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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Kindergarten

When my kids were born, I contemplated whether to put them in kindergarten or not. The kindergartens in Iceland operate during weekdays and working hours, i.e. Monday to Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM. This is a tad different from the kindergarten I went to when I grew up in Indonesia.

In Indonesia, children from the age of 4 to 6 years will attend kindergarten that opens on weekdays, from 8 to 10 in the morning. Usually they alternate between days, i.e. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

In Iceland, children as young as 12 months old can be admitted to kindergarten. They can stay there all 5 days of the week, all day.

My mum suggested that I hire a full-time live-in nanny to take care of my sons at home, instead of sending them off to kindergarten. It is a pretty common practice in Jakarta to hire a full-time nanny who lives at your home. In contrast, it is not common at all here in Iceland.

With such opposing common practices between my two home countries, it took me quite a while to find out what fits our family best.

Why I love kindergarten

However, based on my experiences with the kindergarten here since 2013, I love sending my kids there, because:

  1. There is no way that I could keep them off TV/iPads/computers from 8 AM to 5 PM.
  2. I am really bad at keeping up daily routines.
  3. Sometimes, I need a break from the kids. I love them, but being in constant interaction with them really takes a toll on me.
  4. I will not be able to focus on them 100% all day, there will always be laundry, cooking, and sticky floors that distract me.
  5. I am not creative at all in arts, crafts or other kids’ stuffs.
  6. I believe it takes a village in raising kids. In this case, it takes a whole kindergarten and other relevant parties in raising mine:
  • Great highly qualified teachers that my kids absolutely adore.
  • Super talented chef and kitchen assistants who cook varieties of healthy food for the children every day.
  • Around 90 children ranging from 12 months to 6 year olds who provide social skills and be best friends to my sons.
  • Regulated environment that adheres to state’s rules, county’s rules, and Department of Education’s rules.

Why I DON’T love kindergarten

As soon as my kids start kindergarten, they get sick, and it happens so often! There were times when they would go to kindergarten for 1 day, then got sick for two weeks.

Be it common flu, RS virus, chicken pox, hand and mouth disease, stomach bug, tapeworm, and lice, my kids have got them at one time or another.

It is infuriating at times, especially when they catch something that is contagious and it ends up infecting everyone at our house.

Is kindergarten the right choice?

Once my kids got older, the sickness became less frequent. Though I still get emails every now and then whenever there is a lice breakout. I am seriously considering shaving their head bald now.

Bottom line is, both my kids love their kindergarten. I love their kindergarten and all the people there. Even though my kids will definitely get their share of the sniffles when the flu season starts, they learn so much from their kindergarten and its environment that I will never be able to replicate if they are just to stay home with me all day. So, in our family, kindergarten was the right choice.