20 Ways You Too Can Have the Best Summer Family Vacations

20 Ways You Too Can Have the Best Summer Family Vacations

We all want the idyllic summer family vacation that you see advertised in the glossy magazines.  You know  those beautiful images on the pages of Conde Nast Traveller, Travel + Leisure etc where everyone is laughing, playing and generally beautiful.  Those perfect families are creating joyful memories of happy times which the children will treasure when they are adults and which the parents will reminisce about in the old age home when their children don’t visit.

To recreate this perfect holiday, I have decided to share with you 20 ways you too can have the best summer family vacations.  Please, no thanks necessary.  The images in my mind of your Kodak family moments is enough.

ways to have the best family summer vacation

Everything is rosy in the magazines, just like your life should be.

Vacation with friends

It’s important to pick your vacation friends carefully.

Go on holiday with life-long friends who have kids the same ages and gender as yours.  The fact that their children can entertain your children is a happy coincidence.  All your children get along perfectly well.  The older children will not resent keeping an eye on (ok, babysitting) the younger children.

Even though you will have known each other for years, no one has any past dating history (or even drunken hook-ups) with another member of the group. You all like each others spouses and don’t break off into groups for some good gossip about other people (who may or may not be present).

All of your parenting styles harmonise perfectly. You do not judge (even privately) anyone else’s parenting styles. You know that no one else thinks your kids are the devil’s spawn even when they are setting ants on fire with a mirror.

Happy family vacation

The perfect family having the perfect holiday.

You will smile indulgently and watch when someone else’s child insists on performing a self-created theatrical piece to rival Wagner’s Das Rheingold in length. No one is secretly playing on their iPhone as the masterpiece unfolds.

It helps to have a glass (or bottle) of wine handy.

All the women love their beach bodies!  No one has been at the gym all winter, or even on a yoga holiday at Canyon Ranch *cough* fat farm *cough*.  They feel only pride and admiration when they look at their teenage daughters lithe young bodies and not teensy amounts of despair that their own youthful good looks are gone.

Wholesome Fun

Our kids will play happily and companionably on the beach with each other. There is no throwing sand in anyone’s faces or ‘accidentally’ stepping on another person’s sand castle.

That howling you hear? It’s the gleeful sound of good times crashing about like waves on the shore. Go on, have another beer. It’s all good.

The parents help their children create modern architectural masterpieces in the sand – castles, skyscrapers and entire towns, in fact.  Why would an adult hang out in the sunshine with a book when they can let their artistic talents shine in the spirit of friendly competition?

Your children set up a lemonade stand of charm and distinction.  They do not use old cardboard boxes as their stand or (heaven forbid) the Country Time Lemonade powder mix to make their lemonade.

You will have spent hours squeezing lemons for their enterprise.  If only you hadn’t been carefully hand-washing and ironing their expensive bathing suits, or you could have even made some vegan, nut-free, allergy-free, taste-free cookies for them to sell.

All the money the kids make gets donated to a local pet shelter and not taken to the candy store for immediate gratification.

best summer family vacations

You don’t have an heirloom quality wooden lemonade stand? Better start saving for the therapist now.

You will take our children to pick blueberries/peaches (fill in fruit of the season here) in the nearby fields and/or farms.  The children do not eat all the fruit before they get home and so there is plenty of extra fruit to make home made pies and cobblers that would make the Pioneer Woman jealous.

The delicious scent of freshly baked goods fills the home just like you remember from your own Happy Days childhood. You know the one where you were Joanie secretly pining for the town Chachi to notice her.

In the evenings, we play family board games. No one stomps off in a huff because they feel cheated.  You wouldn’t dream of sticking your children in front of the television with a movie and fall into an exhausted heap in another room with a bottle (or two) of wine.

Perfect Mealtimes

You will prepare evening banquets in the garden worthy of a Kinfolk spread and which you Instagram immediately to our legion of admirers. No take-out pizza in front of the television for our kids. The parents do not leave them alone to hang out in another room drinking beer and eating nachos.

A strapping man will fire up the grill and make delicious meals from food stuffs bought from the local farm stand.  You do not feed our children Oscar Meyer hot dogs or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (with a side of apple sauce as a nod for the token vegetable).

Every evening before dinnertime, the adults gather on the porch for cocktails. The children will drink milk or water because sugar so close to bedtime is such a bad idea.   It’s nice to start the conversation on what we have done during the day before we sit down at the table (even though we have spent the entire day together).

20 ways to have the best summer family vacation

A perfect sunset on a perfect home and beach after a perfect day.

When we go out to dinner, everyone will be perfectly behaved at the restaurant that actually has paper table clothes and non-plastic utensils. No child complains about the lack of menu choices, orders something they refuse to eat or create a modern art masterpiece on the linen table cloth.  The adults don’t get into a scrum as they try to strategically position themselves at the table furthest away from the children.

We sit around one table along with the children.  How will they learn to behave in polite company otherwise? The men are jovial, the women beautiful, the children charming and everyone waits for their turn to speak.  The laughter is in unison and everyone gets the joke.  Even better, everyone is laughing with you (not at you).

Rest and Relaxation

Many of the adults go for a peaceful run/cycle every evening to get back in touch with nature and enjoy the feeling of being one with nature. Their run does not have the ulterior motive of getting away from a house full of fractious children.

All of us take healthy bracing walks in nature stopping to admire and to examine the flora and fauna. No one is swatting away mosquitoes and flies. We are not covered head to toe in protective clothing to ward against ticks.  You hear only compliments directed at you on organising such an educational and enjoyable walk.

Everyone will happily go on cycle rides through the countryside and paddle kayaks in the sea. You will have brought your own folding bikes and inflatable kayaks because naturally this sort of exercise is a regular weekend occurrence in your family. You will have a child on my tandem bike/double kayak who actively participates in cycling instead of lollygagging and contributing nothing to the exercise other than his or her weight.

20 ways to have the best summer vacation ever

Cycling companionably through the countryside, preferably on a converted rail track. No messy off-roads for us.

Every day is sunny and comfortably warm.  Your hair does not stick to the back of your neck but instead bounces softly in the wind (even when there is no wind).  You don’t need air conditioning in the car – you just put the top of the convertible down.  Everyone can then hear our happy laughter as we pass them on the sidewalk.

When you  buy souvenirs, you tend to buy something local, preferably handmade or vintage. Why would anybody want a refrigerator magnet or tee-shirt?  It would look so out of out of place in your crisp, modern, perfectly-curated home.

the best family vacations

Life is so much easier when you can just drive on the beach with all your gear.

Over To You

Does this sound like your family vacation?  What other tips can you provide that would help all of us have the best summer family vacations ever?

I’m sure any advice would be useful for all of us.

Disclaimer: You should note that I have personally no experience with this perfect sort of summer holiday. We are more of a chaotic imperfectly perfect sort of family. I’m really good at giving advice though on the internets.

Come Together for a Hilarious Twitter Recap of Eurovision 2016

Come Together for a Hilarious Twitter Recap of Eurovision 2016

Unlike last year when we were in Austria for the Eurovision song contest, I did not even have the excuse that we were lacking in English speaking television channels.  We were home in London and, yes, I voluntarily watched Eurovision 2016 for the sheer spectacle of it and the accompanying humour on Twitter.  In fact, we watched it as a family because the whole thing is good family entertainment.  Last year, even though we were in a double-bedroom hotel suite, the kids snuck out to watch the show in the lounge.  They were not going to miss it this year either!

Perhaps I had too high expectations after watching Eurovision 2015 for the first time, but this year’s Eurovision was not as good.   Hosted by Sweden this year, there were still plenty of good clips to provide a hilarious twitter recap of Eurovision 2016 though. If you want to read more on the background of Eurovision, check out my post from Eurovision 2015.

A recap of the funniest tweets from Eurovision 2016, a pan-European song contest

Not With a Bang but With a Whimper

Eurovision 2016 started off with the promising spectacle of paper origami clothes on spandex-suited dancers.  Then it quickly devolved into a string of ballads occasionally broken up by the occasional odd act.  It seemed that many of the singers were all trying to channel their inner Adele while dressed as Game of Thrones characters.

Sadly, it was.  All that was left was to make fun of the outfits of many of the singers. Luckily, there was plenty of humour to be found.

Perhaps it would have been more amusing if they had only let the more outrageous entries go through to the finals.  For example, the Belarus entry, a guy named IVAN (yes in all caps), sang naked onstage with live wolves during the semi-final. Perhaps the judges were loathe to upset the new viewers from China and the USA.  Americans had conniptions over Janet Jackson’s nipple pastie flash during Super Bowl 2004.  Who knows what they would have thought about a naked guy on stage with wolves. even if it was, as IVAN insisted, ‘art’?  To be fair, IVAN sang the song crouched over so that his bits and pieces were all covered.  But still there would have been a bare bottom.

Europe Wants Us All To Come Together

The show’s theme this year was ‘Come Together’.  Europe definitely came together in giving Putin and Russia the proverbial middle finger.  The Russian entry pulled out all the technical stops (and even had a decent song) but Europe was not having any of it. Instead, they voted a badly-choreographed and sung depressing war-crimes song from Ukraine as the winner. The Ukrainian song, 1944, was about the removal by Stalin of ethnic Tatars from Crimea that year.  It’s also a not so subtle reminder that Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Eurovision 2016 also saw Australia compete with a rousing song from a Korean-born Australian. That’s about as multinational coming together as you can get when one continent scoots over another continental landmass to be buddies.   

Australia in Europe

Moreover, the show was broadcast for the first time to both China and the USA.  Now a truly global audience can enjoy the bizarre spectacle that is Eurovision. For the last 60 years, Eurovision has been a cult hit in Europe. Americans will now be able to appreciate that European culture really has moved way beyond Old Masters and fancy castles.

I’m also conscious that this whole Come Together shebang is coming weeks before the British vote to remain or to exit the European Union.  The referendum is set for June 26 and it’s anyone guess which way the vote will go.

A recap of the funniest tweets from Eurovision 2016, a pan-European song contest

The Good, The Bad, and The Bizarre

Twitter, as always, was where the wits gathered for their dissection of the acts on stage at Eurovision 2016.

Sweden did a good job hosting.  Their skit about owning a Eurovision strait jacket did not go over so well with advocates of the mental ill though.  Neither did announcing that ‘crazy is the new black.’ huh?

Not that people didn’t try to make light of it.

The announcer created an unintentional meme by asking a previous winner to sing and then cutting her off in the  middle of the song.  Hilarious.  Especially the shocked look on her face.

Russia was a heavy favourite to win this year’s Eurovision after last year when they came so close to winning. They brought out all the stops and a pretty good song.  Their singer also looked a bit like football favourite, Lionel Messi.  Europe, however, just wasn’t buying what Russia was selling.  Now, they know how Britain feels about being perennially snubbed by Continental Europe.

It’s always sad when the back up dancers (or the drummer in Hungary‘s case) steal the show.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?

Austria, for some inexplicable reason chose to sing in French.  The British are calling this a victory since all of the other songs were sung in English (even the French entry!).

Then, you had the really bad outfits. It’s also really bad when the outfits were more memorable than the song or the singer.


eurovision outfits

J.K Rowling though may have won the funniest twitter competition.  So far, this tweet was retweeted over 14,000 times and liked by 35,000.  I know bloggers that would kill for that level of twitter vitality (or go on stage naked with a wolf).

The Aftermath

Despite its levity and weirdness, Eurovision 2016 was more political than I expected.  I am after all, a newbie to Eurovision.  I didn’t realise how much political undercurrent ran through the show (even beyond the bloc voting for your friends-and-neighbours).

how Eurovision voting goes

Russia was sent a musical smackdown in a combination reminiscent of two great movies – Pitch Perfect meets Dangerous Liaisons.  Russia learned that it can’t push its way to the top like it always does.

As a non-European, seeing these countries jostle each other in the spirit of friendly rivalry is fascinating.  The tensions that have characterised Europe in the past are still bubbling under the surface of a cauldron filled with history, distrust and received memories. In addition to English, maybe the British have passed along to their European cousins a talent for passive-aggressiveness. Anyway, a message has been sent.

Moreover, lots of people have learned about Stalin’s actions in Crimea in 1944 (including me). The Ukrainian singer/songwriter learned of the events of 1944 from her great-grandmother who was one of the families transported from the Crimea.  Now she has told her family story to the world.  I may not have been as amused as last year but I am definitely more enlightened.

10 Mishaps and Missed Cultural Connections from 2015

10 Mishaps and Missed Cultural Connections from 2015

I’d like to show you some of the behind the scenes adventures my family and I had in 2015.  It’s not all sunsets and sangria with kids in tow.  You do occasionally have to think about what you are exposing your kids to.  Unfortunately, I am still learning the ropes on that one.

Missed Cultural Connections from our family travels in 2015

Onto my favourite 10 travel mishaps and missed cultural connections from 2015…

Mishaps & Missed Cultural Connections

This photo looks idyllic doesn’t it? Ha. During the entire 15 minute camel ride, my son was complaining about how uncomfortable the camel saddle felt. That’s pretty much all any of us remember from the ride to see the Great Pyramids of Giza. My son is not one to keep his misery to himself.

Egyptian Great pyramid

Mr Grumpy can’t even manage a fake smile.

My children love the Diary of a Wimpy Kids book. It’s also a bit of a running joke in our family that my husband hates bananas. Some childhood trauma which he can’t remember but has scarred him for life. We found it really funny that in Portuguese ‘wimpy kid’ got translated to ‘banana’.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid translates in Portuguese to Diario de un Banana

If you are a kid, you will also remember that the Minions like to say Banana a lot.

See this innocuous little piece of candy? Pacoquita is a popular Brasilian sweet made of peanut butter. It’s like the inside of a Reese’s Peanut Butter (without the chocolate covering). It is SO good my children were practically having a fist fight over who has had more than their share of Pacoquita. I did the only reasonable and fair thing. I ate the rest of the Pacoquita myself.

pacoquita brasilian candy

Better than drugs for an export, I think.

I found this Internet Password Logbook in the Bargain Bins section of a Barnes and Nobles in the Washington D.C. area. Isn’t this a burglar’s dream? Along with the Bible Puzzles book, a guide to Pistols and the other gems I found, it’s hard to imagine how these books wound up in the clearance section.

Barnes and Nobles Clearance section

Even marked down, these books aren’t selling.

How could you not love so-hip-it-hurts Reyjkavik in Iceland?  The entire town is filled with touches of irony such as these biologically correct toilet signs.

reyjkavik bathroom.

Is there a need for such biological detail? discuss.

I focused on the positive cultural aspects of Key West when we were there.  Underneath the surface, however, that party atmosphere beats strong.  Check out this pool version of that old college favourite, beer pong.  I love the fact that many Key West restaurants have a pool in the middle of the restaurant.  My husband and I could hang out for a leisurely meal while the kids played in the pool (not beer pong!).

Beer Pong in Key west

Beer Pong is not just for spring break.

As much as I love London, I occasionally feel that it is becoming a playground for the rich, like a giant version of South Beach.

Occasionally you come across people who have too much money and not enough sense. Such as, for example, this person who has a reflective gold-plated Bentley.

Bentley in London

Gold Bentley car in Marylebone

Unlike the Akihabara experience to which I have previously confessed, I haven’t talked about my second parenting fail in Japan.

We went to Joyopolis which is an indoor amusement park in Tokyo. Although the kids were having fun, we could not go on about half the rides because of height restrictions.

One ride for which we were eligible was the Haunted Doll House. The kids were game until we got inside the ride. We were barely seated at a table in a dark room when my daughter starts hysterically screaming. She’s begging me to ask them to stop the ride.

Hello? I can’t speak Japanese.

She has since been traumatised by the thought of creepy dolls. When we returned home, she still sleeps in her brother’s bunk bed because she can’t face the dolls in her own room at night.  Needless to say, she did not accompany me on my Haunted Key West Tour to visit Robert the Doll, America’s most haunted toy.

Joyopolis Toky and the doll house of horror

Even the blood spots look like grape juice! How scary could it be?

At the Shangri La in Muscat, our family hung out at the outside hotel restaurant in the balmy evening air.  I’m not a fan of smoking shisha but our friends who joined us liked smoking.  We were jet lagged but happy having arrived on a Thursday night.  The court yard was a happening spot because the Arab weekend is Friday and Saturday.

shisha pipe at the Shangri la Muscat

Shisha pipe in the moonlight.

I noticed lots of gorgeous women flitting about the courtyard. I found out later that the hotel bar (which overflowed into the outside hotel restaurant) was one of the places where wealthy men could meet Moroccan and Asian ‘takeaway’.  Apparently, the respectable women would have been covered in burqas.  On the plus side, my children were completely oblivious.  Phew.

Finally, another tale of jet lag.  We arrived in Reyjkavik last summer just in time for the Fourth of July.  Right near our hotel was American Bar who were celebrating the holiday.  They served good burgers and had a band playing.  We settled into the restaurant area and got to eating and observing the atmosphere.  I found out later though that parts of the restaurant had inappropriate language and images that my children thought were really funny.  Oops.

slogans written on the wall in The American Bar

I keep forgetting my children know how to read.



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Misadventures on A Picture Perfect Santorini Honeymoon

Misadventures on A Picture Perfect Santorini Honeymoon

Santorini is where we spent one week of our honeymoon.  The views are as magical as these photos show.

The Hotel Fiasco

We wished we had such a nice view from the hotel though.  Although I had booked a junior suite at one of the luxury hotels, I mixed up the dates.  Both my now-husband/then-fiance were working crazy hours in finance and we didn’t double check anything.  The wedding planners completely ran the wedding and the only thing left for us to plan was the honeymoon. Clearly we had no time for that either!

We only found out when the hotel called me in June and asked me if I was showing up.  Our wedding was in August.  Cue: panic.  At that late date, we had our flights booked but no where to stay in high season in Santorini.  We finally found availability at the one and only hotel that had availability:  the airport hotel.

Santorini hotel

Not your typical honeymoon hotel

So we spent our honeymoon at the Santorini airport hotel. Santorini is ranked as one of the most romantic places in the world, just maybe not its airport!  The airport runway ran alongside the hotel pool.  We realised in later years that our plane-obsessed son would have loved this hotel!  Hanging out in a pool and frequent plane sightings would be his idea of heaven.

Luckily, Santorini has a small airport and the flights are not that frequent. The room was perfectly adequate.  The hotel insisted on family-style meals though which we absolutely refused. We bailed on their meals because we did not want to spend our honeymoon having to make small talk with strangers.

On the plus side, we spent a lot of time exploring the island of Santorini in our beat-up old jeep rental because there didn’t seem to be any point in hanging out at the hotel.

The Crazy Donkey

When I read recently that a cruise passenger had been killed by a donkey on the trail ride up the hill from the port at Thira, I was not surprised.  I had a completely crazy donkey. Or, maybe just stupid.  Someone had told this donkey that he had to hug the cliff on his way up the hill.  He would push the other donkeys and jockey his way to the right side which was nearest the wall.  Unfortunately for me, my leg was between his side and the wall.  I was wearing shorts and so had a painful scraped leg by the time I reached the top of the hill.

donkey in Oia in Greece

Sunset Skirmish at Oia

We’d heard about the sunsets at Oia and so we moseyed along to see one. Clearly we should have been prepared for the crowds but we weren’t thinking (obviously as per the hotel mishap). We wound up returning another day so that we could camp out early and get a primo spot for the sunset.

It was indeed beautiful and worth the high praise it received.  We had no problem getting a nice dinner spot after the sunset. It seems the crowds gather specifically for the sunset but then start their evening meals later.

Sunset in Santorini

Why I’d Return to Santorini

Despite these mishaps, I’d return to Santorini in a heartbeat.  It is stunningly beautiful.  We explored lots of different beaches including black and red beaches.  I’ve since seen black beaches in Tenerife and Iceland but never have I ever seen a red beach again. It’s a perfect late summer/autumn destination. We went to Santorini on our honeymoon in September. This island is also one of the best places to visit in Greece in October for a last gasp of Mediterranean sunshine as I found out in my city break to Athens.

The food was also amazing.  We found this seaside shack that served up fresh fish perfectly grilled.  We also worked our way through some of the higher-end restaurants as well, including one in the hotel where we were supposed to have stayed.

Needless to say, everyone at our wedding heard about the honeymoon hotel fiasco and we were given a lot of grief for it.  On the other hand, I’m glad we decided to sick with Santorini even after the mix-up.  It provided for a funny story and some great memories. Do you have any funny hotel stories? I’d love to hear them.


picture perfect santorini in Greece

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8 Tips on How To Be Icelandic

8 Tips on How To Be Icelandic

We fell in love with Iceland on our recent July visit.  The landscape is stunningly beautiful in the summer with its Icelandic horses roaming wild, rocky fjords, thermal spas and colourful houses.  Would I live there?  No.  A month of warmish sunshine in the year would not cut it for me. I would spiral into seasonal affective disorder faster than you can say Seydisjjordur.

I noticed though that we kept being served by American waiters in Iceland.  Clearly some people really did emigrate to Iceland in search of Nordic lovers and socialist utopia.  Just in case you are tempted by an outdoorsy life in a small town masquerading as a country, I would like to share some tips on how to be Icelandic with you.

How to be Icelandic

How To Be Icelandic in 60 Minutes

I would suggest that you start off with an overview of what to expect with the fabulous comedy show How To Be Iceland in 60 Minutes at the Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik. A one man comedy with Bjarni Haukur Porsson, he relies on physical comedy (perfect for children) and multi-media for laughs. Porsson had a lot of fun with the Icelandic language in particular.

The Icelandic language has a lot of peculiarities.  For example, the words are long with a minimal of vowels.  Somehow it always sounds much shorter than what you see written on paper.  You also need to speak Icelandic without much of an inflection, i.e., in a flat, monotone voice.  Or, as Porsson says ‘talk like you are dead’.

Apparently cute little kids are greeted by adults with this phrase (and it’s direct translation).  My kids thought it was hysterically funny.

How To Be IcelandicI have zero knowledge of the Icelandic language so I will leave that to the experts.  I’ve heard repeatedly that Icelandic is considered one of the hardest languages in the world to learn thanks to its convoluted vocabulary and grammar.  So, good luck to you.

8 More Tips on How To Be Icelandic

Just from a general observation of Icelandic life though, I’d like to add some non-language tips of my own.

1.  Be practical with a dash of romance.

Believe in fairies, trolls and elves.  According to a University of Iceland survey, over 80% of Icelanders refused to deny the existence of magical creatures.  But, only less than 10% were prepared to go out on a limb and say magical creatures definitely existed.  So, everyone else was hedging their bets.

How to Be Icelandic troll

Nationalistic trolls

2. Be respectful of nature.

At any time, Mother Nature can go from being pretty to one mean mofo.  People in Iceland are aware of this thin line between normal life and catastrophe.  For example, the entire island is divided in half by the two tectonic plates that make up Europe and North America.  These tectonic plates  drift apart a couple of centimetres ever year.

Slightly more time-sensitive, a volcano can erupt at any time.   Iceland has 35 active volcanoes and 10 of these volcanoes are classified as very active.  For example, Mt. Hekla, Iceland’s most infamous volcano, erupts on average once a century.

How to Be Icelandic geyser

Steam blowing off from a geyser in Geyser

3. Be prepared to drink.  A lot.

The Icelanders really like to drink.  You got to appreciate any country that has Beer Day (March 1st) which celebrates the end of prohibition on the brewing of beer in 1989.  They love their beer so much that they even have a Beer School run by one of the local breweries.

How to Be Icelandic cafe

You can have your cake with something stronger.

How to be icelandic

A very happy hour

How To Be Icelandic

No reason Happy Hour can’t start at 11pm.

This interesting article from the Reyjkavik Grapevine looks at why people in Iceland prefer to drink themselves silly as opposed to other countries that enjoy sipping a glass of vino as part of a social gathering.  Apparently for a long time, it was socially acceptable for Icelandic men to drink themselves into oblivion and get into fights.  For some reason, this type of social life reminds me of the caricature of Viking life portrayed in the movies, How To Tame Your Dragon.

How to Be Icelandic

A Viking ready to fight and drink

How To be Icelandic

How would you like to taste Black Death?

4. Embrace New Christmas Traditions

At Christmas, Icelanders don’t have a jolly old fat man in a red suit married to a Mrs. Claus (equally warm and fuzzy) with a lot of happy little elf helpers. No, they have Gryla, an ogress with 13 children (the Yule Lads).  Every Christmas Gryla goes searching for children who have misbehaved to be boiled alive.  Slightly less gruesome, the Yule Boys leave sweets and candy every night starting 13 nights before Christmas.  And, then there is the Christmas Cat.  If you don’t get new clothes at Christmas, the Chirstmas cat will eat you.  A nice family pet for Gryla and her brood.

We weren’t in Iceland for Christmas obviously.  But we did get to drink their Christmas Ale which can now be drunk all year round.  Christmas Ale is a half and half combination of a malt drink that is combined with Appelsin (an Icelandic orange soda).  My children loved Appelsin  (it’s very similar to Fanta) but hated the Christmas Ale combo.

5. Be an adventurous eater.

Be prepared to eat random things. Check out this article from a guide to Iceland which proudly lists their most disgusting foods, everything from dried fish to sheeps’ heads to soured rams’ testicles.

How to Be Icelandic

Some sort of fish dish which showed up at the hotel breakfast buffet.

On the other hand, we have had some fabulous meals in Iceland.  Reyjkavik is quite the foodie destination from the world-famous hot dogs at Boejarins Beztu Pylzur stand at the Reyjkavik waterfront to New Nordic cuisine in posh restaurants.  Apparently 70% of Icelanders have eaten a hot dog at the Boejarins stand.  It’s reputation for premier hot dog quality was sealed by a visit from former US president Bill Clinton post-heart surgery.

How To Be Icelandic

Icelandic yogurt, Skyr, is delicious.

6. Be prepared to like licorice.

I feel you either love liquorice or you hate it.  I personally find the stuff vile.  Icelanders, on the other hand, seem to have an obsession with the stuff.  You find it everywhere – mixed with chocolate, added to salt, mixed with alcohol etc.  It’s hard pressed to find a sweet in the candy aisle that doesn’t have licorice.

How to Be Icelandic liquorice candy

One of the many types of licorice candy

How to Be Icelandic

Icelandic candy collection – lots of licorice!

How To Be Icelandic

So many choices for salt, including that old favourite – licorice.

7. Don’t beat around the bush.

Icelanders are very direct in their speech.  Porsson, the comedian described it as being rude.  I don’t think it is necessarily rude, but just very direct.  It is pretty much the opposite of some countries (ahem! England) where things are couched in a certain way so that you don’t even know what people actually mean.

How to Be Icelandic

Clever advertising, but they are not kidding.

I’ll give one example from my life that I had ‘translated’ by my English husband.

The headmistress at my kid’s school was retiring. I asked a teacher (the headmistress’s daughter and right hand person) if she would take over for her mother since she’d clearly been undergoing training to do so.  Her actual response to me is below, and I’ve imagined her response in either the USA or Iceland.

England: I could never do as good a job as my mother did.  (I took that to mean no but my husband said that was very much a ‘yes’).

USA:  I’m considering the options.

Iceland:  Yes.

Being direct in your speech isn’t such a bad thing in my opinion.  At least you don’t get lost in the nuances of an answer.

8. Get Used to Hipsters

When I was in Reyjkavik, I had the odd feeling that I could be in a college town in the pacific Northwest of the United States.  Practically every man had a luxuriant beard.  Everyone drank gourmet coffee. A lot of the people in the city did not actually seem older than 30.  So be prepared to show up on Icelandic shores with an open mind and to like artisanal food, vintage clothes and anything/everything liberal.

Woo Hoo! Iceland is for me!

Think you can do all of the above?  And, live for months on end in a harsh winter without any real sunshine?  Iceland may be the perfect country for you.  You can thank me later, but please, no Icelandic food baskets.

8 reasons why you should visit



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