The Iceaboo. Posted by hulda on May 31, 2014 in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs
Iceaboo: a person whose idea of Iceland is strongly coloured by vikings, fermented shark, Sigur Rós, Björk and a short visit they once did; may end up in danger of death by failing to use common sense, most likely wants to move to Iceland. Often wears Iceland’s flag in some form and/or a plastic helmet with horns. Also see ‘weeaboo’.
In the recent years Iceland has experienced a massive boom in tourism, and though visitors are nothing new this has brought about a certain type of a tourist: the Iceaboo.
Like its older and far more famous cousin Weeaboo, Iceaboo is deeply in love with an image they have made for themselves of what a certain country is. In the eyes of an Iceaboo Iceland is a paradise on earth with beautiful, untouched nature, wonderful Nordic social security system, smiling whales and sexy vikings* with non-stop Sigur Rós music playing in the background of daily life. Their dream is to move here and to learn the language – one day. Stress on one day. After all everyone speaks English here anyway so knowledge on Icelandic is surely not that important, besides they can already say “daginn“, “já” and “nei” so technically speaking they already know the language.
The Iceaboo shares quite many things with the Weeaboo, in fact! An Iceaboo will likely…
…ignore the local rules, substituting them with what they saw in a movie/on social media/this one person once doing.
What did that sign say? Oh it was probably written in Icelandic anyway, could not be important. Hætt… how do you even pronounce that? I can definitely go to this place over here, it would be fenced off if it was dangerous. While I’m here I’ll just chuck this napkin into that pool of water, it’s been done before in a movie shot in Iceland so it’s definitely fine.
Alas, never take your opinion on a country by what you see in the movies. Icelanders may be very relaxed about life in general but harming the nature is a seriously bad thing to do here, doubly so if you’re a tourist. Don’t take things from the wild to bring home as souvenirs, it’s first of all illegal and secondly there’s also a superstition, much like the one in Hawaii, that rocks taken away from Iceland bring you bad luck f.ex like in this case.
Most tourists who admire the Icelandic nature also know that the cleanliness is due to a shared effort of not littering. There are no cleaning ladies swooping through the scenery every morning picking up the trash left behind by previous day’s visitors.
It’s also important to know that Iceland practices a fierce kind of personal freedom. There’s no way of making permanently sure that no one jumps into a pool of boiling, acidic mud, a person with that plan will find their way somehow so precautions such as fences are seen as unnecessary (although warning signs are usually put in place just in case someone didn’t know boiling mud is hot).
…stalk famous people, ignore local customs and act plain rude.
Oh em gee it’s BJÖRK! It’s probably the only time in my life that I’ll get to meet her!
Do not approach Icelandic celebrities when they’re going about their daily business. It may be more excusable in your home country but Icelanders hold their personal space very dear and going to talk to someone just because they’re famous is considered creepy. So what you’ll never get another chance of seeing Björk? She doesn’t owe you anything, least of all putting up with you at the cost of her own private life just because you want her to notice you. Many Icelandic celebrities will in fact get quite annoyed if they get stormed by a shrieking fan in a grocery store/bar/bank/swimming hall.
What’s the correct etiquette for meeting someone famous then? Your best option is if they’re obviously at some place to entertain people, f.ex. seeing Páll Óskar signing his CDs is a sure sign that approaching is definitely ok. Just keep in mind that in Iceland celebrities are like everyone else and are used to being treated as just another person.
…get their dreams crushed and react by blaming it on Iceland.
Icelanders eat horses?! They kill every single polar bear that floats over instead of sending them back to Greenland?!! Björk shouted at me when I wanted a photo with her although she could clearly see I have these bandages on my feet from stepping into a not-properly-fenced-off hot mud spring!!! AND WHERE’S MY DAILY LIFE SIGUR RÓS SOUNDTRACK?!!!!
When cultures meet both sides may get a shock, but I assure you none of these things are done just because the locals were evil incarnate. Horses are a part of traditional cuisine in a land so harsh that everything edible counts. Polar bears have to be put down, they’re an alpha predator not natural to the Icelandic ecosystem and shipping them to Greenland is simply too expensive. Iceland does not provide daily life soundtracks free of charge.
Getting belligerent over things that the Iceaboo finds unpleasant gets them nowhere at all, unless it’s a quick meeting with the law enforcement which I don’t recommend. No matter how well one can excuse their own behaviour, löggan (= po-po) will for some reason not automatically take that as a truth and leave you be. Arguing with löggan is about as fruitful as trying to kick yourself in the teeth – sure it’s amusing to the passers-by but is it really worth it?
Do not be the Iceaboo
Icelanders are very fond of people who love their little island and there’s absolutely nothing negative about liking Iceland for what it is. Yet the problem with an Iceaboo is precisely that they decide to love the place long before they learn anything about it beyond their favourite band and a few tourist-friendly photos circulating online (typically listed among “the most beautiful places on earth”).
An Iceaboo does not appreciate Iceland for its long history of literacy, its ceaseless efforts of avoiding to introduce new species into the fauna for fear of toppling the ecosystem, its cheap, hot water, or the sheer tenacity of the people who have managed to live here through several disasters that have each killed off large percentages of the population. The Iceaboo has probably never even heard of any of this, or of anything else that isn’t tightly linked to their ideal Iceland. Here’s where lies an awful insult that probably goes entirely unnoticed by the Iceaboo: claiming that you love something without bothering to get to know it is a cheap, patronizing kind of love, devoid of any trace of respect.
If you love Iceland, awesome! Just remember to love it for what it is, in both good and bad, not for what you want it to be. You don’t have to stress about being accidentally impolite, I assure you no one cares that much as long as it’s clear that you’re trying. You can even move in if you want to but be prepared that it will mean some sacrifice and effort from your part, and that bitterness over things not going the way you planned is sometimes only to be expected. Will you get over your disappointments and accept that life here may be nothing like it is back home? If yes you’re probably not an Iceaboo at all.
* Sexy vikings actually do exist here, they can usually be found during festivals etc. teaching children the basics of sword fighting, archery and throwing axes.
All photos in this post are taken by me.
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