Benni Hemm Hemm
Coming from Vienna, where grumpiness, complaining and generally focusing on negative aspects is a common feature, the relaxed, open and positive attitude in Reykjavík has taken us by surprise. Especially as we came to visit during the long and dark winter, that generally dampens the mood. No doubt, winter depression is a big issue in Iceland. But because it is constantly lurking around, it seems like people have developed manifold strategies how to cope with it. On the one hand, there are some practical things to do in the everyday life like taking your daily dose of fish oil, staying physically active and spending time outside socializing in the hot tubs as we did with Benni Hemm Hemm. The musician delivers an explanation that goes beyond these obvious coping mechanisms: “Everyone has to overcome this mild mental illness, and that is a very creative process. You have to look towards something constructive instead of thinking of what you dislike.” This shift of perspective and constructive attitude does not only explain why Icelanders are pretty easygoing, but also why so many of them are being creative: “It’s very basic, but when you think in a constructive way, it’s very straightforward to start making something.” So instead of complaining about winter, Benni Hemm Hemm performs the beautiful and melancholic “Don’t Forget the Northern Morning Light” dedicated to it.
Outdoor swimming pools in Iceland, that’s a long story. Sitting in a hot tub during a snowstorm not only keeps you warm and allows deep breaths of fresh air, it also has an important social function. Swimming pools are the places where Icelanders meet and discuss politics and whatever else is on their minds. Vesturbaejarlaug in the western part of Reykjavík is a particularly lovely example of a neighbourhood swimming pool, with four hot tubs (temperatures ranging from 36 to 44°C), a 25 meter pool for swimmers and an area for kids, whereas particularly tough folks can sit down in an 8°C tub and get their circulation going.