Last night I watched the Icelandic handball team playing in the world handball championship tournament, and while I was listening to H shout some Icelandic phrases of encouragement (or rude remarks as the team was losing) it got me thinking, had I ever even heard of handball before moving to Iceland?
The answer is, no, definitely not, I had no idea handball was a sport or that it was played at large.
My mind then went on a tangent for the rest of the game (because again, Iceland was losing so the game was not interesting) and I started thinking about all the things I had never heard of until I moved to Iceland. Of course there are many new cultural things that I am learning about Iceland all the time, but these things are different from that. Little quirks and traits that I didn’t know was a thing like, anywhere. You never know what you will learn abroad!
1. Handball, it’s a sport, and Iceland is good at it!
Has anyone else heard about handball?? I remember when H first mentioned it to me I thought it was something like tetherball, you know the game Napoleon Dynamite was always playing? Anyways, handball in Iceland is a big deal, especially after the Icelandic handball team placed 2nd in the 2008 Olympics. The sport to me seems like a mix of basketball, soccer, rugby, hockey, and a dash of every other sport you can think of. Basically it fascinates me and I am glad I have discovered it!
2. A president’s number listed in the phone book
Yes, you read that right, want to call the Icelandic president, just look him up in the phone book and give him a ring. The first time I heard this I thought they were kidding. Coming from a country where the president is never without security I could never imagine having the presidents number listed in the yellow pages! Here in Iceland though it is just normal and they don’t think twice about it, just goes to show how safe life in Iceland is.
3. Sidewalks that are heated
Imagine stepping outside in the middle of winter and not worrying about slipping on the ice covering the sidewalk. Sounds like a dream right? Well here in Iceland this dream can come true. Thanks to the abundant geothermal energy steaming all over the country some sidewalks have hot water pipes that run underneath them helping melt the snow and ice away.
Thank you geothermal energy!
Of course I am not lucky enough to live by one such sidewalk but they are all over town and for awhile I thought they were magical sidewalks that deflected the snow. Little did I know that they were heated by the hot water pipes underneath them, who would have guessed.
4. Fish oil that comes in liquid form
Before moving to Iceland I knew all about the benefits that taking fish oil had and tried to remember to take my daily fish oil pill. What I didn’t know though was that fish oil came in something other than the massive Kirkland bottle filled with fish oil pill capsules. My first time trying the liquid form, lysi, I was really wishing we could just have the capsule form of fish oil. H though was adamant on using only the liquid and while I still don’t enjoy it I take my spoonful of lysi every morning like a good little girl. Until I return to the states that is, then it is going to be right back to Costco to stock up on fish oil in capsule form.
5. Not naming your baby until it is a few months old
Up until I moved to Iceland I had just assumed everyone had their babies name picked out before they were even half way through their pregnancy. I never even thought it was possible to leave the hospital before writing the baby’s name on the birth certificate. Here in Iceland though it would be out of the norm to already know what you were going to name your baby. And it makes total sense to me now, how can you possibly know what name will best fit your baby until you have met him/her?
6. Winter solstice
Okay so I had heard of Winter solstice before moving to Iceland but I don’t think I fully comprehended it. Only seeing daylight for a few hours a day for several weeks is something I just never really thought was real. Unfortunately I have learned it is real, very real, and I am oh so happy to be leaving those dark winter days behind. Bring on the midnight sun!
7. Maternity leave, that is longer than 6 weeks
When people ask me about life in the US I often get a lot of work environment related questions. Things like, “Is it true you get little vacation time?”(yes, 5 week vacations are unheard of) and “How long is the maternity leave?” I don’t know who is more shocked, me when I learn that you get up to 9 months of maternity leave, or them when I tell them you get 6 weeks, more if your lucky.
In Iceland both the woman and the man get three months leave as well as an additionally three month between the two of them, equaling to 9 months of leave with the couple able to choice how it is divided! To my American readers, could you imagine 9 months of maternity leave? It just sounds unreal to me, and also makes me question why we don’t have this in the states?
8. A naming committee, who can approve or disapprove of any name
Back to the whole not naming your baby right away thing. On top of that you also have to be sure that the name you chose is on the approved list of Icelandic names. There is even a committee that checks to make sure your name is Icelandic approved. Is not they will just list the individual as girl/boy in the national registry until the name is changed to an approved one. Crazy right, my name is definitely not on that list!
9. Giving out your social security number, to basically everyone
Coming from the US where you hold your social security number near and dear it has taken me awhile to get use to using my Icelandic social security number here for basically everything. Gym memberships, store purchases, calling into my language school, my social security number is handed out almost daily and no one thinks twice about identity theft. I remember telling my Dad this and at first I think he was a bit concerned that I was being careless with my id number, but now I think we have all come to terms with the fact that things are just so much different, and safe, here in Iceland.
10. Easter holiday
I feel like Easter in the US is not celebrated properly, I mean we don’t even get a day off to recover from our large Easter Sunday brunch! I had no idea that while my family was cramming all the Easter fun into one Sunday afternoon there were others around the world enjoying 5 days off for the Easter holiday. Now that I have experienced the joy of the Easter holiday I can’t imagine not having it! Its like a nice break mid-way break between Christmas holiday and summer holiday, and I like taking full advantage of it by traveling somewhere fun, like Amsterdam this year and the South Coast of Iceland last year!
The things you learn when you leave your comfort zone! I swear everyday I learn something new, always an adventure that is for sure!
Question of the Day?
What have you learned about during your travels? Have you heard of handball?