A month has now passed since I cast aside my previous incarnation as a sensible grown up with a mortgage and a job and a car and a predictable 5/2 routine to become a wandering itinerant in a distant land – still with a mortgage, but with few of the other trappings of my previous self, much less a structure to my day beyond that which I choose for myself.
It’s been a safari for the soul, taking in a new environment, making new friends, establishing new priorities, setting my own schedule, gently adjusting to a different pace of life.
That pace is the key distinction between this culture and the one I have left behind – there is just so much more space and time here.
Simply crossing the road is a good example of that characteristic.
If there is a car approaching as you prepare to cross a Reykjavik road, it will pull up to a crawl from about fifty feet away, leaving you in no doubt that you definitely have the right of way and can reach the other side of the road in your own time, cheerful gestures exchanged between all parties.
Trying that unhurried crossing on a London street would be risky at best, with a New York Minute horn blast to go with it, probably along with some gesticulating and verbiage too.
I don’t think I’ve heard an angry car horn here once yet. That’s quite a thing in itself.
Space, naturally, in a country that’s similar in size to South Korea, yet with the population of Croydon, isn’t an issue either. There’s plenty of it to go around.
The abundance of these two things – space and time – seem to create a welcoming and relaxed culture for an outsider like me.
No “hostile environment” here then, not even in the one of windiest countries in the world.
The contrast between my experience as an immigrant here – with a no-cost Government ID issued within a week, a bank account set up in an hour and a generally sunny attitude to my relocation – and that which I’ve witnessed unfold in recent times in the U.K., now crystallised in the Windrush saga, is significant and shameful in equal measure.
Human history has always been carved out by those who looked over the hills and wondered what lay on the other side, whether they should stay where they were, or to risk that security in search of something else, something different, something better.
Somewhere along the way, some in the U.K. seem to have forgotten that we did that rather a lot in the past and that it might now be perfectly reasonable for others to want to do it too.
It’s their turn, perhaps.
I’m lucky to have been able to cross from one country to another with a minimum of fuss, bureaucracy, administration and with an absolute absence of “hostility” to me, as the “other”.
I hope my home country will be able to find it within itself, somehow, to adopt a similar aspect.
It’s only human.