It’s Okay Not Being Icelandic

Around 20% of the population of the Westfjords are people who have migrated from other parts of the world. These new inhabitants face many new challenges such as a new language, new customs and new social rules.

In Icelandic culture it’s common to start conversations with people you meet for the first time by seeing how (not if) you are connected. It can be through family, mutual friends, old schoolmates, or whichever other channels open before you. Being a newcomer who doesn’t have these connections can sometimes be challenging. 

The Icelandic language is another challenge- it is considered one of the most difficult tongues to acquire. From a global perspective, Icelandic is spoken by very few people, and nationally all measures are taken to protect it from extinction. Even though spoken by few in general, the Icelandic language is, like everywhere else, the key to adapting well to the society. 

Though all this is challenging in itself let’s not forget the ever-changing, wild weather and the long hours of winter darkness, which can be alienating even for those who have spent their entire lives here. 

The title of this exhibition refers to the idea that immigration is a mutual cultural exchange where diversity is accepted and welcomed, where everyone has the opportunity to learn something new from one another and enrich the community. Whether or not people are Icelandic, and in whatever way they may identify, there is room for them in Icelandic society as they are and as they choose to be.

We interviewed a few people who migrated to this area and asked about their concept of home and what life is like for them here. We listened to stories about their sense of self in relation to the world they came from and the new world they’ve constructed for themselves in Iceland.

We invite you to shine a spotlight on these individuals, their perceptions, and their unique experiences by taking a peek into the boxes to let their stories come out.

Scroll Down to Reveal Migrants’ Stories