A week of Ethics and personal growth

This week has been a blast for me.

First of we covered one of my favourite topics in our communication class: Ethics!

One of the things we spoke about when things may be legal but may not seem ethical or may simply be neither.

It made me think of all the different dilemmas and all the different ways companies may dress up their decisions.

For an example back home, we have a big global manufacturing company. It’s situated in a small town where there wasn’t much happening. It came to Iceland as things like electricity is cheap there.

This factory really brightened the place up, young people started moving back home, people that weren’t from the area also decided to move there. The place was appealing to people as housing was cheap and all of a sudden there was a company there that needed educated people (engineers, HR, management, accounting etc.) and welcomed uneducated people to work in the factory. The employees would have a great opportunity to work their way up by working hard and even doing courses the factory provided.

town

In no time this small town grew at a speed no one had seen for decades. A small shopping mall was built, there was a bar there and all sorts of companies and services wanted to be located there.

It all sounds rosy, doesn’t it? Well then there is the other side. The company doesn’t pay all the taxes it should in Iceland as it uses a loophole in the Icelandic laws to avoid to do so.

In class we were told that when we were facing an ethical dilemma, we should start off by doing a stakeholder map. In this case I find it a little troublesome as the stakeholders are many and affected in different way.

For an example the local people where the factory is are stakeholders and they can be divided into many groups: employees, spouses of employees, people that service the factory in one way or another, teachers (teaching all the children that now live in the area), people in companies that service this town that has grown so vastly etc.

The company uses the tactic of pointing at all these people and justify their acts on the grounds they are providing these people with jobs either directly or indirectly, some are even getting an education due to the company etc.

Then there are other stakeholders like competitors, who actually pay their taxes. Then there is the Icelandic public, as this factory is big on Icelandic scale, one can assume the Icelandic system would benefit massively by getting the share it should. If it would one could argue it could mean better service, roads, healthcare or whatever that money would go into. Some people even say that electricity cost goes up when a big player like this comes into the picture. That affects businesses and the general public.

group of people

When I started thinking about this factories approach and it’s justifications I assumed they were using the “Common Good Approach” which means they are basing their decisions on what best serves the community as a whole, but there was something that was bothering me about that as a reasoning. Sure, they are serving the interest of the community they are in, but what about the Icelandic community, as a whole? The notes I took while I sat in the class read: “What is the community?”, “What is the community as a WHOLE?”.

After going over this in my head and by using the tools we were given in class it showed me one can dress things up in different ways. Which might support the theory of “Spin doctors”. This particular company focuses on the good it does in the community it is located in and addresses the tax thing as little as possible. Their communications and justifications all revolve around what they ARE doing and avoiding talking about what they ARE NOT doing.

Club7 : Being brave

This week I took a big step out of my comfort zone.

Masters students on my course organised an event which resembles a TED Talk. 8 speakers, 7 minutes each. It’s the second year this event has been held and this year’s theme was Be Brave. I submitted a two minute video as an application for a spot as a speaker. To my delight (and huge amount of stress) I got selected.

Therefor, last night, I stood in a big room and told them about the challenges I have faced (some of them) and how I gathered the strength and guts to follow my dreams and make the best life I could for me and my kids.

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I thought everyone could see how much I was shivering. I was sure I looked like a branch in a storm but as I have reviewed the video my fiancée recorded and spoken to quite a few people that were there I know it wasn’t visible.

As I finished, I felt so relieved that my part was over with but I also felt really proud of myself. I didn’t just talk in front of a big audience, I talked about something very personal.

But that is a part of my journey, to get to tell my story, with my words, from where I am standing as, unfortunately, I know there are people out there that are telling my story in a way that serves them and degrades me. I have finally found my voice and I am not going to hide anymore. At the same time, I have no need to put other people down in this process, as that does not make me any better than them.

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IABC event

As the Club7 wasn’t enough, I also applied for a spot in a committee that is planning an IABC event in Leeds in June.

I got the honour of being selected as Head of Logistics and Committee Secretary.

It’s a huge role and at the same time such a great opportunity. I can not wait to dive into the work that comes along with this task and meet the people that will work with us and the people that will attend the event itself.

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Seize the moment

As I told my brother I had been given the role in the IABC committee he told me he was really proud of me and happy to see I was using the time while I am at university to do more than just study.

That’s just the thing, when I decided to come to the UK to attend a university, I decided to make the most of it. I decided I would grab any opportunity to grow, as a future Communication practitioner and as a person and that’s just what I have done.

I entered a PRstudent blog competition, I have spoken at Club7 and I am now in a committee that is planning an IABC event. I have also made friends from all over the world. I have imposed Icelandic food on staff and students at the university. My kids are getting to do things I could not offer them in Iceland. Me and my fiancée are able to enjoy more time together than before.

It’s not like there hasn’t been ups and downs, as this is life, not a fairy-tale, but the ups and the positives outweigh the downs by far!

If you are a student I encourage you to use the time while you are at uni to grab every opportunity and ENJOY the journey!

asphalt road between trees
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Bans, Bins and Bureaucracy

I live in Leeds and I have lived here just over 3 months. I had been to England often before and had certain thoughts and opinions on this and that, some which have changed, others have been reinforced. I have also learnt a few things I didn’t know until I lived here and I am sure the people of Leeds and England will keep surprising me in the coming year.

People in Leeds are friendly

I say Leeds as from what I understand, people are not as concerned about the next person everywhere in England. Doors are kept open, bus drivers are thanked as people step out of the bus, strangers greet each other, people help others out in the streets (I have had total strangers offer to carry stuff to the car with us, pick stuff up that I drop etc.) and so on. I am told this video explains the difference between people from the north and the south pretty well.

Where I live (which is not that far from the city centre) is a real sense of community. I am already involved in “mummy”/” wives” groups. We have been to a charity event where I knew surprisingly many faces and we have had the people from our neighbourhood over for an open house in order for us to get to know them and for them to get to know us.

Even while seeing my doctor to get contraception (as we definitely don’t need another child at this point in time!) I felt like I was talking to a friend, or at least a friend of a friend. She told me all about how much older her husband was and that the fact he could be too tired for sex (due to age). She stressed that this was definitely not her fault as she was still sexy and up for it. She also told me that they had children quite late in life so I didn’t have to worry, there was still time for us to add more kids to the family. She was brilliant!

people sitting bus seats
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Carpets DO make sense

I used to think people from the UK made life way too hard on themselves. Coming from a country where most of the floors are wooden or tiled I couldn’t get my head around all the carpets. In a country where people tend to wear shoes inside and it rains A LOT it seems absolutely mad to have carpets on all the floors. I felt so bad for people having to drag a hoover around, even up and down stairs! Since I moved here however, I have learned most people do not wear their shoes inside. I have also learned about the cost of heating. I have therefore accepted the extra exercise while cleaning and seen the practical side of carpets. They keep it a bit warmer.

Things concerning children are expensive

Most things in the UK are cheaper than back home. If you see a delirious, dehydrated and exhausted person carrying 4 big bags from Primark, 2 from H&M and 3 from Tesco, you have most likely run into an Icelander that is making the most of a short visit to the UK. To my surprise things concerning children (other than clothes) are just as expensive and in some cases more expensive than in Iceland.

We brought an Icelandic au-pair over with us as we simply cannot afford the childcare in England. The average day nursery costs 232 pounds a week for 50 hours! In Iceland I would pay less for a full month in nursery, it would cost me around 195 pounds a month for 40 hours a week. Included in that price the children have breakfast, a healthy hot lunch and an afternoon snack. In each class we have at least one member off staff with a Masters degree (5 years in university) in childminding, teaching or upbringing etc.

Our au-pair is also a lot more than just a childminder. She helps us with things around the house, makes sure we as a couple get date nights and is simply a great addition to the family!

School meals over here are around the same price as back home. I find this mind boggling as I know for a fact that all the ingredients are cheaper, and the labour is cheaper. It might stem from governmental support though, maybe schools in Iceland get more support in this area than UK ones.

My kids have to take the bus to school as we live quite a distance from their school. Each week we pay 6 pounds per child which adds up to 12 pounds a week. In Iceland we would be paying 9 pounds for the same.

As I say I just find all this surprising as almost everything else is more expensive in Iceland, considerably more! Beer on draft for an example is a whopping 7 pounds!

gold coin
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Utility bills are your currency for most things

With everything you may need to apply for or need to set up you will be asked for a proof of address. That proof of address is a utility bill which is an electric bill, gas bill, water bill etc. It amazed me how important it is to drag an old bill around. I had to do this to open up a bank account and to get a phone and phone number. This is something I am not used to back home as one is registered to a certain address and that is in a database companies can access, and to be fair where you live just doesn’t seem as important to companies there. They just want to make sure you are who you say you are.

Due to this we hit a massive hurdle when we were applying for schools for our kids. We knew which area we wanted to live in but couldn’t start applying until we had a house. We started renting our house in March but by then all schools were full, the councils website told us they had been filled by January. Nonetheless we applied to 10 schools and with the application we needed to send a utility bill, which we didn’t yet have as we still lived in Iceland! What a mess!

Bureaucracy

The utility bill is just one example of the bureaucracy in England. In Iceland most things are done online and usually you can do them from the comfort of your own home. In England one seems to have to get actual documents, fill them out (block capital letters please so the people receiving them can read them…. Oh, wouldn’t it be easier to receive a typed document via the internet?), sign them and send.

One has to jump through ridiculous hoops as well. For an example while applying for schools for the kids we had to provide the application itself (of course), birth certificates (Ok, I understand that one), copy of their passports and mine (don’t see why as the birth certificate should have given all the details needed), proof of address in England (understood due to priority being given to the children living in the schools area), proof of baptism (as most of them were religious schools), signed papers from their (at the time) current school saying they know that they are leaving. Last but not least a letter from our landlord in Iceland stating that we are actually moving! (This one is so far beyond my understanding that I can’t comprehend it! As ANYONE would fill all those forms out and send them just for the fun of it, having no intent of moving, but for some odd reason is renting an empty house in England!?).

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I am international when it suits

It’s a little frustrating that Iceland is not in the EU, it is however in the EEA. This allows Icelanders to move within Europe as freely as EU members, we do not need visas and all the same rules and laws apply to us as EU members. Except when it comes university tuition fees! Even the school itself told me I did not have to attend a gathering for international students as I wasn’t one. I replied with: “Huh, that’s weird as I pay as one!”. I got the explanation it was to cover police, visas and the general system here. It’s a surprising contradiction and, to be honest, I seem to be international when it suits.

Wasps live forever!

…or so it seems. This section is only here as I HATE them! Back home I wait for the first overnight frost and after that I know they are all gone. That happened over a month ago! The flying bastards are still hovering around here. We even got a pest control expert over this week to get rid of 2 nests as we have had quite a few inside our house and one morning this week I counted 23 of them on my bathroom window (the outside of it, thank god!).

Hosepipe ban is a thing!

I had never heard of this, but it makes complete sense!! When it is hot and dry for a while the government may issue a hosepipe ban. The ban is supposed to save water in these circumstances.

close up colors equipment garden
Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Bin days are something to be excited about

In my neck of the woods the bin people come up to the house, get the bin, empty it into the bin truck and then bring it back. Therefore, I never paid attention to when they came. Over here it is different. One has to put the correct bin out by the side of the road. My fiancé gets very excited when it’s getting close to bin day, thinks out loud whether it is general waste or the recycling bin (he only really knows after having a look at what the neighbours are putting out). He then makes sure to tell me loud and clear “It’s bin day tomorrow! It’s the grey one/green one!”. Like I really need to know so I can run out with the emergency recyclables (or general rubbish) I have been hiding away!

People don’t say what they mean

I am quite straight forward, and I believe Icelanders can come across rather direct. They generally say what they mean and mean what they say. However, I have learned that people in England tend to be a little passive aggressive in their ways or say something completely opposite to what they think just so they don’t offend anyone, and to avoid coming across as rude (God forbid!). For example, I have noticed that people can moan and complain about their food at a restaurant and even pick the service apart, but once someone comes over and asks how everything is everyone replies in perfect harmony: “Lovely, thank you”.

Coffee vs. tea

When English people visit Iceland and ask for tea rather that coffee they are faced with a dusty box, dragged from the back of a cupboard, fruit flavoured and an awkward Icelander who tells them to mix it themselves as we usually have coffee and are not entirely sure how to make a proper cuppa. Now that I live in the land of tea I see the opposite. When I ask for coffee I am faced with a host that looks like a deer in headlights. Very often instant coffee is pulled from the cupboards and apologies are made for it probably being to strong or weak. I find it amusing and can relate 100% and therefore smile and am just thankful to get some caffeine.

happy coffee
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All these different things are, in their quirky ways, a part of what makes England what it is. Most of it I love and other things I have learned to live with as one has to adapt when moving to a new country. I had a few more things on my list but I will save them for another time. But “this has been lovely, thank you”.