Being Irish is a huge commodity when travelling. People naturally pre-conceive us as friendly, beer-guzzling socialites that love to party and have absolutely no desire to take life seriously. I mean, I don’t think many other nationalities get that reaction. Of course, we know these stereotypes aren’t true (to a large extent), but regardless, being an Irish person abroad is truly a unique buzz. The focus of this series will be to reveal my own personal experience, and that of fellow Irish people I have contacted, on spending time in other countries for prolonged periods of time. As you can imagine, life is quite different outside of Éire’s coastal shores… With Iceland, the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’, being this week’s choice. Remember, everything documented here is from an Irish perspective, culturally and socially. Therefore, it may not necessarily reflect the views of other nationalities towards a place
Ok, so you’re probably thinking that Iceland was a weird place to focus on in terms of Irish people travelling abroad. And you’re right, it is. However, this relatively unknown Atlantic island came to my attention recently after a friend came home from 3 month stint there. The enthusiastic way she spoke about it, the strangely intriguing stories she recalled, made me eager to learn more. I guess the point of this week’s edition isn’t necessarily to highlight the Irish populace in Iceland, but rather to point out the many reasons a visit should be on all of our bucket lists.
Just to give a little background information, the population of Iceland is just under 335,000, which is a good bit less than Dublin city. Now imagine this tiny society spread out over a land mass bigger than the whole of Ireland. Naturally, you come to the conclusion that a lot of modern day Iceland is still untouched wildlife, and it really is. The main city is the capital, Reykjavik, and even that is no bigger than Cork. So basically this is not the kind of spot you head for Vegas-style city holiday with the lads for a stag party.
In terms of actually meeting other Irish people over there, don’t expect too much. Despite the vast amount of other nationalities that my contacts came across, from Belarusian to Italian, not one hailed from the Emerald Isle. However, that is not to say that they ever felt home sick. They noted how the Icelandic sense of humour was very similar to our own, that same dark, quirky tone was picked up straight away. They also have a fantastic proficiency in English, so communication was not a problem at all. On top of that, Icelanders love to party. From necking cheap beer on a scenic farm plantation, to rolling fat ones in the midst of a forest trial, you might be fooled into thinking you’re back in Connemara for a weekend break.
The people of Iceland are also very outdoorsy. They love to hitch-hike from one part of the island to the other, and agriculture/fishing are two of the biggest industries there. My contacts found employment as WWOOFers (farm labourers), which essentially funded the trip. Although the work was hard times, they learned a lot about organic agricultural practices, and picked up a few handy skills like knitting. I mean, tell me that this experience is not more beneficial than a scaldy J1 in San Diego.
Finally, their two biggest tips on spending time in Iceland are as follows; rent a car and travel the length and breadth of the island, and visit the hot springs for a life-time experience. God, it really sounds like a more exotic version of Ireland.
Special thanks to Lia Ní Bhroin and Sophie Kennedy for their contributions to this piece.