Iceland Mag

8 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Go north: Iceland is peaceful and vast

By Sara McMahon

  • New home  When Sheba Wanjiku first arrived in Iceland, she found the country very dramatic, in a good way. Photo/Björn Árnason

Iceland Magazine met with four people from four African countries who have made their home on this small island in the North Atlantic.


Sheba Wanjiku is Kenyan. She arrived in Iceland in 2001 with her husband at the time and has lived here since. She lives in downtown Reykjavík with her daughter and works as an educational assistant.

Sheba met with a journalist from Iceland Magazine in the café at the Kjarvalsstaðir museum. Despite her exotic beauty and the dignified manner in which she carries herself, what really made her stand out from the crowd was the fact that she was the only one still wearing a winter coat and a woollen hat in April—a time when most Icelanders stubbornly begin to replace winter clothing with lighter attire.

Was Iceland much like you had expected, or was there much that surprised you?
“It was very different from what I had anticipated. It was so dramatic, but in a good way. For me, the surprise came later, like when I began to experience the extreme weather conditions. Adapting to the weather has always been the hardest part for me.”

Are there many similarities between the two countries? What about differences?
“The two countries are very different. Kenya is a much bigger country with many tribes and languages, and, obviously, a warmer climate. The similarities aren’t many, but I guess you could call both countries peaceful. Kenya has managed to stay rather peaceful compared to its neighbours.”

What do you like most about Iceland?
“It’s peaceful. There is no war, no conflict, no religious conflict, and the government does not try to dictate anyone’s life.”

Icelandic is an extremely complicated language and you never stop learning.

What do you miss most from home?
“I miss my family and the family life in Kenya. I miss the Indian Ocean, the vegetation, the heat, and the food. Ideally, I try to visit home once a year to enjoy all those things.”

Iceland is supposedly one of the happiest countries in the world, but it is also said that Icelanders can be quite stand-offish and difficult to get to know. What is your opinion?
“I tend not to waste my time on people who are stand-offish, why waste your time on a rock? But I believe the coolness is only a shell.”

If you had to describe Iceland in only one word, what would that be?

Silfra, vatn, lake, þingvellir

Sheba recommends visitors go diving in Silfra in Þingvellir National Park. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Did you find it difficult to learn the Icelandic language?
“It’s an extremely complicated language and you never stop learning. I now work for the city and they have a strict ‘no English’ policy, which has been very encouraging for me. And the people at work have been amazing. They are very patient with you, even though it can take you up to five minutes to form a simple sentence,” she says smiling.

Some people say that they feel they have different personalities depending on what language they are speaking. Is that something you’d agree with?
“Well, I feel like an eight year-old when I speak Icelandic,” she says, giving a hearty laugh. “I believe people tend to express themselves differently depending on the language they are speaking. For instance, there are certain things that I find difficult to explain except in Swahili, but that’s simply because other languages lack the words.”

Any recommendations for tourists visiting Iceland?
“Go diving between the tectonic plates in Silfra in Þingvellir National Park. It’s well worth it!”

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