A Motionless Journey #4 – The Sense for Time in Iceland

The Icelandic one is an atypical northern population. It has some characteristics that I would define Mediterranean. One for all, punctuality.

In Finland they told me that if I wanted to be on time I should have been at an appointment five minutes before the stated time. Iíve never lived, not for a long time, in Denmark or Norway or Sweden, but everybody knows that in those places punctuality is a central matter and it is taken very seriously. If a meeting is planned to be from 10 to 11, people will be there at 9.55, theyíll start at 10 and, finished or not, at 11 theyíll leave. If a bar is open from 18 to 23, youíll be able to enter at 17.59 and at 22.45 the lights will be switched off so that customers understand itís time to go.

But not in Iceland. Here, if an appointment is planned at 10, it simply means that it will take place in the morning instead of the afternoon. Then maybe it will start one hour later, but itís not a real delay though, because that is a way to communicate just that the appointment will not start before 10, rather than a schedule to state exactly when it will take place. When someone tells you ‘Iím on my way’ or ‘Iíll leave in three minutes’, the communication has to be meant in the ‘Italian way’: that person has just finished to take a shower and will meet you in half an hour.

H˙savÌk, Iceland

I think that this is a cultural feature strictly linked to the natural environment. Probably, especially in the past, it wasnít that simple to do accurate programs on long term, due to the presence of variables, frequent and unpredictable at the same time. Storms, snow, earthquakes, eruptions, floods are just some of them. Events, often catastrophic, which contributed to model the character and a carelessness that sometimes might seem naive when facing the situations, even the toughest ones. fietta reddast (pronounced ‘thetta red-dast’) is kind of a motto, typical Icelandic, but most of all a philosophy of life: everything will be ok. After all, living in a place that is definitely wonderful, but also barren and inhospitable, is already difficult. You donít need to add useless anxieties. So, fietta reddast.

Maybe this is one of the reasons why Icelandics are much more partygoers than their Scandinavian neighbours. ReykjavÌk is famous for its concerts and nightlife, but also here in the North they are no less. In summer a number of events take place in H˙savÌk and its surroundings, from concerts to festivals, from parties to festivals.

Winter obviously is more relaxed. There are less people, less tourists, more darkness. But the desire for entertainments is the same, despite the chilly wind, the snowstorms rising without notice, a shy sun and shows himself for just three or four hours per day.

The 6th of January is Epiphany Day in Italy. In Iceland the festivity is called firett·ndinn, there is no Befana, but also here itís the last day of holidays. And it is celebrated with something Icelanders absolutely love: fireworks. In H˙savÌk everyone goes to the harbor. Who can’t stand the cold remains in the car. Thereís a little truck as a stage, where an artist sings the Icelandic adaptation of ‘Katyusha’. Thereís a huge bonfire which heats the air. If thatís not enough you also find roasted cobs. And then, finally, from behind the cliffs, the fireworks start to paint the sky.


Further information about tourism in H˙savÌk: Visit H˙savÌk.

Translated from Italian by Giuditta Gubbi.

Read the precious part: Iceland’s Sweet Winter

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