So, Jóhanna brought up an interesting question in the comments to the last post, which in my opinion sort of highlights a cultural difference between Icelanders and most other societies that I’m familiar with. Jóhanna writes:
So they began by introducing everyone in the group, and this made you immediately feel like you were among friends? I don´t think I really understand this. It just sounds a bit odd or strange. If you really want to know somebody you have to allow for some time. Why would you need someone else to introduce you? And why at once? If you´re really interested you can ask the person you want to know something about where they´re from and what their name is, after a little bit of time. If for some reason you can´t ask them, and I can´t imagine why you couldn´t, well then in many instances there´s always the network of coworkers, acquaintances, friends and relatives. Most of the time you can find out.
Besides, why would you like to get to know everyone´s name at once?
In Iceland, there is not much of a culture surrounding introductions. Say you’re with a friend walking down the street and run into someone you know, in most countries it is considered rude not to introduce the person you’re with to the person you’ve just run into. In Iceland it is not customary to do this, which I think is really … unfortunate. I hesitate to use the word rude because it can’t really be rude if it’s a cultural thing — that implies I’m placing my own value judgments on it, which isn’t quite right. HOWEVER, I find it really uncomfortable to be out with someone who runs into someone else and may even spend a considerable length of time talking to that person, without introducing me to him/her, or vice-versa. To be honest I feel like a total dud in those sorts of situations, excluded from the conversation, and sort of like the third wheel under the cart. It’s just not very congenial or sociable.
On our snorkeling trip last Sunday, the two guides began by introducing everyone. To me, that was totally refreshing, and somehow familiar. I’d just come off a tour with a whole bunch of strangers who had barely said a word to each other for the entire four or five hours we’d spent together [not implying anyone should have introduced anyone else there — that wouldn’t have been appropriate in that setting … I’m just using that as a contrast] — so suddenly feeling welcomed into a group was great.
In short, introducing people to each other like that breaks the ice and makes people more comfortable with each other. As soon as that was done, we could start speaking on different terms than we otherwise would have done. For instance I on the way to the ravine I had a conversation with the woman next to me about where she was from, what she was doing in Iceland, what other tours she had done while here and what else she was planning to do, etc. I’m not sure I would have done that if I hadn’t been introduced to her already, didn’t know her name and hadn’t shaken her hand. I probably would just have sat there, perhaps smiled at her politely, and then turned to look out of the window.
Anyone else have any thoughts about the introduction culture of the Icelanders — or lack thereof?