Saturday, March 07, 1998 12:26 AM
part 2

They drive on the right-hand of the road here, which takes some getting used to, and use the metric system, which is convenient.

Some American movie companies use Iceland as a test audience - owing to the combination of American and European presence.

The format of addresses is unusual - street name, then house number, eg Þvérholt 26. It's more logical, though.

It's a new experience for me to have a boss who socialises with the employees - when I arrived, I was taken on a quick driving tour of Reykjavík; the first Sunday, I was taken to lunch; that night we went to a fancy restaurant; last Sunday, everyone went to a coffee theatre (essentially a café with a small dais, on which the actors performed. When more room was required, the actors moved among the audience), where we saw a play called "Sleuth" (in Icelandic, of course). Fortunately, I've seen the movie in English, so I was able to follow it, even though I didn't understand the dialogue.

The 22nd of February was "Women's day", during which the men buy their wife flowers. More recently, there was introduced a "Men's day", perhaps as an excuse by flower sellers to sell more flowers.

Two days before Lent is "Bun day", where the bakeries sell only cream buns. It has a long tradition, which was not explained. The boss buys 100 buns every year for the employees! Even stranger is that 25 people eat *all* of them.

The first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, is known here simply as "Ash day", where children dress in costumes similar to those of Halloween, travel door to door, singing songs for sweets, and attempt to attach a little bag to peoples' back. In earlier times, the bags contained ash, but now that people no longer use wood fires to heat their home, ash is hard to obtain, and the bags contain either nothing, or a small stone.

People tend to eat a lot of food here. At lunch, my full plate was considered merely a snack to the Icelanders. At the restaurant, my initial decision to order an appetiser as a main course (having had so much lunch) was met initially with a shocked silence, then laughter. You don't do such a thing in Iceland. I was assured that the appetisers are very small, so I changed my mind and ordered a true main course, then declined to order an appetiser. That, too, was met with amusement. I was adamant on that point, though. Not long after, a very small dish was placed before each of us, containing some fish pieces and garnish. I thought that some mistake had been made, because I hadn't ordered an appetiser, but it wasn't the appetiser - it was the pre-appetiser appetiser! Soon after that, the appetiser arrived for the others, followed by a sorbet - the post-appetiser appetiser, perhaps? This was followed by the main course, an enormous dish in an enormous dish, then the desert menu arrived.

Deserts are considered sufficiently important here to deserve their own menu, and must not be declined. :-) The Icelandic delicacy is called "Skýr" (pronounced something like "skeer"), which is a milk product, tasting a little bit like sweet yoghurt, but not quite. I found it unusual, but not unpleasant. It is available at the markets, but it is not even remotely similar. Apprently, nothing compares to "prepared" Skýr.

The Icelandic keyboard is different, too: the Icelandic alphabet contains 33 characters, so the keyboard has some keys with 3 characters on them, and many of the familiar characters are in a different location. There are also characters that are accents, and how they appear depends on the character that is typed after them - it takes two keypresses to make them appear, and they appear either above a vowel, eg é, or on their own, eg ´. Sometimes, I run software that turns the keyboard back into English, but then I have to remember that I've done that, since the characters no longer match what's on the keys.

Friday was "pizza" day at the office, and pizzas were ordered for everyone. Unfortunately, a vegetarian pizza is unknown in this country, so to get one, you order a plain pizza and select the toppings. The smallest pizza available is 30 centimetres wide!

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