Talking to Strangers: Reykjavik, Iceland

Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

BY Elissa Gross

Tinna, 25

Where are you from?
I'm from Reykjavik. I work as a journalist for the biggest newspaper in Iceland, and I write about music and gossip and stuff like that. It's very fun.

Do you ever interview people about their sex lives? No? You should try it. So, what can you tell me about the dating life here in Reykjavik?
Well, we don't know how to date. No. You don't get asked out on a date. That's not our culture. People get to know others through friends. Most couples who I know have met while going out partying, maybe hooked up a few times, and then that leads to something more, but the dating culture in Iceland is pretty much sex.

Go on.
Guys are not the type to go around and ask girls out. Actually, I've only gone on a real date once in my life.

What was that like?
That was very weird. He came and picked me up, and we went to a restaurant, and I was like, "Should I pay or is he going to pay?" Well, he paid. And... what did we do then? Then we went to a movie, which I didn't like. And then we just went driving around. But it wasn't very exciting, probably because we just don't know how to do it. So, I think it's pretty bad. We should learn how to do it.

Why do you think that is?
I don't know. I think it's because it's never been that way here and we're not used to... girls in Iceland are not used to being treated like... I don't want to say "well," but we're not used to being pampered and swept off our feet. Which is why I think many Icelandic girls fall for guys from other countries, because of things like opening doors and stuff that Icelandic guys don't do. Nor are they in general much for telling us we're beautiful. No. They're all about being manly and they think that showing emotions or a soft side would be a sign of weakness.

Do you think there are specific gender roles here or
Definitely! Definitely. We have a lot of groups that are fighting about it now: "We shouldn't make the genders have their roles — everyone should get to do everything." "Small boys shouldn't just be given cars to play with — they should also be given dolls and Barbies." The other day, a big ice-cream factory in Iceland put ice cream on the market — a blue ice cream that was called the boy ice cream and a pink ice cream that was called the girl ice cream — and they had to take it off the market because everything went ballistic. But I think especially with the men here, it's all about the Viking image. They have to be very tough, they have to be very strong, they have to be very closed off and not emotional at all. Also, I think without realizing it, most Icelandic girls are looking for that, and the ones who aren't go find someone from another country.

Well, what are you looking for in a significant other?
Oh my God. If I only knew, then maybe I would've found him already. I don't know actually, for real, because I don't have a type. I don't go for specifics. Either it happens or it doesn't happen. We don't have very much range in Iceland; we don't have very many people. It's very weird also, because we are so small that every time I meet a new guy and — let's say he adds me on Facebook — you can be pretty sure we have at least one friend in common, and usually it's more. And you can find out all about this person in a day, because you just have to ask the people who know him and you find out his dating history. I think that's good and bad. People often don't get the chance to know each other — they've already made up their mind, because they already know everything about each other.

In such a tiny population, it must be awkward if you have any crazy exes. Do you have any?
Well, I don't know if crazy is the right term. I do have a few — a few, that sounded bad — I have some funny stories, I'd say. I think the craziest one, we were together for half a year or something, and then we broke up and he stalked me for months.

Um, that's pretty crazy.
Actually, while we were together, he wasn't that interested in me, but once we broke up, he was like, "Oh no, I can't believe you're gone." But I think that's the craziest thing that's happened. Icelandic guys are generally occupied with not being crazy — if someone breaks up with them, they take the "I don't care" route and won't call you, because they have to be the strong type. I hate it, but it's really important to Icelandic guys. I've lived in Austria, I've traveled around Europe a lot, and I know people from very different places in the world, and I actually think that Icelandic guys are a very specific type, a rare breed if you will. I haven't found anyone else like them in the world.

NEXT: "Foreigners were coming to Iceland because they were hearing Icelandic girls were so easy to get with."

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