Friday, August 31, 2012

International Perspective: Life and Style in Iceland

Two years ago, in my senior year of High School I became great friends with an exchange student from Iceland named Svanhvit (it's pronounced kind of like Svan-queet). Even though we only had a year together, she became one of my best friends. It had been two years until recently since the last time I saw her, she came back to visit this year and we spent almost every day together! Having a friend from another country has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I can't wait to turn the tables and go see her in Iceland some day. 

Since Iceland has such a small population and isn't often mentioned in the United States, I thought it would be interesting to do a small interview with her for my blog. She's also got a great sense of style! 

Tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Svanhvit, which probably to most of you sounds like my friend slammed the keyboard -- so most people here [in America] call me Svani or Squeet. I’m twenty, I’m double majoring in business and economics at Verslo (in Iceland.) I love traveling, I’ve been to about fifteen countries, mostly in Europe. I work in a store at the airport in Iceland. 

What is the biggest misconception people have about Iceland in America? 
How cold it is! They seem to think we have penguins and polar bears as pets. I’ve let some people believe I live in an Igloo!

So, how did Iceland get its name then?
The guy who found Iceland landed near a glacier so everything he saw was ice. He thought the entire island was a big glacier and left. Then came along Inglfur Arnarsson, who was the first person to settle Iceland in 800 something and well, he couldn’t change the name at that point. 

What is the most noticeable difference between culture in Iceland and in America? 
Actually they’re very similar, really. Iceland is Lutheran but we practice religion much less publicly than your average American Christian, I think.

Any foods in Iceland that would be weird to Americans, and any food you can find here but not back home? 
I wouldn’t say I eat it, but in the old calender we used to have in Iceland there used to be a month called Torri and in this month we eat special Torri food which include a sheep’s head, and sour sheep balls. I’ve never eaten them though! A lot of people also eat dried fish and shark. We don’t have beef as much as in America, but we eat a lot of lamb. I love Jell-o!

What are your favorite and least favorite things about life in America?
I like that I feel like I’m a part of a movie all the time, I feel like I end up a part of things that I see in movies. I also like speaking English. My least favorite thing is how common fast food places are, if I’m meeting a friend I don’t like to always go out for fast food. And it’s strange to me that if someone asks me to meet them at McDonald’s, I have to ask which McDonald’s because there are like, five in the area. 

How did you feel about being an exchange student in Wisconsin? Would you have preferred to have been in another state? 
I liked it a lot because I’m in a medium-sized city, and a big city would have been too much of a culture shock. Wisconsin is known for cheese and beer but unfortunately those are things I was not a fan of before I came here. However, I started to really like string cheese which we don’t have in Iceland. Wisconsin is the reason I fell in love with country music, and now I’m probably the biggest Icelandic Packers fan, even if that means watching a crappy stream online [of their games].

How would you describe your style? 
I don’t really like wearing things that are uncomfortable, well shoes are an exception… I love heels. But, I still want to look nice. I have a laid back style I guess. And I like mixing things, I love combining something girly with something tough.

What are your favorite clothing stores? 
I love H&M for my basics, since we don’t have them in Iceland. I love Topshop, Zara and Mango as well but my favorite online store is Nasty Gal. Shipping to Iceland is really expensive though! 

Are there any trends going on in Iceland right now that you haven't seen in America? 
Bowties on girls are popular in Iceland right now. 

Svanhvit bought this pocket watch necklace at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. 

How does the weather in Iceland determine how you dress? 
I can’t [wear as many] skirts or shorts without leggings underneath, I guess we don’t wear as many dresses on a daily basis because the wind would blow them up. People definitely wear jeans and coats more often. Winter is Iceland pretty much identical to winter in Wisconsin though, it didn’t get much colder in Iceland [the last time I was here.] We just don’t have the same amount of humidity, and our summers don’t get anywhere near as hot. 

How has being an exchange student affected your life? 
I was insanely shy before I came here, but being an exchange student forces you to leave your comfort zone. So now, I am a lot more outgoing than I ever was and I have more self-confidence. I would like to think my English has improved. And it’s always good to go to other places and see how other people live. 

What are your plans for the future? 
Well I have one year left of what we call “college” in Iceland, after which I have to go to a University to get my B.A degree. In my dream scenario I would go to the UK for University to double major in Business and Japanese. I would also love to take a year to study abroad in Japan. 

Svanhvit goes back home tomorrow, so I'd like to take the time to wish her a safe trip. If you're curious about Iceland or have any questions for Svanhvit, leave a comment and I'll be sure to forward them to her! You can also follow me (@snuggle_fish) and Svanhvit (@Squeet92) on Instagram, which happens to be our latest addiction. 

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