easy matchup between Bostonians and Icelanders is due to our shared sense of inferiority. In Boston's case it's because glitzy New York always seems to overshadow our tremendous (but not-as-shiny) educational, medical, and technological accomplishments. In Iceland's case it's partially because the Danish historically ran roughshod over the country, and partially because Icelanders feel so far north, so isolated, and so tiny compared to the rest of the world. So when a Bostonian comes here, he fits right in in the inferiority-soaked culture that is Iceland.

So what happens when New Yorkers visit Iceland? This is an easy theory to test because a lot of them do, and examples abound: I have watched a New Yorker slam her flattened palm on the bar for service on a busy Friday night. Another got face-flushedly upset and made a scene when bumped into (something very common on nights out that's no cause for concern here). In general, New Yorkers in Iceland like to look around smugly and are likely to comment on the "smallness" of Reykjavík (something so obvious and beside the point it doesn't need to be mentioned) rather than noticing the obvious charms of the place. And people from NY who move here tend not to learn the language. They're too busy doing other things.

So why then do Icelanders everywhere love to wear NY Yankees hats? The short answer is that they don't have a clue about the cultural significance of the hat they're sporting. They think the "N-Y" logo looks cool. They really couldn't care less about baseball, don't probably realize they're even supporting a baseball team, and probably couldn't connect the drunken-swastika N-Y with the team it belongs to. This doesn't make much sense. As E rightly pointed out, "Iceland, being the perpetual underdog that it is on the world stage, should have a much easier time identifying with Boston than New York." It does seem odd to have locals from this most northern and modest of world capitals trotting around supporting a city and team as full of themselves as New York and its Yankees. Why not pick up some "B" hats, Icelanders?

7 Comments:

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Your second best so far....

23.9.05  
Blogger JB said...

And what is the best then, Mr. Anonymous?

23.9.05  
Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

11.september.
"Gleymt"

Just finished reading it again for this comment, still gives me goose bumps.
"....bodies are still lying uncollected in a major city. Each body a life, someone's uncle or grandma, someone who had a house and a kitchen and funny stories they liked to tell. The shame I feel about this happening in a land of which I was once fervently proud......."

AS

23.9.05  
Anonymous Gréta said...

Really enjoy your writing. Also think that my visits may count for some of your german visitors ;) However I am Icelandic, living in Germany and an Emerson College graduate.

Keep up the good work!

23.9.05  
Blogger JB said...

Thanks, Gréta! How does the Boston-Iceland compatibility theory jive with you?

23.9.05  
Anonymous Gréta said...

I might be too much of a Boston fan to be able to judge. Nevertheless I think you are right on the money regarding the Icelanders (as so often before) and their inferiority. Even though that might be changing, now that Icelanders are taking over the world ;)

When living in Boston though, I never experiences this inferiority feeling among the Bostonians. Maybe I was just to busy partying.

To me there is clearly no comparison of the two cities

24.9.05  
Blogger Farbror Willy said...

I'm not sure you could persuade many people here to wear a "B" hat, it would induce too much risk of being affiliated with Framsóknarflokkurinn.

24.9.05  

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