A few weeks ago someone started an Icelandic Pegida Facebook group. I was not surprised. There is an astonishing amount of Xenophobia in Iceland.
It is not usually not directed at me. I’m German. And as such I struggle to remember incidences where any Icelandic person openly opposed my presence in this country.
I have, however, experienced quite a few incidences of what we German call Fremdschämen
(which auto corrects to Frenchwomen). An embarrassment caused by the embarrassing action of others. Sometimes this is due to (stubborn) ignorance about living in a multicultural society.
There was not a lot of understanding why this figure
might be problematic. There was also a cocktail called apartheid
, because the person naming it looked up the word "separation" in an Icelandic dictionary and everyone around them seemed also to be blissfully unaware of events outside of Iceland. Something like this
is still considered funny, rather than embarrassing or offensive, kind of like the depiction of Asian people in the 1960s
in USA. Most of the time my reaction these incidences is nothing more than a facepalm. After all, this is a country where children might edge curiously towards the black person in the hot pot trying to touch their skin, because they have never seen one before.
But then there are Icelandic people, who feel obliged to tell me, that they consider me
ok, but are opposed to (too much) immigration from other “more foreign” countries, meaning people from countries who just aren't Aryan and rich enough. Expecting me to agree. I fucking don't!
This is why I have some issues with self-identifying as an expat. It is in many way a random classification, a lose stratification of migrants by higher or lower social status.
Migrants, apart from Nationality, are actually quite an homogeneous group. We are mostly young people, with some form of higher education, come from a higher income group in our home country, as travel, especially to Iceland is expensive and we are less risk adverse than the general population. Young, smart, rich and daring people in other words. We all come to seek opportunity (thank you UN report on migration).
Yes, I did come here, because the income I could receive here is higher than in my home country (I came in 2005), working conditions were and still are favourable as well and the Icelandic education system offers opportunities (I am doing my masters in public health in the university of Iceland, taking advantage of paid leave for study). Why else move? I have no Icelandic boyfriend or husband, nor could I ride a horse when I came here and I certainly did not come because of the weather.
The idea that I am more worthwhile to the Icelandic society, culturally ore economically based on my country of origin is deeply insulting to me. If someone sees me as less of a threat to the good old Icelandic way of life, because my skin is lighter, I encourage them to have a look at the categories "Politics" and "IWW" to your right. I am actively trying to change it, if at any point I can say that Iceland is different now because of me, I would list this as one of my proudest achievements. And I'd still call myself immigrant.
Awesome Iceland fact:
shortly after the Icelandic Pegida Facebook group was established the group
"United Against Racism and Xenophobia in Iceland" was founded. It now has 3270 "likes", 1000 more than Pegida Iceland and 1% of the total population.