There were two focus group research held in Iceland:
1. Foreigners from Baltic states (mainly Lithuanians) living in Iceland,
2. Icelanders – locals.
Researches were prepared with some questions that were meant to start discussion and to get some specific answers regarding the issue of the project. Below there are main findings of the research.
1. FOREIGNERS FROM BALTIC STATES (MAINLY LITHUANIANS) LIVING IN ICELAND. 9 PEOPLE HAVE PARTICIPATED IN THE FOCUS GROUP.
-- How well (how soon) did you understand local culture?
Majority of the respondents answered ‘soon’ – as a first impression. But immediately after that they said that it took long. Respondents that are living in Iceland for 7-9 years said that they are still in the process of understanding.
- How well (how soon) did you understand social life?
Majority respondents said, that ‘surface’ knowledge came pretty soon, but they admitted that longer they stay in the country – more questions arise. Some of the respondents said, that Icelandic way of life looks strange for them – not the same like they were used to see in their own country. Some remarks that local people like to have certain distance, were made.
- How well (how soon) did you adapted into society?
Participants said that it is not easy. They said that often they hear racist comment – but made it ‘softened’, joke manner. Some of participants admitted that it is difficult, but that they get used to things with time – some things happen with time, integration into society also.
- Do you present your own culture in Iceland?
Majority respondents said that they usually tell about their own culture and traditions to members of family (included Icelandic members), also a lot of information is shared with colleagues at work. Especially these kinds of conversations come up before traditional festivals or calibration time: Christmas, Easter, etc. Participants said that time are needed in order t present culture.
- Do you think that local people are interested into knowing other cultures and your culture?
The answers were indicating that Icelanders are not really interested in knowing other cultures, unless they need to. Some respondents thought that Icelanders are more interested in American, Canadian culture. Some said that interest towards other cultures depends very much on certain individual and answer to this question can not be generalised.
- WHICH SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF your CULTURE do you think local PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW THE MOST?
Majority thought that there are no such aspects. One participant of the group said, that he is working in the restaurant and that his colleagues are interested in knowing Lithuanian national food traditions.
- WHAT ARE THE MOST SUITABLE CHANNELS TO BE INTRODUCING OTHER CULTURES FOR LOCALS?
Majority of group participants thought that locals are not interested in knowing other cultures. They also said that small part of society – those who are interested, they find ways and material to get information from. For the others they recommended to release special films (as Icelanders like to watch films) also to organize special trips to certain countries: to offer special route with direct flight. Such a trip should include sightseeing trip or some program through which Icelanders could get more information about country.
- Do you think that foreigners in Iceland are educated about local culture?
‘No, not really’ was the most common answer.
2. ICELANDERS – LOCALS. 8 PEOPLE HAVE PARTICIPATED IN THE FOCUS GROUP.
- What do you know about foreigners living in Iceland?
Participants said, that answer to this question would depend on whether foreigner is European or not. Respondents said, that they are more familiar with European foreigners. Participants of focus group said that if they have foreigners in their environment (work, family members, etc.) then they start to know more about foreigners.
- Are you familiar with culture of those foreigners?
All participants (who personally knew some foreigners in Iceland) of the group said that they think they know culture of those foreigners pretty well.
- Would you like to know more?
Respondents said that interest in knowing other cultures better depends on several motives: if they personally know some representatives of that country, if those representatives are family members, if they are close colleagues, if the country is very interesting, is it useful to know that particular culture, etc. One participant of the group said that would like to know more about other cultures in general.
- Do you think that foreigners are ’educated’ about local – Icelandic -culture?
Most common answer to this question and result of the discussion was “no” – foreigners are not educated about local culture. During discussion participants admitted that they would distinguish two groups of foreigners in Iceland:
1) Those who come here as workers – majority of those do not care, they do not want to know.
2) Educated, intelligent people – majority of them find to be their benefit to enrich themselves with knowledge about culture and local life.
Participants also noticed that some groups of foreigners like to isolate themselves more than the others, f.e. they found that “Asian foreigners” are isolating themselves more thank other groups.
- Do you think that Icelanders would like to know more about foreign cultures?
Very straight and direct answer was “no”. Then participants slowly started to talk about historic and geographic reasons for this tendency of unwillingness to know more about other cultures.
- Which way of ’learning’ about other culture is most attractive /convenient for you?
Respondents thought that for real education about the culture and social environment – a person needs to go to certain country, live there for some time, start to learn the language.
But for enrichment of ones knowledge, then most attractive way would be television – special episodes, cycles, stories about certain countries or their groups. Participants also in thought that specialized articles in newspapers and magazines could be interesting for certain segment of society.
- Do you think that foreigners in Iceland should know more about local culture and social traditions? (Even before they come to Iceland)
Participants said that it would be of foreigners’ interest to learn about socio – cultural environment more before coming to Iceland or immediately after arrival. Common opinion that knowing culture would make integration much easier was expressed. Also it was said, that foreign people would start to enjoy country much earlier if they would know the culture…