Icelandonesia or Indoniceland?

There are not many Indonesian people living in Iceland. I’ve known about 30 of them, I think, even though data from the Indonesian Embassy in Oslo shows that there are over 60 of us currently living here.

Those 30 Indonesian people that I know, we meet regularly. Most of the times we just have informal gatherings where we stuff delicious Indonesian food into our mouth. Recently, we decided to make a formal organisation for us.

We registered our group through RSK (Directorate of Internal Revenue), set up a website, and voted board members. It was all very formal and I have been enjoying the whole process so far.

In the beginning

When I moved to Iceland in 2008, I was told not to be like most foreigners who live in Iceland, who would just hang out with people from the same country, not speaking Icelandic, not integrating to the community, and so on.

It was hard to move to a new country located thousands of kilometers away from my home, and to top it off I was instantly greeted by warnings on what NOT to do.

So, in the early days, I tried my best to integrate into the Icelandic society. I joined a short course on Icelandic language, met several new friends from different countries, ended up taking a full time study at the university, and got myself a part time job.

All the while I kept thinking, have I integrated into the Icelandic society? Am I still considered a foreigner? Can I hang out more with my Indonesian friends? Will society judge me for not integrating enough if I spend time with Indonesian people here?

After a few years

Even now I still wonder, am I a part of the Icelandic society? The only difference is, I care less about what other people think of me in terms of who I hang out with, and who my friends are.

I have children who go to Icelandic schools, speak Icelandic with everybody, and are exposed to everything that is Icelandic around them, i.e. custom, culture, and holidays.

On a daily basis, the only Indonesian exposure they get is when I speak or read to them. Occasionally, my parents would talk to them in Indonesian through Skype. Once a year we visit them and the boys will get their yearly dose of cultural immersion in Indonesia, by staying at their grandparents for 1 month and being surrounded by their relatives who speak mainly Indonesian and Javanese.

For the other 11 months of the year, it is up to me to make sure my children are not losing their Indonesian heritage. I take my children whenever I meet up with my Indonesian friends;

  • So they would hear other people speaking their mother tongue.
  • So they can see that their mum is not the only one in Iceland who speaks Indonesian.
  • So they can improve their skills in listening and speaking Indonesian.
  • So they can see that sometimes, we are not the minority.
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