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Iceland Mag

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Go north: The dark winters freak me out

By Sara McMahon

  • Windy quietness  Kito Paulo says his home country, Mozambique, is blessed with sun and gorgeous beaches, but Iceland is blessed with the Northern Lights. Photo/Björn Árnason

Iceland Magazine met with four people from four African countries who have made their home on this small island in the North Atlantic.

 

Kito Paulo moved from his native Mozambique to Iceland in 2013. He now lives in the Reykjavík suburb of Kópavogur with his wife, Salome Friðgeirsdóttir.
To him, there are few similarities and many differences between his home country and his adoptive country.  He has gradually become used to the colder climate, but he admits he still gets ‘freaked out’ by the short, dark winter days.
 

Why did you move to Iceland?
“The main reason was to be with my wife, whom I had met and married in Mozambique. She was offered her dream job back in Iceland, and I came two months later.”

Was Iceland much like you had expected, or was there much that surprised you?
“It was very different. And much colder.”

Are there many similarities between the two countries? What about differences?
“The similarities are few. Iceland is cold, dark, and very feminist, while Mozambique is bright, sunny, and more masculine, somehow. I guess the similarities lie with the people and their attitude. I feel that here, like in Mozambique, everyone is welcome, regardless of their skin colour or beliefs.”

What do you like most about Iceland?
“Icelanders keep asking me that!” Kito says, with a hearty laugh. “It’s very quiet here and I like that. Also, I think it’s relatively easy for foreigners to integrate into Icelandic society and find a job.”

Icelanders are quite happy but seem to have different stages of happiness. For example, they become extremely happy during weekends.

What do you miss most from home?
“I mostly get homesick for my friends and family … and the food.”

Iceland is supposedly one of the happiest countries in the world, but it is also said that Icelanders can be quite stand-offish and difficult to get to know. What is your opinion?
“I’d say both are true. Icelanders are quite happy but seem to have different stages of happiness. For example, they become extremely happy during weekends, and overjoyed during summer. As soon as the sun begins to shine again after winter, you see how their attitude changes. That being said, it takes a long time to develop a deep friendship with an Icelander – they need to establish trust before they become your friend. And they also tend to complain a lot … mostly about the weather. But after living here for two years, I understand why. The dark winters freak me out. I’ve gotten used to the cold, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the darkness.”
 

Hestar, stóð, réttir, hestur, horses

Go horseback riding, says Kito. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

 

Did you find it difficult to learn the Icelandic language?
“In Mozambique we have more than 40 languages and my mother tongue has a similar phonetic to Icelandic, so the pronunciation is easy. I can easily pronounce Eyjafjallajökull, unlike many of my foreign friends. But I find the grammar rather difficult,” he explains. And he truly can pronounce the volcano’s impossible name perfectly. 

Any recommendations for tourists visiting Iceland?
“Go snowmobiling on a glacier! It was one of the first things I did in Iceland and I absolutely loved it. Take time to enjoy the landscape and how different it is to that of most countries. I like to take the car and just drive out of the city to embrace the vastness of the country and what I call the ‘windy quietness’ of it. It’s so peaceful.

“If you can, hunt down the Northern Lights. Just the other day I returned home from a night out and I went out to the balcony to have a cigarette and there was this amazing display of the Northern Lights in the sky above me. I stood there for thirty minutes, amazed by the beauty of it all. Mozambique is blessed with sun and gorgeous beaches, Iceland is blessed with the Northern Lights. Lastly, I recommend you try the Icelandic lamb – it’s the best I’ve ever tasted,” he says before enthusiastically adding: “Also go horseback riding! I adore the Icelandic horse and the way it moves.”

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