mánudagur, mars 20, 2006

te og kaffi

Perhaps the most laid-back place for a weekend cup of coffee is the relaxed Te og Kaffi store on Laugavegur, the Main Street of Iceland. Te og Kaffi (I'll leave the translation as an exercise for the non-Icelandic reader; it ain't hard) is smoke-free and street-level with big windows that look out onto the sidewalk, where women sometimes leave their babies parked in snuggly weatherproofed baby carriages. There are a few choice "doubles" tables at the front of the store, and then further in some larger round tables for groups, and booths in back. The waitstaff are full of smiles and friendly in that shy Icelandic way, and when they bring the cappuccino over it's made with a heart in the foamed milk. Then they'll let you sit and enjoy that cappuccino and read for the better part of an afternoon. I have been going there the last few weekends, bringing my namesake's Guns, Germs, and Steel with me, but I often end up instead puzzling through some article in the Sunday Morgunblaðið, totally engrossed, the sounds of Icelandic Sunday chit-chat pattering on around me.


Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

tea and coffee?
-p to the lo.

Anonymous robyn said...

are icelanders really that shy? an icelandic friend told me something of that nature once also but wasn't very clear about it...he said something like icelanders are nice---you just have to get to know them, errr something like that. what's your take on the collective icelandic spirit? a little shy or initially a little introverted? just curious :) love your blog!

Blogger ECS said...

I think in general they are rather introverted and shy, moreso than I was expecting. In the States, people generally seem comfortable talking to people they'd never met at a party, for example, but that's not so common here. One time Jared and I had a party here, and when I opened the door to one person who'd never been to our house before, he was so nervous his hand was quivering slightly. I'm not sure what causes this though, since everyone I know and work with seems to travel a lot and are almost always performing in musical groups or theater or something, things I always thought made people more comfortable in crowds of ufamiliar people.

There seems to be one almost guaranteed way to make people here suddenly much more friendly, and that is to make an effort to speak Icelandic. People seem so curious and amazed about the foreigner in their midst that wants to learn the language, and are always full of compliments for even the most mangled of sentences.

It can be tough to try to get inside the community, but once it starts to happen, it's really wonderful.

Anonymous carmen said...

ECS, Just wondering--do you think your presence could explain their behavior? Maybe being around foreigners is nervewracking in a such a homogenous culture because they're unsure of what to expect/how to behave?

Also, JB, that kind of service sounds preferable to gushing American friendliness. "HI, GANG!!!! I'M JULIE AND I'LL BE YOUR SERVER TODAY!!!!!!!!!" um, please go away, julie.

Blogger ECS said...

Carmen.. I'd say that could be part of it except that Icelanders say it about themselves so often when I or J point it out. I'm sure it doesn't help to have the foreigner in the mix but it seems like they're like that whether it's a mixed crowd or just Icelanders.

Blogger JB said...

I guess a better word is "reserved". Icelanders often seem hesitant to mix at first, and seem to need a catalyst to get the socializing going. Perhaps this explains the popularity of karaoke here. And defintely the popularity of booze. Lots and lots of booze. Unfortunately.


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