Names for the Sea by Sarah Moss
This is one of those fish out of water travel stories which I really enjoy. I especially enjoyed this one because it’s set in, if you’ve been reading this blog this shouldn’t be a surprise – Iceland. The author takes a year-long academic position at an Icelandic University and moves herself, her husband and two young boys to the capital from Great Britain. She happens to have the strange fortune of being there when Eyjafjallajokull erupts. (Remember when all those flights were delayed to Europe because of the pesky volcano in Iceland? This is the volcano.)
I learned all sorts of things that a casual tourist wouldn’t know. Icelanders park their prams outside restaurants and shops (with baby sleeping inside) during the summer because the weather is nice and who would take a child? Saturdays are half price sweets day at the supermarkets. (All those with a sweet tooth take note!) It is considered rude to strike up a conversation with a random stranger on line or waiting for a bus; they are a very private people. And the one that tripped up the author most, there are no secondhand shops in Iceland. This has changed a little with the kreppa (the economic collapse) but there is a real stigma with purchasing secondhand appliances and clothes. Getting a washing machine and other large necessary items proved to be a challenge, as was getting an apartment since only ten percent of the population rent.