65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 6

65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 6
answer if phrased so, though many would con- sider it an invasion of their privacy. The reasons people have for residing in Ice- land are quite different from those of visitors. Most are simply brought as husbands or wives, or have come in the hopes of making a living, and the beauty of the landscape has no more effect on their adjustment than on the daily lives of Icelanders. Before a foreign-born or “adapted” Icelander can answer whether he likes Iceland, he must first examine himself and his desires for a worthwhile life. To say glibly, “I find the climate cold, the landscape bare, the people stiff and a job im- possible to find” is to tell only a part of the picture. Yet how can the question be answered understandably ? Coming from the suburbs of New England, Massachusetts, U.S.A., I suffered no lack of clean air, so the fresh air of Iceland makes less impres- sion on me than on one from midtown New York or Los Angeles, but it does not mean Iceland’s air is not clean and fresh. Coming from a seasonal climate, I enjoyed the slow turning of the winter into spring and the summer into golden autumn, as well as the snowy winters and hot summers, but this does not mean the Iceland’s seasons are unappreciated. By contrast, however, they are not so dramatic. New England is heavily wooded country, so it is not opinion hut fact that by con- trast the Icelandic landscape is bare. But it does not mean it is not beautiful in its own way. These sensory things, however, have little to do with a worthwhile life. More important is con- genial people, and that always varies with taste. There are many lively, responsive and intellectual- ly minded people in Iceland, but perhaps fewer than would be found in larger or less northerly lands. It certainly does not mean that all Ice- landers are staid, unemotional and preoccupied with daily life. Nor are Icelanders grim after ac- quaintance, but the way of acquaintanceship is different. Even to know the ancestry of a new- comer is meaningless to the Icelander. To be Helga Helgadottir of BorgarfjorSur might imply respected and honest kinsmen of middling wealth and poet’s stock, though Helga herself might be flightly and dishonest and unartistic. A newcomer may be a Roumanian businessman, but he cannot say he is respected, honest, wealthy or artistic without seeming conceited. In Iceland he has no recognizaable background or other than visual attributes until they emerge through the years. He must be born anew in Iceland. In job hunting, also it is not enough to state superior training and experience — the employer himself may not have a background enabling him to assess such qualifications and would rather hire a geneo- logically defined Icelander whether or not he is qualified for the job in any special way. The age- old emphasis on family rather than ability still holds. To feel “unappreciated” in this respect is a fact rather than a complaint, but, thankfully, a fact which is changing. It is necessary to remember that slowness in “ad- justment” is not wholly controllable. A person of Latin temperament whose culture is based on English traditions will always be slower to “ad- just” to Iceland than a phlegmatic introvert whose culture is northern European — the basic dif- ferences are greater. Another point is that the early years mold a person indelibly and are not easily forgotten — they are part of one. The third, and surprising point, is that in order to adjust, one must have something to which to adjust. Iceland is no longer a relatively fixed culture with a static pattern. It is, in fact, in an extremely fluid state of changing values and fluctuating behaviour. One cannot adjust to modern Iceland without first discovering its framework. The in- definitness of this framework is at once its frustration and its challenge. But even with congenial people, there is the barrier of language. Even a good knowledge of Icelandic is not enough with which to com- municate deeply, and for one whose professional field is communication, this is indeed a sturdy barrier. Pearl Buck in “My Several Lives” says of her move to America after twenty years in China, that a transplanted person must put his roots down firmly and quickly in the new soil or he will forever be rootless. And this is it. One must find a corner in which to be useful. The feeling, the knowledge of being able to give to a com- munity, of having one’s gifts valued and accepted are most important of all. But one must first learn what to give. Here, as in love, one cannot give what he wants, but what the other requires. To do this one must grow to understand what is meaningful and of value to the individual and to the Icelandic community. Learning these things are the means by which the foreign-born adapts himself so that he may eventually he “adopted” by the native-born and gain his own place as an integral part of Iceland. 4 65



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