Icelandic writer Hallgrimur Helgason asks the Danish people to understand the Icelanders’ need to buy Danish properties and accept the future colonization of their country
bIcelandic people often complain that Danish people don’t know too much about their country. Some even think it’s a small island off the coast of Jylland. Maybe they do so because it used to be true. For many centuries Iceland was a Danish island west of Jylland.
Your king was our king. Our land was your land.
I guess that’s why we feel insulted when you guys don’t seem to know anything about us. I mean, an Irishman would never be asked in London: “Ireland? That’s one of the Shetland Islands, isn’t it?” So you better remember that Iceland is a big island off the coast of Greenland (which, by the way, is Danish, in case you didn’t know).
For us, Denmark is like a mother. An old mother who lives in a big old palace, keeps a lot of dogs, loads of staff, and smokes a lot of cigarettes. We used to live at her place. She treated us… ah, well, like a mother. But she didn’t want us to move out. She kept us home for too long, in a small room down in her basement that she only visited once in all our lives. Finally we managed to escape, when she was busy being raped by a German soldier, and for a good while we’ve been living on our own. We’re all grown up by now. We even have a job. And a girlfriend. Well, we had a girlfriend. And actually she was a he; an American soldier. It was a kind of gay relationship that produced no kids. But he left us last year. He’s into Muslims now. (Footnote: Last year the American Air Force closed down their base in Keflavik, after 50 years of “defending Iceland”.)
So we’re single now and feeling pretty hot, because we’re so cool. Everybody likes us. We’re in fashion. We have Björk and Sigur Rós, the Blue Lagoon and the Reykjavik night life. And we have a lot of money and we love to spend it.
Actually the biggest difference between the Icelanders and the Danes lies in the approach to money. Danish people like to save money, because you’re planning to go to Florida in 2012. You’ve even already booked the hotel. A smoking room for the old lady. And four tickets to Disneyworld: June 10th 2012.
Icelandic people never plan ahead. We can’t even plan our lunch until it’s over. “Yes, we decided to go out for a bite,” I sometimes hear my wife telling her girlfriends, on the phone, in the middle of our lunch, even though we never decided on anything. It just so happened that we went out for lunch. We use the verb “to decide” only in the past tense. (This is the reason why all marriage-quarrels in Iceland, along with all political debates, tend to circle around the same phrases. “I never said that!” – “Yes you did!” – “OK, I might have, but we never decided anything.”)
We never plan ahead. This is because for centuries we’ve been living in this schizophrenic land of ice and fire, with all its crazy weather and wild volcanoes, high seas and low expectations. We were never sure whether all the husbands would come back from fishing or if that sudden frosty night in August would destroy all the crops. We were never able to take anything for granted, except the Danish king and queen and their long awaited trip to Florida in the summer of 2012.
We never plan ahead and we always spend our money right away. In Iceland saving money is considered a sin. And we are a very Christian society…
This non-saving tradition dates back to the time when we left our Danish mother’s house. Before that we never saw any money and when we got our first payment we were so happy that we spent it all in one weekend. So we had to get a loan to be able to live for rest of the month. Ever since then the Icelandic people love loans. Some even take loans for paying up other loans. In fact we never worry about money because we know we can always get a loan. Icelanders don’t look at banks as a place for keeping money but as a place for getting money.
The non-saving thing also has something to do with inflation. We’re all brought up on inflation, that post-colonial hell every third world country has to go through on their way to the premier league. During my youth inflation was growing by the year, peaking at 120% by the time of my twentieth birthday. Keeping cash in your pocket was like keeping snow in your pocket. If somebody handed you a thousand krónur bill, you had to immediately run down to the record store and buy the latest ELO album. If you met your aunt on the way and had to talk to her for some minutes, you could only buy the single.
Time ate money like a rat eats cheese.
So instead of saving our money, we spend it. We put it to work. And since Iceland is a very small country we can not spend it all there. So now we’re spending it over here, in Denmark. While you’re busy counting your savings for that week in a Florida hotel, we’re busy buying all the best hotels in Copenhagen. And all the shops. And all the newspapers. And all your travel agencies and all your airlines. They’re all Icelandic by now, as you must know.
But you have to bear with us. Because this is all very important for us. You have to understand. It is VERY IMPORTANT for us Icelanders to buy as many Danish things as we can. It’s all about finding our self-esteem and growing up as a nation. It’s like the rapper kid who makes it big and buys his mother a new house, just to show her he’s doing OK, to make her proud of him. So therefore I’m begging you, dear Danes, to sell us as much as you can. It would be nice, for example, if you could hand over Tivoli and Legoland. We would appreciate it. And maybe Amalienborg as well.
Don’t worry, we’ll buy her a new house.
You have to understand that it’s all just a part of a big scheme. Acquiring your most precious properties, one after the other, is just the beginning of a big takeover. And it’s up to you whether it will be a hostile one or not.
Please don’t take it badly. Try to understand us. I mean, it’s only fair. You colonized us for 600 years. Now it’s time for us to do the same to you. The best thing for you guys is to accept your fate straight away, stop whining in the press about Icelandic business men who buy this and that without having any money in the pocket (it’s a loan-thing, remember), and prepare yourself for 600 years of Icelandic rule: 600 years of listening to Björk and reading Helgason novels.
Instead of queen Margarethe you will get a president. His name is Mr. Grímsson, a great non-smoking guy that is married to a hot and cheerful London socialite and has two lovely daughters who both are happily married. You will learn to like him. I think he even speaks some Danish. And with time you will also get used to the new name of your country: Danmörk. But don’t worry, Tomasson will still be playing for the national team, wearing the blue jersey of Iceland. And though we will close down all the universities in Copenhagen your kids will always be welcome to study in Reykjavik (the capitol of Iceland and the home of your future government). That way they’ll at least learn to know where Iceland is.
So I tell you dear friends: “Það er gott að vera Íslendingur”. It’s good to be Icelandic. You’re gonna love it. All you have to do is to loosen up a little, stop saving money and cancel the trip to Florida, get drunk and start buying the shop instead of just that sweater. Think big. Be cool and get colonized!
I’m telling you, it will pay off. After six hundred years of Icelandic rule you’ll be ready to claim your independence and start to rock the world.
I highly recommend it.
There is just this one thing, though, that we will not “Icelandize” and leave totally Danish. And that is the Danish Sperm Bank. Danske Sædbank (an affiliate of Danske Bank). This is something we will not touch.
Since there are so few people in Iceland, and everybody knows each other, nobody dares to put his sperm in the bank. You don‘t want to risk meeting your seven year old sperm-bank-son at the shopping mall with his lesbian mother and lesbian father. And then, as mentioned before, it’s simply not in our culture to keep things in a bank. (Actually all the banks in Iceland are empty, as you must have read about in the Berlingske and Extra Bladet.)
So all the gay couples of Iceland go to Denmark for an artificial insemination. It’s very popular at the moment. All the lesbians in Iceland have Danish kids.
In the long term this could in fact become a problem for us. With time the lesbians will have more and more kids, that are half gay, half Danish. And with those gay genes inside them (the donors are mostly mustached gay guys from Aalborg with parental dreams) it’s pretty likely that the kids will become gay as well. The big fear then is that they will keep up the family tradition and become clients of Danske Sædbank when they grow up. Therefore we will slowly have more and more half-gay, half-Danish kids in Iceland, that in the end could become a minority in our country: The Gay practicing Danish fundamentalists, or “De Sædelige”. They’ll all be living in the same neighborhood in Reykjavik, situated close to the harbor and nicknamed “Bössen” by the locals. And there they’ll have their own bars, like “Queen Henrik”, “The Little Spermaid” and “Dansk Smörreröv”, and develop their own traditions, their own culture and even their own language, that will be like a gay version of Danish, and will therefore sound a lot like Swedish.
Through the coming ages “Sædderne” will take up the fight for Danish independence, developing their own IRA- and ETA-like terrorist armies, and regularly blowing up the private jets of the Icelandic jet-set and gunning down government officials. And then slowly we will give in and allow you your own constitution and your own little Folketing that will however have to be held in Hviids Vinstue after Baugur Group has bought the Folketing building for its Scandinavian headquarters. But at Hviids you will be free to discuss important matters like whether the bronze statue of president Grímsson should be erected at Rådhuspladsen or President’s Nytorv. A bit later we’ll give you your own cabinet minister, though he won’t be allowed a seat in the Grand Icelandic parliament or at cabinet meetings. And soon after you’ll be allowed to flag the Dannebrog again and read H.C. Andrésson’s (sic) fairy tales in the original version.
And then, in the year 2607, you’ll finally get your independence back and be free of Icelandic rule. But the cultural influence will always be there. It won’t be washed away by a simple declaration. You’ll still be eating those sheep heads, drinking brennivín, and asking for a hot dog “med det hele”. The Kaupthing Kirke and the Hekla Mall will still be standing and there will always be a Laundromat Café in every neighborhood from Esbjerg to Amager. The Grímsson statue won’t be pulled down and the Baugur Group sign will still be seen on top of your parliament building. The Danish language will be full of Icelandic words and phrases and you’ll be deeply offended each time you meet an Icelandic person who doesn’t know where Denmark is.
So there you have it, dear Danes. This article is only meant to help you to accept your fate and welcome your Icelandic future. Being Icelandic for a couple of centuries won’t make you less Danish. It will only strengthen your national awareness and make you more proud as a nation. At least this has been our experience. We owe a lot to Denmark and now we are finally ready to return the favor.
Hallgrimur Helgason is an Icelandic writer. His latest book in Danish is Stormland, published by Aschehoug.