What does it feel like to be Polish and queer and living in Iceland? Polish people make up the largest ethnic minority group in Iceland, presenting more than 40% of all immigrants in Iceland as of 2018.  Last year it was estimated that over 19.000 people of Polish origin were living in Iceland. We at GayIceland are therefore keen to find out more about the Polish community in Iceland, the queer part of it to be more exact and what it feels like to be Polish and queer and living in Iceland. Today we interview a young gay man who has a boyfriend and a successful career in Iceland, but still misses his friends and family in Poland.

Reflecting on his life in Iceland, Mateusz says he feels accepted in the country — both as a queer person and as a Polish person.

It was always Mateusz Przemysław Niewiara’s dream to visit Iceland. But he says it was always too expensive for him to travel from his native Poland for a vacation, so it wasn’t until February 2017 that he booked a one-way ticket to Keflavík and made that dream a reality.
“My target was to go there and start to find a job,” he says. He thought he would stay in Iceland for half a year, and if he didn’t get a promotion he would move somewhere else. But he got that promotion, and two years later he’s still here. Today he lives in lives in Reykjavík where he manages a local restaurant chain and lives with his boyfriend, who moved from Poland to join him in Iceland.

“I remember I always liked boys. But it was really hard because everyone was telling me that that was not normal.”

“I would say I was really happy in Poland,” he says. However, after lost a job in Warsaw he says he didn’t feel like living in his homeland anymore. He had a friend who moved abroad for work, so he says he decided to follow her lead and try it out.

Reflecting on his life in Iceland, he says he feels accepted in the country — both as a queer person and as a Polish person. His first boss in Reykjavík was also gay, so he says he doesn’t feel like he has to hide his sexuality from his co-workers or from anyone else he meets.

Hard coming out to his family

Mateusz says that he knew he was gay since he was about seven years old. “I remember I always liked boys,” he says. “But it was really hard because everyone was telling me that that was not normal.” He says it wasn’t until he met a group of teenagers in high school who were bisexual and encouraged him to accept his sexuality that he realized it was normal to be gay.

The hardest part for Mateusz was coming out to his family. He was raised in the Catholic religion, so he says he felt caught between two worlds. “I just needed time to choose what is more important and what expressed myself more,” he says. He was 18 when he eventually came out to his mother.

“She just heard the gossip about me and she called me in the morning to ask. I told her, ‘yeah, that’s true.’ I was already 18 so I just told her if you don’t want to accept it I can just move out now — but you’re my mother so you should understand,” he says. “She told me that I should go to some hospital to cure that and I told her, ‘No, there’s nothing wrong with me. You just have to understand. Maybe you can read something about it and change your mind.’

Of course that was hard and we didn’t talk for two weeks,” he says about the experience. “But then she started understanding and we were talking about it so that changed.” Today, Mateusz says he and his mother have a good relationship.

Staying optimistic

Despite the challenges he’s faced, Mateusz remains very positive. “I think if you are not optimistic it’s very hard to live,” Mateusz says. “I have learned in my life that if someone doesn’t want to accept me I don’t want to waste my time for those people. So that’s easy for me. If you want to accept me you have to accept me 100% as I am. If not we don’t have to talk to each other. I think that’s my rule.”

Mateusz says that what’s kept him in Iceland for the past two years is the high quality of life.

Unlike other gay Polish people who have been interviewed by GayIceland, Mateusz says he didn’t face many problems living publicly as a gay man in his home country. “When I had a boyfriend there was no problem to go to the city hand by hand and kiss my boyfriend,” he says. “That’s not a problem in downtown Warsaw or Krakow. But if you go to the smaller areas you can get some trouble.”

Although he didn’t move to Iceland because of problems in his home country, he does acknowledge that homophobia exists in Poland. “I think Poland is more homophobic than it is not,” he says. “I wouldn’t say it’s safe and I wouldn’t say it’s not safe, because it all depends on how you behave and where you are.”

He says he’s heard of people who have encountered violence or discrimination in Poland because of their sexuality, but that’s never been his experience. “I don’t know if I’m lucky or if there’s something wrong with me,” he says with a laugh. “I’m thinking about it now and I’m actually happy being gay.”

An uncertain future

When asked if he’s involved in the large Polish community in Iceland, Mateusz says that he generally tries to avoid it. “Polish people, they have their own districts. They live all together. They don’t speak any other language other than Polish,” he explains. Meanwhile, Mateusz says he has made an effort to learn the local language and mostly converses in Icelandic at work.

Mateusz says that what’s kept him in Iceland for the past two years is the high quality of life and how easy it is to get out of the city and experience nature. “I really like this slow life. You don’t have to hurry,” he says about life in Iceland. “I can travel a lot, I can do my job, and I feel like a free person.”

However, more than two years into his life in Iceland, he says he still isn’t sure what the future holds for him. “I am in a really good position right now in Iceland. I have a good career and everything is fine,” he says. “On the other hand I miss Poland and I miss my friends and family so I would like to be there.

“… there was no problem to go to the city hand by hand and kiss my boyfriend. That’s not a problem in downtown Warsaw or Krakow. But if you go to the smaller areas you can get some trouble.”

In the beginning I really wanted to stay here forever. But now because of all of this economic stuff here, the future here is not safe,” he says. When he moved here, he says the local currency the Króna was much higher. Since then, he says the economic situation has gotten worse. “I’m not going to stay here forever.”

See also: “I found love in Iceland” says queer Polish activist

And: “I couldn’t live in Poland” says gay man

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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