Distant voices: Queer foreigners tell their stories

At Reykjavik Pride this year there was an event called Distant voices – stories of foreign LGBTQIA+ People where guests got the chance to hear several people’s accounts of what its like to be foreign and queer in Iceland. GayIceland will publish some of the stories as columns in the next few weeks and to give you an idea of what’s it all about we got one of the organizers, Andrés Peláez, to tell us about the event and his own experience of being a queer foreigner in Iceland.

What does it feel like to be queer and foreign in Iceland? In the next few weeks GayIceland will try to shed light on that by publishing stories of people who’ve experienced that. The stories were originally read at an event organized by Andrés Peláez (pictured), his husband Sigurður Júlíus Guðmundson and Todd Kulczyk, during this year’s Reykjavík Pride, and are published on GayIceland’s with the permission of the authors.

What is Distant voices and how did it come about?
“For some time, the organizers – Todd Kulczyk, Sigurður Júlíus Guðmundsson and myself, Andrés Peláez, have had the opportunity of hosting “international nights” at the community center of Samtökin ’78 (the national queer organization) and we’ve had the opportunity of meeting many foreigners who have moved to Iceland for various reasons. Within the group we encounter individuals from all walks of life and circumstances, and somehow, conversations always center around integration to the Icelandic society, the culture and the effects that it can have on our perception and experience of living here. So we always hoped that there would be an opportunity to feature these stories somehow.

Reykjavík Pride gave us the great opportunity to organize an event, “Distant Voices, stories of foreign LGBTQIA+ People”, which was held during Reykjavík Pride 2017. Through an interactive narrative and visual recount of the immigrant community, we got an insight into the different realities and experiences of what life in the Icelandic society means for everyone. We wanted to give the foreign LGBTQIA+ community a platform for their stories to be told; every day we interact with many foreigners, and everyone has a story of why they are here, what inspired their relocation and how life progresses in this society. “

How people are involved in this project, and do you intend to get more people to write about their experience as a foreign queer person in Iceland for the columns on GayIceland?
“The people involved are three: Todd Kulczyk, Sigurður Júlíus Guðmundsson and myself. The stories that we collected were specifically for the Reykjavik Pride event, and there are no plans to collect any more stories at this time, although we might decide to keep collecting stories at a later time.”

“Adapting to the Icelandic queer community and scene has been a lengthy process … my first culture shock was the general notion that I was free and encouraged to be myself without prejudice … I didn’t have to hide anything.”

What is your experience of being a foreign queer person in Iceland? Is the queer scene in Iceland different from the one in your home country?
“Being a queer foreign national in Iceland has been an interesting transition. I came from Guatemala, a country that is quite conservative in regards to diversity; and even though it was difficult to come out to my close friends, I was lucky to have positive response to it, and was surrounded by amazing people who were very accepting and comforting. In recent years the overall situation for the local LGBTQIA+ community in Guatemala has progressed slowly but positively; this year saw a larger Pride parade and the creation of a new printed magazine called “LaFanzine”, featuring the work of local LGBT+ artists, and general narratives of the local scene and queer life in the country.

María Helga Guðmundsdóttir, chair of Samtökin ’78, reading one of the stories.

My experience of being a foreign queer individual in Iceland, as for many others, has also been a rollercoaster or bureaucracy, emotions, hopes and -at times- struggles. I originally came to Iceland to study Fashion Design at Listaháskóli Íslands (Iceland Academy of Arts) in 2012, a decision inspired by previous travels in 2011 that had brought me to Iceland for four days in the middle of winter. During that trip, I immediately felt a connection to the country and decided to try my luck and take a leap, come to conclude my unfinished (but long desired) studies in Fashion, and build a solid future. Leaving family and friends behind is daunting, but I guess when you see a future beyond your original borders, life takes a new meaning and becomes more dynamic and interesting.

Adapting to the Icelandic queer community and scene has been a lengthy process. The queer scene in Iceland is immensely different. I believe my first culture shock was the general notion that I was free and encouraged to be myself without prejudice (or visible prejudice at least), I didn’t have to hide anything. I also came to realize that, understandably, there was only the one or two queer pubs/clubs, and most of the community has a very active online presence. A very important aspect of the queer scene in Iceland is the fact that it is so widely accepted, it is embedded in the younger generations, and the community tries to move together for a greater good.

“We wanted to give the foreign LGBTQIA+ community a platform for their stories to be told … we got an insight into the different realities and experiences of what life in the Icelandic society means for everyone.“

I was fortunate to find love in Iceland, and am now married to an Icelandic man; he introduced me to Samtökin 78, of which he is vice-president today, and his efforts and passion for advocacy and queer life in Iceland inspired me to join the association, hoping for more visibility of the international community in the Icelandic society.”

When did you start those meetings for foreign queers at Samtökin ’78 and what is the purpose of them?

The next International Night will be held at the Samtökin ’78 community center on Suðurgata 3, on Wednesday, September 13, from 20-23pm.

“We started the international nights about two years ago, and have built recently a stronger interest in foreigners to join our monthly events so that everyone can come by and meet other foreigners, share their experiences of living in Iceland. We have welcomed asylum seekers, foreigners living in other places than Reykjavík, and even the eventual tourists who are interested in knowing more about queer life in Iceland.

The main purpose is to provide a safe and welcoming space for people to meet and discuss everyday matters, provide information about the services available with Samtökin ’78, such as personal counseling, scheduled events and general information on queer life and matters.

Our season has started again and the next International Night will be held on Wednesday, September 13 at the Samtökin ’78 community center on Suðurgata 3, from 20-23pm. It’s is open to everyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+, not only foreigners. We hope to receive more people every time, as we are conscious that the foreign community is becoming larger every year, and everyone deserves a safe space to meet others and have a voice.”

Main photo: Pexels.com

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.


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.



        Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence.

        With over 4,300 employees in 39 offices around the world, at Nasdaq we all contribute to the success of the company and its culture, and each one of us has the ability to make a difference. When it comes to our core mission and values, we embrace the role of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) as a fundamental driver of our corporate growth, workplace culture and market development. We strive to create a culture that embraces the power of different perspectives—a culture where people’s unique backgrounds and different experiences helps us fuel innovation and support our clients around the world.

        Our unique position at the center of the capital markets allows us to see firsthand how these values have redefined corporate culture and success, deepening and accelerating our own commitment to champion inclusive growth and prosperity, as we strive to create more equitable opportunities to help people of all backgrounds reach their full potential. Most notably, we published our diversity statistics for the first time in 2020. These metrics serve as a quantitative assessment of where we are today and help determine what strategies we need to adopt to enhance diversity in the workplace. We recognize that we have much work to do, but we are steadfast in our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture—one that reflects the communities in which we live, allows all employees to be their true, authentic selves and fosters individual growth and achievement.

        As we move forward together, we will continue advancing diverse ideas and perspectives that help fulfill the promise of a more inclusive and prosperous world. We aim to set the pace for rethinking capital markets and economies anywhere and everywhere. To learn more about the company, technology solutions and career opportunities, visit us on LinkedIn, on Twitter @Nasdaq, or at www.nasdaq.com.

        Blue Lagoon
        - One of the 25 Wonders of the World

        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 2.000 meters within the earth where seawater and freshwater converge in a tectonic realm 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 two hotels, three restaurants, three
        geothermal lagoons, a subterranean spa, a renowned line of skin care, a thriving research center, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

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

        The 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.

        - 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.

        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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            - 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. “

            VSÓ Ráðgjöf


              VSÓ Ráðgjöf er alhliða ráðgjafar- og verkfræðifyrirtæki sem leggur áherslu á trausta og faglega þjónustu sem tryggir viðskiptavinum hagkvæmustu lausnir hverju sinni, skilar raunverulegum árangri og stuðlar að samkeppnisforskoti.  Á skrifstofum VSÓ í Reykjavík og í Noregi starfar yfir 80 manna samhentur hópur verkfræðinga og annarra tæknimenntaðra starfsmanna.

              - 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.

              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.

              - 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).

              - 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.


              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.


              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
              -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

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