Last week I moved countries again. The familiar questions, hopes, dreams and fears have surfaced. With it, I have been reflecting on the why’s. Digging deep in to the origin of what drives me. But also, what drives other expats (or immigrants, to be politically correct)? What effect do we have on the local society and what does it have on us? When I was living in Iceland, I could notice this duality, these mixed feelings towards immigrants. Independent on the length of their stay in Iceland. On one hand, there would be enthusiasm. Especially towards young families, coming to the little villages spread across the countryside. There lives a certain drive, a movement among some visionary Icelanders. Fighting the fight against the depleting villages along the Icelandic coast. Staying grounded, full force, midst of the aging and declining population in those places.
Wouldn’t it be amazing, to breathe new life into those places? Create small societies, showing the world a new way of living, by example? Rescuing places by transformation.
But of course, this new energy, these new people, have an impact on the original population as well. Who maybe, haven’t been asking for anything. For those people it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, threatened even, by the change in atmosphere. All of the sudden they are meeting more people who speak broken Icelandic, if any; and more than possible, don’t understand the finesse of the culture. In a country with a very small population number, newcomers stand out extra hard.
It is not difficult to find Icelanders who get irritated if you can’t help them in perfect Icelandic. Its their country after all! Potential immigrants sometimes even get put off by other immigrants, who have been living in Iceland longer. Because for sure the winters would be very difficult and Iceland is getting overpopulated anyway. So please, stay away from my paradise.
There is no question that the cultural richness, which has been marinating in the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape, for centuries long, is something precious. The people and the land have become one, in many ways, in a decennia long symphony. Something so unique as this ‘Icelandicness’, is one of the best things of the country.
I have to admit that I’m jealous of those that are born in a country so beautiful. In which they feel home and are proud to display a healthy amount of nationalism. I wish i could have such a home.
Change is a part of the beauty of moving to another country. Finding a new breeding ground, a new perspective in life. Not adapting to your new environment, taking it in as part of your own, would be in contradiction to the very drive that moves many immigrants. Especially in a country with a language that only gets spoken by 300.000 people. Integration however, has to come from both sides. Magic can only happen, when the recipient country sees the opportunities that these indwelling cultures bring with them. It presents opportunities to reevaluate the current manner of working.Integration brings challenges for both sides. There has to be a drive to adapt, coming from newcomers, but there also has to be available holes to fill. Holes that maybe still have to be dug.
This discussion is such an interesting one. One that get more and more important, in an ever more globalising world. Dear reader, how do you feel against newcomers? What can and can’t they do? Do you feel obliged to do anything for them? What is the key to a successful integration?
Certainly, the old may not be forgotten. But stagnation is seldom a good thing, the only way is forward.
Texti: Ellen Wild