Iceland podcast – hear the inside story of Icelandic language and culture
One of Iceland’s best ambassadors is New Yorker native Jewells Chambers. Her great Iceland podcast ‘All things Iceland‘ covers a wide variety of topics. These include Icelandic culture, history, politics and of course language.
Demystifying Icelandic politics
I especially enjoyed listening to Jewell’s interviews with the following interviewees:
- Andri Snær Magnason – author
- Jón Gnarr – Ex-mayor and writer
- Alda Sigmundsdóttir, journalist
- Dóra Björt Guðjónsdóttir, politician and the youngest person elected to the office of President of the Reykjavik City Council.
Dóra Björt is a rising star within the Icelandic Pirate Party and my prediction is that she will go even further. The interviews dispel myths about what happened in Iceland during and after the financial crash of 2008.
Putting the Icelandic language at the center of the show
I like how Jewells makes the Icelandic language an important part of her podcast shows. After all, it is the language that makes Icelanders unique. She introduces difficult to pronounce Icelandic words. One such word is the Icelandic word for mayor of Reykjavík. That translates into Borgarstjórinn í Reykjavik (!). Jewells also asks her interviewees their favorite words or phrases in Icelandic. What words they choose often says a lot about the person I would think.
Great podcast for people traveling to Iceland
Jewells has also done shows which are relevant and useful for those who are planning to Iceland:
- Game of Thrones: Where Scenes Were Filmed in Iceland
Hello Jewells – thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Can you tell me a little bit about your background and what brought you to Iceland?
My pleasure, Jon and thank you for reaching out to me. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and besides going away to college for four years, I lived in NYC for the majority of my life. Even though I love NYC and I am grateful for all the experiences that I’ve had there over the years, I always had the urge to move outside of the country. However, I was never sure of how that would happen. While I was studying Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, I met Gunnar, a handsome Icelandic man who would one day become my husband. When we first met, we had no idea that our lives would be so intertwined in the future. Funny enough, we didn’t become a couple until about 7 years after our chance encounter.
Feeling at home in Iceland
By the time we got together, Gunnar had moved to Muncie, Indiana to pursue his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. We were in a long-distance relationship for three years before we moved to Iceland together just a few days after my 30th birthday. While I was a little nervous about moving, I just knew that this was the right decision for me. I’d visited the country about five times before officially moving. It was comforting that Gunnar’s family was so welcoming and lovely. I felt at home in Iceland. The other bonus is that I had landed a job as a Content Marketing Manager for Icelandic Mountain Guides, an awesome adventure tour company in Reykjavík. While my husband is the main reason I came to Iceland, a new job and the ability to be out in such amazing nature are the other reasons I was so drawn to this place.
What inspired you to start your Iceland podcast and what are your plans for it?
During 2017, I was on a podcast listening binge. Because I love to cook, listening to a podcast allowed me to learn something new and be entertained while I was banging around pots and pans in the kitchen. At some point, I started to look for podcasts about Iceland to listen to. While there are some interesting ones out there, I was yearning for something that incorporated the language, culture, history, nature, and interviews. When I didn’t find that, the idea of creating a podcast popped into my head.
All Things Iceland podcast was born
However, I knew nothing about starting a podcast. My unending curiosity, engineering background, and do-it-yourself attitude saw this as an opportunity to learn something new. I scoured the internet looking for information. I asked people for advice and purchased a microphone. My first podcast episode, which was an interview with Professor Jesse Byock, who teaches Old Norse and Medieval Studies at the University of Iceland, was a test to try out the audio of the microphone. It ended up being such a fun and interesting experience that I just had to continue doing it. Thus, the All Things Iceland podcast was born.
Thankful for the audience of her Iceland podcast
I’m still learning a lot and I would like to take the podcast to new levels, such as having a video version of my interviews and providing my audience with exclusive content. Because I just started as the Chief Digital & Strategy Officer at Pipar\TBWA, my biggest obstacle is having the time to create, record, edit and publish episodes each week. In my first year, I pumped out 48 episodes but I needed to pull back recently due to time constraints. Regardless, I am excited about what the future holds for the podcast and I am so thankful for the over 60,000 people that downloaded it last year.
What do you think is the most striking thing about Icelanders and Icelandic culture?
I think the most striking things about Icelanders are their strong family bond and their adaptability. I love that family is so important here and I have enjoyed getting to take part in many of the family traditions during the holidays. Because the weather and conditions on the island can vary so drastically, I admire that Icelandic people have taken on the attitude of “Þetta reddast”, which roughly translates to “It will all work out.” While it isn’t my motto in life, I do understand that this way of thinking helped generations of Icelanders to survive here.
I also find it interesting how fast trends spread here. It wasn’t too long ago that this country was so isolated from the rest of the world, and now it feels like Icelanders are trying to make up for a lost time by embracing lots of different activities and ways of thinking. It is fascinating to watch it unfold.
What are your favorite places and activities in Iceland?
Hands down, my favorite activity in Iceland is hiking, and I wish I could do it all day long! The WestFjords, the Highlands, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Mývatn and most of the South Coast are my favorite places. Gunnar and I have recently discovered some amazing places near us in Mosfellsbær, so my list is always getting longer.
What advice would give people who are visiting Iceland for the first time?
Bring layers, including waterproof or water-resistant outer shells (jacket and pants). Most of the pictures and videos you see of Iceland are taken when the weather is nice. However, it rains a lot here and having those clothes on hand will ensure that you can have adventures in any weather conditions that are not dangerous.
While it is nice to see the natural wonders on the south coast, the rest of the country has so much to offer. If you can spare the time, go to other parts of Iceland. You will be amazed at the diversity, beauty, and lack of people.
You ask your guests to share their favorite Icelandic words or phrases with you. What is your favorite word or phrase in Icelandic?
Frábært (great) took me what seems like forever to say correctly. Because of that, it is one of my favorite words. Recently, jæja (a catchall phrase that translates to “well”) has been coming out of my mouth almost involuntarily. LOL. I guess my brain has decided that it is time to use it.