Going to our local grocery store has provided some interesting lessons in our cultural differences.
Kristin got out of the car as the person in the car next to her was getting in. He said, “Oh, excuse me” as is pretty normal in our culture, but Kristin finds it hilarious that people say ‘excuse me’ as they go past each other. I explained the concept of personal space and how Americans don’t really like to get too close to each other without excusing themselves, but apparently in Iceland it’s no big deal.
On a different visit, rather than visit self check out, I decided to let the lonely-looking clerk at the check out do our groceries. He was a friendly enough guy and said, “Do you want to be a re-useable shopping bag?” I said, “No, I enjoy destroying the environment for free” and the guy busted up laughing and we started chatting like old friends. Pretty soon, another woman got on line behind us, looked at our purchases, and asked us what we were baking (peanut butter bars and cashew bars for an AFS picnic). I told her and she asked how to make them, I explained it was our first try doing it and I wasn’t sure of the recipe, that kind of thing, and between the 3 of us, we had a very nice exchange.
When we got out to the car, Kristin said, “Americans will tell you their life story even if you don’t know them!” She can’t get over how everyone talks to each other, even asking if I knew those people, which I didn’t. I think it’s friendly, she thinks it’s crazy. :)
I think Iceland may be a very quiet place!