Icelandic Cultural Differences

My husband’s best friend and his wife recently had twins. A week or two after they returned from the hospital, I suggested that we bring them dinner.

“Why?” said my husband. “What do you mean, bring them dinner?”

And so it was revealed to me that Icelanders do not bring new parents food. And yet! This Is Decidedly A Thing, with a myriad of articles offering recommendations about what to bring, advice on how long to stay once the thing has been brought and tips about foods that can be consumed with only one hand (the other presumably being used to hold an infant). But I guess it’s an American Thing, not an Icelandic one.

I consulted my mother-in-law after considering that perhaps my husband just didn’t know the code. This was his first close friend to have a kid, after all. Alas no, my mother-in-law only said “huh?” and stared at me with a puzzled expression. But hope was not lost.

“You know, I did a lot of Swedish stuff when I moved here,” she said, smiling at the distant memory. “All of the Icelanders thought it was a bit weird, but it’s good to share your traditions.”

So damn it, I decided to share my American tradition. My husband was supportive, but I still sensed a vague awkwardness in his demeanor when he alerted me that he had told his friend about our impending dinner offering.

“What did he say?” I asked, hoping to be told that the friend had smiled warmly or exclaimed with great cheer.

“He said okay,” my husband said.

“Okay?” I repeated.

“Yeah, we were mostly talking about dogs, so it wasn’t a big part of the conversation.”

I furrowed my brow but dug in steadfast and determined. As we are living in a tiny summer house without oven or washing machine (I’m not crying, you’re crying), I decided that pizza would be our contribution.

My husband texted his friend and vaguely arranged for a date upon which the pizza would be delivered, with no mention of time nor toppings. I suggested he ask about time or toppings and he said he had a general idea of what would be acceptable.

I felt sheepish and awkward as I walked into the home of two relative strangers holding a pizza aloft.

“You have to explain what’s going on,” my husband said on the walk from the car to the house. “It’s your tradition.”

And so I did, muttering some phrases about “tradition” and “congratulations” and steeling myself for the potential embarrassment of making some kind of cultural faux pas involving pizza and babies.

My husband’s friend took the box and smiled.

“That’s a wonderful tradition!” exclaimed the new mother, grinning broadly.

We walked into the bedroom and peered at the sweet, small babies. Their little hands were grasping at the air, each finger tiny and perfect. Eventually, we went home.

In the car, I relaxed. The smell of aspen trees was on the wind, and the rare Icelandic sun shone down against the dusty road. I looked at my husband who was smiling.

“It’s a good tradition,” he said.

“Told you so,” I winked.

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