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About the Icelanders 8: the ubiquitous practice of dooring

Not all of the Icelanders’ quirks are as endearing as their phone book shenanigans. Take their treatment of car doors, for example.

Car door-If you live in Iceland you will undoubtedly soon notice that most cars more than a year old have numerous small-ish dents and scratches on their sides. This is because the people who parked next to those cars have smacked their car doors right into them. Usually without thinking twice about it.

This practice is so common in Iceland that a verb has been devised expressly for it: að hurða – “to door”. And what is even more infuriating is how little folks tend to care about dooring other people’s cars.

To wit: the other day I was sitting in my car in a parking lot, talking on the phone. A car pulls up and proceeds to back into the space next to me. The driver’s door, therefore, is right next to mine. He doesn’t notice I’m there, opens the door swiftly, smacks it right into mine, and starts walking away without a second thought. I got out of the car and did a typical “YO!”, at which I got a shrug and “sorry” before the dude slinked away as fast as possible.

Thankfully there was no dent that time, so I didn’t pursue it any further. A worse scenario happened when I discovered that my neighbours had been dooring the side of my car, and that there were three or four major dents/scratches on the one side. I went to talk to them about it, and met with a the attitudinal equivalent of a blank stare. At my request the husband came downstairs, looked at our car, shrugged his shoulders and said something to the effect of: “well, it goes both ways,” gesturing towards his own car as if to suggest that we had been dooring his car, as well. [We hadn’t, and his car had the absence of dents to prove it.] He then turned around and went back into the house without another word, leaving us standing there, more or less speechless.

Tempting as it is to chalk this up to Icelandic boorishness [or to blame the whole “dooring” thing on the ever-present wind], unfortunately I fear this is more akin to one of those “fuck you and the horse you rode in on” type of attitudes that is the flip side of the Icelanders’ usually-positive “kæruleysi” [which, if you care to, you can read about here]. This is akin to the “why the hell should I bother to give a turn signal?” Or, “what, you don’t like me stopping my car randomly in the middle of the street? Why should I give a flying fuck?!”

Ah, me. I am starting to think with nostalgia about my time in Germany, where people keyed cars as a matter of course, but only if they felt justified [like if the car was parked in the middle of a sidewalk]. Here they don’t do that, but instead have no qualms about dooring their neighbour’s cars for no good reason.


[image found here]