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The darkenss is coming!

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Icelandic winter can be tough. Most people experience tiredness, weight gain, sleeping problems and get sick really easily. I do. Here is what the Icelandic directorate of health advises for winter:

  • go to sleep early to have an easier time to wake up in the morning

  • exercise regularly

  • be as much out in daylight as possible

  • eat healthy

  • avoid stress


A daylight lamp or wake up light can help with more serious forms of tiredness/depression during winter (such as Seasonal Affective Disorder).

I try to go to bed early and use a day light lamp to wake up (and not miss my bus) as I struggle with insomnia every winter. My friend and me also go swimming together to encourage each other.
What do you guys do to stay active in winter? What are fun activities/outings one can do in winter?

Here is the link to the webpage of the Icelandic Directorate of health
Posted on - Categories: Iceland


Expat Focus chose my blog as the top blog in Iceland!

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This happened a few months ago, see here. My flatmates came in second. Yay us! We also did interviews, mine is below.

Who are you?

My name is Christina also known as Tine, Efia or Efiabruni because I’m a Russian spy posing as an indecisive German.

I’m currently trying to juggle my day job with finishing my master in public health, political activism, opening a micro bakery, hacking around on my blog script and life in Reykjavík/Iceland in general.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I first moved abroad after finishing high school in Germany, as I needed some time to figure out what I wanted to do. I volunteered for a year in Iceland and found myself returning again and again until I gave up and admitted this is my home now.

What challenges did you face during the move?

My first move to Iceland was part of a lot of firsts. First real job, first time not living at home, in short, first experience of grown up life. I have yet to return to Germany, Icelandic life is the norm to me.

I should have spent some more time on website of the directorate for immigration and informed myself about proper immigration procedures. It seems every time I come to Iceland the process has slightly changed and I always end up going back and forth between the immigration office and the registration office until it is sorted.

Are there many other expats in your area?

There are a lot of clubs and societies in Iceland. I joined a martial arts sports club (something I always wanted to learn), then a choir, then a volleyball group, then a horse riding course, then a Bacchata dancing group, then a board games night. Basically anything I found slightly interesting I stuck my nose in. This is my advice to others to meet people, be open for new ideas and do things you have fun with.

I’m also a member of the couchsurfing community, which is quite active here in Reykjavík.

What do you like about life where you are?

Iceland is a breathtakingly beautiful country. For someone like me, who loves desolate empty spaces it is a hikers' paradise. As mentioned above, I like my work environment a lot. There are specific things I like about living in Reykjavík in particular, which I had listed in a separate blog post.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

My Icelandic college immediately suggested mentioning the weather here. After last winter, which is now officially known as the “winter of storms” this would be a logical choice.

However the thing that stresses me the most at the moment is the housing situation in Reykjavík. There is a serious shortage of flats in Reykjavík. Rent is high and landlords frequently abuse the situation. We will have to find a new flat in September to rent. It is raining into one of our bedrooms and our landlord's reaction was: “You should be thankful to have a place in such a good location”. Ugh!

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Culturally Iceland is similar to other western European countries. Most of the time I feel like I just belong here. Yet every year, sometime in the middle of winter I suddenly have the claustrophobic realization that I'm stuck on a barren island in the middle of nowhere during a snowstorm and that I cannot remember when I have last seen the sun.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

1) Moving to any new country can and should feel like an exiting adventure. Iceland in particular can feel like this friendly, quaint little country, especially as one often finds a flat or a job via acquaintances. However, this is not a holiday and a carefree attitude can go wrong very quickly. Be aware that not knowing your rights, local circumstances or the language puts you at a disadvantage and that in Iceland, just like in any other country people might take advantage of this.

Inform yourself as much as possible, take time to read through contracts and don’t be shy to ask for help.

2) Plan for winter. It can be hard. The darkness has a way of creeping up on you and before you know it you spent most of Sunday in bed watching TV shows and wondering where all your energy is gone to.

What one can do:

- Eat healthy, especially take care that you get enough vitamin D (https://tine.pagekite.me/?viewDetailed=00125)

- Exercise, whether this means hitting the gym every day or meeting a friend in the swimming pool on Saturdays it will help you stay active.

- Force yourself to wake up and go to bed early. Icelandic winter can kill your sleep cycle.

- Get a daylight lamp.

3) Learn Icelandic. In Reykjavík one can easily get by with English only, but to fully integrate speaking Icelandic is a must, not only for practical reasons, but a culture is closely connected to the language and one simply cannot understand the Icelandic mindset without being able to say "Þetta reddast" with conviction.

What are your plans for the future?

First of all find a new flat. Finish my studies and then hopefully go travelling again for a year or two.
Posted on - Categories: Iceland


InterNations Interview

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A couple of months ago I got an email from InterNations a social network for Expats. Though I do not like to identify as such I do like publicity, so I filled out their questionnaire. It can be found here or below.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Iceland, etc.

My name is Christina also known as Tine, Efia or Efiabruni because I’m a Russian spy posing as an indecisive German. I first moved abroad after finishing high school in Germany, as I needed some time to figure out what I wanted to do. I volunteered for a year in Iceland and found myself returning again and again until I gave up and admitted this is my home now.

I’m currently trying to juggle my day job with political activism, opening a micro bakery, hacking around on my blog script and life in Reykjavík/Iceland in general.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I started my blog when I lived in Blönduós, a tiny town in the north of Iceland. I had a lot of time on my hand and started playing around with the blog script on my computer and pagekite, a project of an acquaintance of mine. At first it was mainly for testing purposes, but when I started travelling (down the Pan-American Highway) it was a way for me to share my experiences with friends and family. Once I became settled again the topics on my blog expanded from: "look at that picture of me" to politics, life musings and general observations about the country I was living in. A blogger was born.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

I have always been privileged as an immigrant. I have always been an expat. At some point I felt uncomfortable enough with the reversed discrimination I was experiencing that I wrote the blog post Call me Immigrant against the random categorization into desirable and less desirable immigrants.

Tell us about the ways your new life in Iceland differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

My first move to Iceland was part of a lot of firsts. First real job, first time not living at home, in short, first experience of grown up life. I have yet to return to Germany, Icelandic life is the norm to me. Yet every year, sometime in the middle of winter I suddenly have the claustrophobic realization that I'm stuck on a barren island in the middle of nowhere during a snowstorm and that I cannot remember when I have last seen the sun.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Iceland? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

I would have spent some more time on the website of the Directorate of Immigration and informed myself about proper immigration procedures. It seems every time I come to Iceland the process has slightly changed and I always end up going back and forth between the immigration office and the registration office until it is sorted.

I always stock up on stockings, socks and underwear in Germany, to the point that it is a running gag between my friend and me. These things are surprisingly expensive here.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

Despite being almost fluent in Icelandic I still manage to amuse people on a regular basis. I once asked a patient whether he was castrated just by confusing a vowel and the other day I said I was going to see a f*lizard movie, instead of a dinosaur movie, because I often pronounce the Icelandic "i" as "í". My colleague spent the rest of the day making fun of me.

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Iceland?

  1. Moving to any new country can and should feel like an exciting adventure. Iceland in particular can feel like this friendly, quaint little country, especially as one often finds a flat or a job via acquaintances. However, this is not a holiday and a carefree attitude can go wrong very quickly. Be aware that not knowing your rights, local circumstances or the language puts you at a disadvantage and that in Iceland, just like in any other country people might take advantage of this. Inform yourself as much as possible, take time to read through contracts and don’t be shy to ask for help.

  2. Plan for winter. It can be hard. The darkness has a way of creeping up on you and before you know it you spent most of Sunday in bed watching TV shows and wondering where all your energy is gone to. What one can do:
    - Eat healthy, especially take care that you get enough vitamin D
    - Exercise, whether this means hitting the gym every day or meeting a friend in the swimming pool on Saturdays it will help you stay active
    - Force yourself to wake up and go to bed early. Icelandic winter can kill your sleep cycle.
    - Get a daylight lamp.

  3. Learn Icelandic. In Reykjavík one can easily get by with English only, but to fully integrate speaking Icelandic is a must, not only for practical reasons, but a culture is closely connected to the language and one simply cannot understand the Icelandic mindset without being able to say "Þetta reddast" with conviction.


How is the expat community in Iceland? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

There are a lot of clubs and societies in Iceland. I joined a martial arts sports club (something I always wanted to learn), then a choir, then a volleyball group, then a horse riding course, then a Bacchata dancing group, then a board games night. Basically anything I found slightly interesting I stuck my nose in. This is my advice to others, be open for new ideas and do things you have fun with.

I’m also a member of the couchsurfing community, which is quite active here in Reykjavík.

How would you summarize your expat life in Iceland in a single, catchy sentence?

Sitting in a hot pot during a snow storm.
Posted on - Categories: Iceland


Vífilstaðir

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My workplace is Vifilstaðir, a house built beginning 1900s to be a tuberculosis sanatorium. Part of the structure is in disrepair, such as the old terrace, where patients used to lie for hours under thick blankets in the cold, fresh air, which was faultily believed to be beneficial. It is all very "Magic Mountain" a book I incidentally never finished to read.




Now the house is used as a temporary home for elderly who are waiting for a place in a nursing home. The house is spacy, with high ceilings and from all the rooms as well as the physiotherapy there is a great view of the surrounding landscape, which now in summer is in bloom.



From the house we can see "Gunnhildur", a hill which patients in the sanatorium climbed as a final test if they were ready to go home. There is also a trail called "Tuberculosis trail". It is connected to other trails in the area. There are many recreational areas. There are picnic areas, lava caves and Vífilstaðirlake, a lake where couples from Reykjavík meet in secret during lunch brakes, as me and my colleague found out when we decided to go for a short walk there.




In the pictures I tried to create the feeling of old photographs using Gimp. There are lots of ways to get there, but the one prefer is playing around with contrast and colour balance of the picture and then adding a layer in the hard-light mode and add a gradient in a pastel colour (yellow for daylight, violet for evening light). I feel I start getting the hang of Gimp.


My area - from woody hills to shiny glasstowers

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I live in 105 Rekjavík. It is a beautiful and diverse area. The neighbourhood was build in the 1940s. In summer flowers spring up everywhere around the grey, uniform houses. People are hanging out in the garden and the smell of BBQ is in the air. Last weekend we had a street party, featuring real live Icelandic horses in someones backyard for the kids to pat. The horses were standing knee deep in grass and flowers happily munching away.



Klambratún park is just around the corner. It used to be a school field, but now it is full of trees and flowers (see the picture of the week). I did some guerrilla gardening there and planted potatoes, but they were weeded out by diligent gardeners. There is a playground, volleyball field and a disc golf course. I did not even now disc golf existed until I walked home from work and had to dodge frisbees.
One can always find refugee in Kjarvalsstaðir and enjoy the awesome works of Jóhannes S. Kjarval.

For a full outdoor experience one can walk a bit further to Öskjuhlið. On top is Perlan, a building constructed out of hot water storage tanks, with an observation platform with great views over the city. People often go there on New Years to watch the fireworks and we went there in March to watch the solar eclipse. The hill is covered in woods, with a lot of fireplaces hidden behind walls. A good way to get a bit of outdoor feels in the middle of the city.


On the other side of 105 is the so called business district. Here you can find branches of all of the major Icelandic financial institutions, as well as upscale restaurants and hotels. The inaptly named "Beergarden" can be found here. The district is centered around Höfðatorg, a glass tower opposite of the historical house Höfði. Höfði was built for the French consulate in 1909, making it one of the oldest houses in Reykjavík. It is most famous for being the site of the Reykjavík Summit. It is also said to be haunted.

Posted on - Categories: Iceland


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