Why Iceland Left a Lasting Impression

It’s a few weeks since I returned from Iceland and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It’s not the breathtaking landscapes or the wintery atmosphere but more the attitude of the people. I’ve always been someone who hates the status quo, seeks out the unusual and detests silly¬†bureaucracy and rules, and I think Icelanders share my outlook.

After the financial crisis in 2008, Reykjavik’s response was a backlash against politics, resulting in voting actor and comedian Jon Gnarr to be Mayor of Reykjavik. His policies were, amongst others, free towels at local pools, and to have a polar bear at the local zoo. He has ADHD, writes a Facebook page and when young he was treated in a psychiatric hospital because they weren’t sure whether he was “mentally retarded or brain damaged.”

It’s pretty hard not to laugh along with him…

I stumbled upon an article that was written right before the financial crash that describes Icelanders as some of the happiest people on earth. It said that the reason for this is that if something goes wrong, they just shrug, pick themselves up and carry on. Maternity/Paternity is shared so there’s better equality in the workplace because if you hire a man he’s got as much chance of taking time off for a newborn as a woman has.

Then I found this fascinating mini-documentary about how the financial crisis made people really think about what they wanted from life. People suddenly went from a normal life to bankruptcy, so they had nothing more to lose. “Before, there was a lot of pressure put on young people to make money and I think it’s different now, people are choosing what they really love, like studying arts more and doing things they want to do.”

Iceland Airwaves [documentary] from Michael Oswald on Vimeo.

I think we could learn a lot from them. The more I read about Iceland the more it confirms to me what a fantastic way of thinking they have. It’s got under my skin so much I think I might even revisit the place within two years.

 

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