Moving To Reykjavik, Iceland

MOVING TO REYKJAVIK, ICELAND

Met The Viking

I met my Viking, Ingimar, the old school way - in a bar back in Edinburgh. The funny things is that neither of us lived there at the time so it was a completely random meeting. I believe it was meant to be and the stars aligned for us that night.

Ingimar was on a football trip with his two best friends and had flown over from Iceland for a short trip, travelling from Bristol to Manchester and then Edinburgh before flying home to Reykjavik. I was on a hen night with old school friends (and dressed like an Air Hostess, of course) and had flown up for the weekend to see friends and family.

We had gone to a ceilidh bar in town called the Ghillie Dhu. To cut a long story short, his friend came over and said “my friend thinks you’re cute” and like tipsy girls, we giggled and continued our conversation. Realising that was a little rude, as he was clearly not Scottish, I decided to go over and speak to them. I sat next to Ingimar and said “you don’t look like you’re from here, where are you from?” and he said Iceland - to which I said “what? nobody lives there” and, well, look at me now. We connected on facebook (oh the romance) and then I left with my friends - I had such a reassuring feeling that we would meet again.

Real Online Flirting & Dating

Thank goodness for WhatsApp, Facebook and FaceTime.

I remember the first time we did a video call, I was so nervous but the second we saw each other, we just wanted to meet up. It was weird because we didn’t actually know each other, we had met for such a short time in the bar that night but we felt so close already.

Meeting Up In Person

I was home in Edinburgh, on Christmas break, when I got a call from the International Recruitment Team at University. I worked as a Senior Lecturer at the time and often went on international recruitment trips to Asia. I was meant to be going to China to deliver a lecture in January but they had to cancel and needed an academic on a recruitment trip to Iceland.

It was so completely out of the blue, I honestly thought that this was the stars lining up for us. I mean, there was no reason for me to be going to Iceland other than to see Ingimar, and it was a big step to do so. We were at the stage where one of us would have to book a flight and make the first move but neither of us was quite taking the leap. This was fate.

A Little Long Distance

A load of late night calls turned into searching sky scanner for the cheapest flights, and after a good few visits back and forth we finally approached the question of who will make the big move so we could actually be together.

At the time I was living and working down on the South Coast of England in Bournemouth. I had a good job as a Senior Lecturer at the University and was getting to visit India on a frequent basis with the British Council - but I was burnt out. Ingimar was working for a big games company here in Iceland and had never lived abroad so it would have been a much bigger step for him, plus he was happy in his job. His Mother had recently passed away and we left it was too soon to leave his home, friends and family. All things pointed to me moving and so we started to plan.

Planned To Relocate

Mid term break and I flew over to Iceland and spent the break staying with Ingimar. We did normal things, he went to work and I wandered around, trying to imagine life in Iceland. Moving abroad for me wasn’t as big a deal as many might think. I had lived for a year in Japan doing my MA, a good few years in India working and wasn’t living in my home city at the time anyway. I had visited a number of times by now, including for his Mothers funeral where I met the family, and his friends. I was ready for a change of pace, and it was time to make the move.

Getting Engaged

Ever the romantic, I told the Viking that I would move under one condition - that we be engaged. Yes, we loved each other and were planning to be together, but I had to be realistic. I was leaving a good job, my friends and family, and I wanted a commitment from him. I wanted to know we were in it for the long haul.

He proposed at Christmas, and I moved over in February.

Quit My Job

Handing in my notice at work was filled with mixed emotions. I was ready to let go of all the stress, pressure and admin but I loved my job and working with my students. I didn’t look forward to telling them. I wrote a letter and was ready to hand it to my line manager, and HR. I asked for a meeting with him and straight away, I could tell he knew what was coming. I told him in our office and we went for a coffee to chat about my plans and new life. He was shocked but happy for me.

We planned how we would tell the students. We gathered all 250+ of them in the studio, along with the other academic and admin staff who I’d worked closely with. It was an emotional meeting but I am so happy that so many people came to wish me well and luck. My students threw me a little farewell party too - I think I had 3 leaving do’s in total.

I miss the students, lecturing but I don’t miss marking, especially the many many dissertations.

Packed Up My Life

Anyone who’s tried to relocate, especially to a pricey country like Iceland, knows of the challenges. Ingimar found a packing company who shipped to Iceland and we signed the contract for the move. Unfortunately, whilst my boxes were in transit, the company went bust.

After a clear out and a few trips to the charity shop, I packed up my necessities into my pink suitcase (which has been to both Japan and India with me) and the rest went into the boxes the company had delivered. It took me a weekend to clear my tiny studio apartment - with the help of my lovely Mum - and we checked into a hotel on the seafront for my last night in Bournemouth.

Fly Home To Edinburgh

I flew home to Edinburgh with Mum the next day, armed with my big pink case, and spent a couple of weeks seeing friends and family before the big move. In this time I did all the practical things like visit the doctors and get prescriptions, get my eyes tested and so on.

I packed my life up, tracked my boxes as they travelled to Iceland and got myself ready for the next chapter of my life.

Finding Work & Working On Plan B

For those of you who don’t know, I’m actually a British chartered Architect who survived the recession by heading off to India to help set up a new Design School. Whilst in India I set up layoutlines.com as a place to share my ‘incredible India’ stories and returned to the UK to teach at University, and assist in international recruitment. All this time I kept up blogging on Layoutlines and set up an Etsy shop to share my Architectural illustrations, and also to meet other likeminded creatives in my new home.

Moving to Reykjavik was going to be a challenge employment wise as I didn’t speak the language and had little to no connections. Getting to visit Reykjavik with the universities recruitment team prior to moving was great and helped with networking a little. I knew staff at the Art Schools’ illustration department and managed to get some guest lecturing work with them.

I spent months, literally months, applying to so many Architecture and Interiors companies here but to no avail. Finally I managed to speak to someone who told me that I wasn’t successful because I hadn’t been educated or trained in a Scandinavian country. So with that lack of openness, I decided to save my time and focus on my own thing.

Back to Layoutlines.com

Teaching and sharing my skills and experience was something I was passionate about and so I started to think of ways to do this on my own, through my website. I planned, wrote and filmed the Portfolio Course and started to offer in-person tutorials which were great fun. I ran some workshops in our home and was working on growing my social media through YouTube and Instagram.

Aside from this, I have taken on temporary work doing Copyrighting, Marketing, Website Building and Content Creation for local companies too.

Relocated To Reykjavik - Vlogging

I made a very conscious decision to pick up my camera and film from the moment I landed in Iceland. I hadn’t ever vlogged before but I really wanted to record this chapter of my life, and wish I had done the same for India and Japan.

A few years on and it’s lovely having these memories and special moments on film to watch back. My channel has been growing slowly and I love engaging with my viewers in the comments. Sharing my life was easy but now that we have Mia, I’m a little more conscious about what I share. Being a Mum makes me responsible for her and what is shown of her at such a young age. I’m always careful and try not to over share but I feel it’s also important to share certain things and talk about some issues to help other new Mums.

I make a little income from my channel, mainly through ads so it’s important that you subscribe - if you want to. I want to make more informative videos on Iceland and Motherhood on my channel so watch out for these coming soon.

Residency

The big question, and I get how lucky I am that I come from an EU country (pre-Brexit) so it was pretty smooth. Also, moving here to live with my (at the time) fiancé meant that we were classed by the state as ‘living together’ which in the eyes of the Icelandic TAX department meant basically the same as being married.

We went to the immigration offices and handed in the paperwork, my passport and drivers license along with proof of no other marriage. I needed to email them proof I wasn’t married (a near impossible thing to prove really) but I did this by emailing the Births, Marriages, Deaths record office in Scotland who replied saying they had no record of any marriage and I simply forwarded this to them.

A few weeks later and I had my residency status.

My Boxes, Lost & Found

The company which was shipping my boxes had gone under, literally days after picking up all of my belongings. I had the tracking number and so could get on the shipping website and try to track where they were. As they were in transit, we knew they wouldn’t be returned to the UK but we had no idea where they’d go and when they’d turn up. Fingers crossed and praying to the shipping gods.

After a stressful few weeks trying to track where my boxes had gone, Ingimar got a call on his mobile from a delivery driver down at Customs who said my boxes were there. This was totally out of the blue, and he wanted to deliver that morning. We were both out. Ingimar had only just gone the work when he had to turn round and head home to help lift them up the stairs and into the spare room.

My stuff and I were finally home.

Phew, Settling In

Oddly, the vlogs helped me settle in. I could carry my camera around and talk to it, talk to whoever was watching and sometimes express my self / emotions / culture shock.

I had a hard time in the beginning and felt very lonely. Iceland can be a very isolating place, the weather and dark winter doesn’t help. Ingimar was out at work, I was not getting any success with jobs and we hardly saw anyone. In the UK, we often just pop round to family but it isn’t the same here and I really missed that. Even though I didn’t live in Edinburgh before coming here to Reykjavik, I didn’t get why it wasn’t the same here. I missed my friends and I missed being surrounded by students.

Weather

I arrived in February, and in hindsight that might not have been the best time. Snow, windy days and nights, lack of sunlight and general wintery days meant for a slow, almost hibernating Sonia. This was good as it meant I took things slowly, I couldn’t really fight a ‘winter-mode’ so just went with it. I took slow snowy walks, got used to the darkness with candles and fairy lights, and enjoyed warming up in the local hot pools. Spring would eventually come and I could start to come to life again in my new home.

Language

There was a language course starting at Ingimar’s work and so he signed me up. It was the beginners class to Icelandic, which I have now completed twice. I speak little Icelandic but I understand a fair bit. It’s a hard language and one which is a challenge to pronounce.

I can, however, say Eyjafjallajökull pretty accurately. That’s good enough, for now.

Food

Iceland isn’t known for its cuisine, and I’d agree with that. I have tried my fair share of fermented foods and licorice, I’m a fan of either. There are some seriously unusual foods here in Iceland, the festival of Þorrablót is all about eating fermented food and washing it down with Brennivín and the Viking really does eat dried fish as a ‘treat’.

But Iceland is an island after all, and a volcanic one at that, so food can be pretty pricey, especially eating out. Items grown here in Iceland tend to cost more than items shipped in because they are expensive to manufacture. Icelandic prices take a bit of getting used to but as a rule of thumb, double the price you’d pay for an item at ‘home’ then you might not feel quite as bad paying the Icelandic price.

We usually do our food shopping at either Bonus or Kronan. Grocery stores here are smaller than in the UK, with a lot less opinions and often you have to go to a few different stores, like Hagkaup, to find a specific ingredient.

I do love Icelandic Skyr, the Viking would hate me saying this as it’s actually a type of cheese but it’s like a thick, creamy yogurt. I don’t mind a hot dog or a hamburger with all the toppings and sauces, and whatever else they put on, and the Icelandic lamb is just delicious (sorry vegetarians). Icelanders are also massive fans of ice cream and can be seen queuing up, even in the cold dark winter months.

Making Friends

I’ve tried a few ways to make local friends here in Reykjavik, and some have been more successful than others. Of course being the wife of a Viking means you have access to his friends, and their wives, but getting your own group of friends in important.

In India I went to Zumba three times a week and made friends in the class, and with the instructors too, so naturally I signed up for Zumba classes here. The class was full of fit, attractive girls, hogging the mirror, taking selfies and on Snapchat, and looking so pulled together they were ready for a club, not the gym. This wasn’t for me and these people weren’t my tribe.

I went on facebook and searched for social groups in Reykjavik and found GGI (Girls Gone International) which has a monthly meet up. I headed nervously to the cafe and met the girls. The chat was very pleasant, we exchanged our ‘moving to Iceland’ stories, but it wasn’t until after that a couple of the girls stayed behind and we really chatted about life here, and what we missed or wanted to do. I had found my friends, my partying and creative gang.

Sometime later and pregnant me needed a Mums group (aka the buggy gang) which is made up of wives or colleagues from Ingimar work, a friend from my aquafit class and other Mum-friends who happened to know one of us. These girls have kept me sane over the last year and a half.

Making Money

This is a serious topic and I will start out by saying that I prepared for the move and had savings to help me survive a good few months whilst I either found work or created it for myself. I make most of my money online through my website and social media content.

I run this site and it’s online shop, online courses and workshops, my YouTube Channel, and I’m a wife and Mum. It’s a huge juggling act and often a lot more work than I anticipated but I love it and love that I’m building my business, my empire and working for myself.

Planning Our Life Together

I guess like many; we met, got engaged, (moved country) planned and got married, fell pregnant and became a family. That makes it sound easy. Meeting and moving here was actually pretty easy and felt right. It was meant to be and I trusted in the stars - I think I got this thinking from my time living in India. Getting married was wonderful and I loved bringing our cultures and families together, and then returning to Iceland to start our own wee family.

Work and bringing in money has been the biggest challenge. Moving to Iceland is hard, Iceland is expensive and the general living costs are high. Saying that salaries are high, but it really depends on the work you can get. I came here with the promise of academic work - that fell through. I’m a chartered Architect with good experience - but no one here wants a non-Scandinavian designer. I have years of experience lecturing in the UK and abroad - again, no one is interested.

You Know The Rest

It’s been tough but it’s been worth it so far. Iceland is a beautiful country, a safe country and one where I feel very lucky to live. It has its pros and cons, it can be pretty isolating and the whistling wind drives me mad but for now, this is home.


Do you live abroad, planning to relocate or would love to live in Iceland?


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