Dear unknown Icelander

Dear unknown Icelander,

My name is Yannis and I identify as a able-bodied, cisgender, gay, male individual. I am 35 years old and married to Themis a 30-year-old, able-bodied, cisgender, gay, male individual and this is our story.
We were both born and raised in different parts of Greece. We have spent most of our lives there, we went to the university, we worked and we still have our family and friends there. We met each other in 2010 and after a casual sex date we kept in touch for the next 2,5 years before we meet again. The second time our meeting led us to a relationship and finally marriage.
Before we left Greece I had my own private practice as a Speech and Language Therapist. Themis had worked in the Greek Filming Industry as a Second Assistant Director and had been studying at the University of Athens. For both of us things had been going bad financially due to the economic crisis.

Yannis (on the left) and Themis moved from Greece to Iceland in 2015. Today, they share their story with the readers of GayIceland.

On the other hand we had been together for more than a year. We were happy but socially things were limited. At that time there was no formal recognition of the same-sex couples, partnership or marriage. There is now in the form of a limited civil partnership. However that was the least of our social problems. While we were both out to our families and friends, things were more difficult and dangerous in the society and our working environment. Imagine that one of the first professional advice I got when I entered practice was to be careful not to look or act “gay” because some Greek people still associate gay men with child offenders. It was impossible to be out and safe.
Nevertheless, Athens is a big city that gay people live relatively free and happy lives but not without a cost. Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people were on the rise because of the rise of Fascism/Nazism in Greece due to the Financial Crisis. There had been attacks at the Athens Pride Parade, personal attacks (physical and verbal) against couples who were holding hands in public and violent demonstrations against gay-themed theater plays. Those incidents had made our social lives and sense of security worse so we started thinking of moving out of the country.

“one of the first professional advice I got when I entered practice was to be careful not to look or act “gay” because some Greek people still associate gay men with child offenders … Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people were on the rise … There had been attacks … so we started thinking of moving out of the country.”

It was August 2015, when Themis came back from a night out with friends, he brought up the idea of moving to Iceland. We have been looking for other options but we didn’t want to move to another European country while fascism is on the rise. Themis’ friends seemed to be excited about the “Icelandic Financial Miracle”, the sense of security and gay rights. He stayed up all night looking up information about Iceland. He really appreciated how peaceful Iceland seemed to be and that gay couples could adopt or get married. Even though we are not religious the right of gay people to get married in a Church was striking to us that had lived most of our lives in a conservative Christian Orthodox Environment. Following the excitement we starting looking for job opportunities.

We started applying for jobs the following days and I got a job offer a week later. After that point everything happened really fast and none of us, including our families and friends had time to process their feelings. To most of them that decision was a shock but our closest friends realized the need of that change. Not only did we need financial stability – as everyone in Greece – but also needed a stable, secure and supportive environment for our gay lives. Unfortunately people still believe that the only reason we migrated to Iceland was financial reasons. For me, that view clearly demonstrates how much people in Greece don’t realize or deny the everyday struggles LGBTQ+ people are facing. Sometimes even LGBTQ+ people themselves.

The couple were forced to move from Greec due to circumstances. Photo by Anders Kristensen/Pexels.com

I arrived in Reykjavik on October 4th 2015. Themis arrived in Iceland 1,5 months later, earlier that we expected because we did not want to spend more time separated. Since then we found an apartment downtown and have been living there ever since.

By far the best experience for us is the social inclusion of gay couples. Coming from a possibly dangerous environment we tend to be scared and hide our relationship and our affection in public even now. Our first positive experience was being able to rent an apartment as a couple without being judged or declined the offer just because we were 2 men living together. Later we had the chance to meet other gay people and for the first time in our lives we met married gay couples with children and people who had such an established relationship that were discussing their retirement plans! Themis still remembers his first visit to the hospital when he said to the doctor that he had a male partner and the doctor responded that he was lucky to have a man to massage his back. Even in his first job a colleague apologized when she took for granted that Themis was straight! Later Themis went to the University of Iceland where he continued to have positive experiences being able to openly discuss his relationship and sexual orientation and even make projects and presentations about it.

“Our first positive experience was being able to rent an apartment as a couple … Themis still remembers his first visit to the hospital when he said to the doctor that he had a male partner and the doctor responded that he was lucky to have a man to massage his back.”

Personally I remember the stress we went through to buy our wedding rings. We were about to sign a civil partnership in Greece but buying wedding rings there seemed impossible. So we decided to buy the rings from Iceland. We were afraid of a negative or aggressive behavior so we discussed the possibility of going separately to check on the rings. Finally we decided to go together and we were amazed to see how we didn’t even get a single strange look from the salesperson as if we had asked the most common thing. Since then I feel we are even more relaxed to be ourselves here in Iceland.

Months after our partnership in Greece, we decided to get married in Iceland too. We got married last March in the presence of our best friends from Greece. Being addressed as grooms was such an emotional moment that we will always remember.

These experiences changed our lives for the better and have strengthen our relationship even more. That is not to say that Iceland is a LGBTQ+ paradise. Strangely I still miss the variety of the Greek gay scene with the gay coffee houses, bar and clubs. Personally, I am glad I came with a partner cause the dating scene seems limiting too. Interpersonal relationships is still an issue and we feel more lonely than we felt in Greece. The language barrier plays an important role but also the cultural differences and the daily struggle make it difficult for us to keep up with our social life.

“These experiences changed our lives for the better and have strengthen our relationship even more. That is not to say that Iceland is a LGBTQ+ paradise,” says Yannis about his stay here.

Even though all of the above did not come without personal sacrifices, yet I still consider our story to be a privileged story. We happen to hold an EU passport, had friends who could lent us money, family who supported us emotionally and we will always have a place to return to if things don’t work out. Not even our fellow LGBTQ+ Greeks share these privileges with us just because we live in Iceland now. I can’t help but think what really happens to all of those people, LGBTQ+ especially, who do not share those privileges? How is our life limited, degraded and threatened just because we were born at the wrong place at the wrong time? And finally how should we treat those in need when they ask for help in our countries?

Icelanders should feel proud that they have created a society that provides a safe space and a growing place for LGBTQ+ immigrants like me. For that I will always be grateful. On another note I wish you would remember after this reading that among you there are people who have been forced (directly or indirectly) to leave everything behind and they need your support in order to survive and grow in a place far from what they used to call home.

Yours sincerely,
Yannis & Themis

Note: The story of Yannis & Themis is a part of stories that were originally read at an event called Distant Voices, during this year’s Reykjavík Pride, and are now published on GayIceland’s with the permission of the authors and help of the event’s organisers.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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          Ísey skyr
          - once tasted never forgotten

          Our Story
          Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

          For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

          Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
          This is our secret and you are in on it

          You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

          Núðluskálin
          - noodle bar

          Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

          All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
          We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
          Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

          Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

          Seatours
          - adventure cruise

          Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
          and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

          The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

          600x400-seatours-tasting

          This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

          600x400-seatours

          The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

          Birds, possible to spot:
          -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
          -eider ducks
          -shags
          -kittiwakes
          -fulmars
          -white-tailed eagle

          The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
          Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

          Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

          Contact Us


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          Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.