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Christina, Iceland

Who are you?

My name is Christina also known as Tine, Efia or Efiabruni because I’m a Russian spy posing as an indecisive German.

I’m currently trying to juggle my day job with finishing my master in public health, political activism, opening a micro bakery, hacking around on my blog script and life in Reykjavík/Iceland in general.Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I first moved abroad after finishing high school in Germany, as I needed some time to figure out what I wanted to do. I volunteered for a year in Iceland and found myself returning again and again until I gave up and admitted this is my home now.

What challenges did you face during the move?

My first move to Iceland was part of a lot of firsts. First real job, first time not living at home, in short, first experience of grown up life. I have yet to return to Germany, Icelandic life is the norm to me.

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I should have spent some more time on www.utl.is and informed myself about proper immigration procedures. It seems every time I come to Iceland the process has slightly changed and I always end up going back and forth between the immigration office and the registration office until it is sorted.

Are there many other expats in your area?

There are a lot of clubs and societies in Iceland. I joined a martial arts sports club (something I always wanted to learn), then a choir, then a volleyball group, then a horse riding course, then a Bacchata dancing group, then a board games night. Basically anything I found slightly interesting I stuck my nose in. This is my advice to others to meet people, be open for new ideas and do things you have fun with.

I’m also a member of the couchsurfing community, which is quite active here in Reykjavík.

What do you like about life where you are?

Iceland is a breathtakingly beautiful country. For someone like me, who loves desolate empty spaces it is a hikers’ paradise. As mentioned above, I like my work environment a lot. There are specific things I like about living in Reykjavík in particular, which I had listed in a separate blog post.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

My Icelandic college immediately suggested mentioning the weather here. After last winter, which is now officially known as the “winter of storms” this would be a logical choice.

However the thing that stresses me the most at the moment is the housing situation in Reykjavík. There is a serious shortage of flats in Reykjavík. Rent is high and landlords frequently abuse the situation. We will have to find a new flat in September to rent. It is raining into one of our bedrooms and our landlord’s reaction was: “You should be thankful to have a place in such a good location”. Ugh!

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Culturally Iceland is similar to other western European countries. Most of the time I feel like I just belong here. Yet every year, sometime in the middle of winter I suddenly have the claustrophobic realization that I’m stuck on a barren island in the middle of nowhere during a snowstorm and that I cannot remember when I have last seen the sun.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

1) Moving to any new country can and should feel like an exiting adventure. Iceland in particular can feel like this friendly, quaint little country, especially as one often finds a flat or a job via acquaintances. However, this is not a holiday and a carefree attitude can go wrong very quickly. Be aware that not knowing your rights, local circumstances or the language puts you at a disadvantage and that in Iceland, just like in any other country people might take advantage of this.

Inform yourself as much as possible, take time to read through contracts and don’t be shy to ask for help.

2) Plan for winter. It can be hard. The darkness has a way of creeping up on you and before you know it you spent most of Sunday in bed watching TV shows and wondering where all your energy is gone to.

What one can do:

– Eat healthy, especially take care that you get enough vitamin D (https://tine.pagekite.me/?viewDetailed=00125)

– Exercise, whether this means hitting the gym every day or meeting a friend in the swimming pool on Saturdays it will help you stay active.

– Force yourself to wake up and go to bed early. Icelandic winter can kill your sleep cycle.

– Get a daylight lamp.

3) Learn Icelandic. In Reykjavík one can easily get by with English only, but to fully integrate speaking Icelandic is a must, not only for practical reasons, but a culture is closely connected to the language and one simply cannot understand the Icelandic mindset without being able to say “Þetta reddast” with conviction.

What are your plans for the future?

First of all find a new flat. Finish my studies and then hopefully go travelling again for a year or two.

You can follow Christina's experiences as an expat in Iceland on her blog, Sky As A Kite.

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