I’ve long been bowled over by the sheer friendliness of Icelanders. It was recently revealed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) that Iceland was found to be the friendliest nation in the world. I, for one, was not surprised. I’ve known it for years.
Icelanders, it seems, have friendliness as a national trait. Yes, the old stereotype of Icelanders being frosty and aloof can be true initially, but this can soon thaw to show a genuine friendliness, helpfulness and welcome that cannot be beaten across the world.
Add a hotpot, or a glass of beer, and that thaw can take place even more quickly.
Let me give you an example of this.
My book, Iceland, Defrosted, is based on the people, places and music of Iceland. It is self-published, which means I should have done all the work that a publisher would normally do myself.
Except I didn’t. Icelanders were there to help at every juncture. An Icelandic friend suggested that I put pen to paper in the first place. That was six years ago. Since then, Icelanders have shown me the best of their country; from the obvious such as the Blue Lagoon to obscure underground hot pots, from vast glacial plains to the best places to spot the elusive northern lights.
They have shown me the best and worst Icelandic food. Icelanders passed me on to friends who might know about this, or a relative who knows that, but complete strangers also offered advice on the Icelandic language, and rhubarb jam making. Icelanders have invited me into their homes, their weddings and shown me the minutiae of their lives; seeing the duck a nine–year-old girl was getting for her birthday on Grímsey for example.
Crowd-funding the book proved successful due to Icelandic support. Icelanders got me mentioned in daily newspaper Morgunblaðið. Icelandic musicians have provided a soundtrack to these adventures, and some of them (Sóley, Ólafur Arnalds, Laylow and others) have shared a coffee with me and tried to explain what makes Icelandic music so special. An Icelander from Iceland Review proofread the manuscript and provided invaluable advice.
The writing of the book is over. The research, the drafting and redrafting, the editing, the fact checking is all done. It’s gone to the publishers. It’s out of my hands. It’s out of our hands.
But still the Iceland hand of friendliness reaches out. Launch parties are being organized, and once again my Icelandic friends rally around. A venue is sorted. Hildur from Rökkurró agrees to provide the music, and someone knows someone who can help with distribution. The Embassy of Iceland in London offered to help with the U.K. launch.
I don’t think I could have written the book without the friendliness of Icelanders. I certainly couldn’t have got it published. I just hope and pray that it does them proud.