laugardagur, júlí 29, 2006

low profile

Last night was a bit of a strange one here in town, as I am learning Friday nights can be. (Iceland really pulls out the stops for Saturday nights in all of their Tom-Waitsian glory, with Friday truly playing second fiddle.) My friend Þórir and I hit the "in" spot first (Oliver) before making our way inevitably to Ölstófan, the best spot I've found for running into and talking to people without a lot of seeing, being seen, posing, or attitude. Of course, there is still a fair bit of these, even there. It's Reykjavík after all.

We were settled in comfortably, standing at the bar near the door and watching the comings and goings of the always-unfolding scene. A good-looking woman in a shimmery dress slid by us and stopped to talk. First it was a rapid-fire Icelandic exchange with Þórir and then she turned to me. We started speaking Icelandic, much less rapid-fire, and she switched immediately to English, displaying unfortunately common bad form. And then about two sentences later, she found out I was American and her face clouded over. "You'd better keep a low profile here," she said. I couldn't believe the quickness of her judgment and, utterly disgusted, I turned away from her and back to the bar. Þórir said something appeasing to her as she walked away. It was then that I learned that she was famous in Iceland as a newscaster and broadcast journalist. But skiptir ekki máli, I would never treat an immigrant in the United States that way. Even if I was Tom Brokaw.

To her credit, she came back over a few minutes later and apologized to me. But the damage was done. I've been feeling a little more of the anti-American sentiment here in the Land of late and it's not becoming. I love Iceland because Icelandic society seems to hold up every Icelander as an important individual. It hurts when the same sentiment isn't extended to those of us who chose to be a part of the society.

8 Comments:

Blogger gk said...

What you’re feeling is probably directly linked to the war in Lebanon. A lot of Icelanders do not agree with US foreign policy, especially when is comes to Israel. What she may have meant was if someone finds out that you’re an American then they will talk you’re ear off about it, which can be a big party killer. Or she is just a bad drunk.

29.7.06  
Blogger Gróa said...

bSko, hegðun hennar segir mest um hana sjálfa.
Thats my opinion and I understand your feeling about this. You know "fordómar" are everywhere and we never know when thet hit us. Unfortunaetly you where here target that night, but that´s here not you.

p.s. (ég er núna í borginni:O)

er í tölvu hjá gróu kv, syngibjörg

30.7.06  
Blogger carmen said...

Sigh. I'm sorry to hear it. At least she did apologize. And even better, she didn't corner you into an argument where she wants you to play the role of GW Bush and justify the war(s) or Jerry Bruckheimer and explain Pirates of the Caribbean 2. I hate when that happens.

But isn't your post missing the part where you cleared the glasses from the bar in one sweep of your arm, jumped up and sang (cue the Eagles) "Don't be so unappealing! Let me give you a piece of advice! We are all just floating along here. On the magic Land of Ice. And here in Olstofen. We've gathered for the feast. But someone let you in and now I've got to put up with this
beast?!" And then the crowd cheered and everyone broke out into a spontaneously choreographed group number, right? right?

30.7.06  
Blogger Kristen said...

I've noticed this sort of sentiment abroad even before the current Bush administration and I unfortunately got into the habit of skirting the subject of my nationality just to avoid controversy. Then I see it happen over here as well (most commonly with the French, I suppose). Mass judgment? Uncool in any language.

(Only slightly related -- I love Carmen's comment. Definite audible giggles.)

30.7.06  
Blogger Mindy said...

I just came across your blog and am catching up. I lived in Iceland for 5 months and never felt "at home" there. A lot of your 2004 posts remind me of my time there....incredibly difficult, but an amazing experience at the same time.

What on earth made you move there, by the way??

I look forward to reading more!

10.8.06  
Blogger JB said...

Hey everyone, back from the Bulgarian Black Sea beaches and ready to roll!

GK: I think she's a bad drunk. But I'm not so willing to excuse bad behavior for reasons of drunkenness. That's more of an Icelandic thing.

Ingibjörg: Yes, she did say the most about herself.

Carmen: Touché. Awesome. Amazing. Do you want to be the IR's guest lyricist?

Kristen: What was so refreshing in Bulgaria was that being an American there was special. For many, I was the first they had talked to. And it felt really good to be able to be open about where I come from again, once I learned about the warm reception.

Mindy: It took a lot more than five months to feel at home here, and I still never entirely do. I think that's the nature of living in a new place. I even felt that way in San Francisco. So I can understand how you felt.

I moved here because I love Iceland, and really wanted to live here.

11.8.06  
Blogger gk said...

I am not asking you to excuse her behavior. Sorry if you still feel hurt, and there is probably nothing I or anyone else can say to make you feel better. Then again it’s not my place to make you feel better. But I think you should be taking into account that she apologized.

I also went to Bulgaria this summer; it’s the second time I’m there. The first time was about 10-15 years ago and it is amazing how much it has changed.

13.8.06  
Blogger JB said...

GK, I'm not that hurt, and I was happy that she apologized. I just get this sense from people here, and only sometimes, that I'm being pre-judged for being American. And I wish they would give me a chance to just be me, fyrst og fremst. That's all.

14.8.06  

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