Esther Nemery

| Living in the Faroe Islands

| 1996

| Restaurant manager, divemaster, jewellry maker

Hi there, my name is Esther, I grew up in Denmark, in a town of 50.000 people. I have now moved to a country with 52.000 people. I first came to the Faroe Islands, when I was 17. I came to work at KOKS, the now 2-Michelin star restaurant. I fell in love with the country immediately and came back at 20. Then again at 22… I have lived here for a little over a year now, and plan to stay put for a while.

Since I graduated school, I have volunteered in Galapagos and Madagascar, worked as a Destination Manager in Italy, worked as a divemaster, been a barista, a store manager, the list goes on. I now work as a restaurant manager at Skeiva Pakkhús, the crooked warehouse. It is an Italian restaurant, using local goods. 

I had many plans for my life this year, dive instructor course in May, going back to Madagascar, ski instructor course in the winter. Everything had been put on hold, and I had a really hard time accepting the status quo. Looking back now, I am very grateful for the privilege I have. I have a job, a roof over my head, I am safe, and I am living in a country with no Covid-19 cases. It took a lot of time for me to come to terms with the fact that I had to stop and do nothing for a while. We were sent home on March 15th. As a restaurant manager, I work up to 300 hours per month. Suddenly, I could not go to work, and I completely shut down. This time has been for self-reflection, for gratitude, and for figuring out where my priorities lie.

Q | What is it like to live in the Faroe Islands? What makes it unique?

I could not think of a better place to live right now. These islands are tiny, not like everyone knows everyone, but everyone wants the best for each other. It is a very loving community. The love really shines through right now. We have gotten closer, even in a time that we are socially distant. I think that is what makes this place unique, we are all so close with each other, and close with the nature surrounding us.

Q | How do locals spend the weekend? Are there any activities that locals particularly like to do?

Especially now that most cafés, restaurants, and bars have been closed, we spend our free time outside. Whenever the weather allows it. We hike, we fish, we swim and recently we have been rounding up the sheep on the mountains, as lambing season came upon us. 

Q | Are there any mysterious stories or beliefs in the folk?

Here there are many local legends, mostly handed down by word of mouth. One is about Kópakonan, The Seal Woman. Seals were long believed to be former humans, who sought out death in the sea. The legend says that one night every year, they were allowed back on land, to strip off their skin and amuse themselves as humans again. On one of those nights, a local man decided to hide at the beach to see the spectacle. He stole the seal skin of a young woman, and when she came back for it, he took her as his wife. For many years she lived with him and bore him many children, unable to leave without her skin. One day, he went fishing and left the skin behind unguarded. The woman took it and returned to the sea. This was a great tragedy for the man and so the men of the village went hunting for seals. She warned him in a dream, not to touch her seal husband and children, but alas he killed them all. The Seal Woman cursed the island of Kalsoy, saying: “There shall be revenge, on the men of Mikladalur, they will die at sea and fall from cliffs. Until there be as many dead as can link hands around the shores of Kalsoy!”. Some men still fall, and some men still drown. 

Q | Have you ever thought about living in another country?

I have never felt quite at home in Denmark, I think that is why I seek out different cultures. I just recently started planning a big move. I have dual citizenship in Denmark and France, which means that I can live in any of the French territories. So yes, I have always seen myself living in another country. New Caledonia is where I can see myself settling down. As a diver, that whole area of French Polynesia is a dream come true. 

Q | You have a jewellery store. What inspires you to make jewellery?

I have a great, almost overwhelming need to create things with my hands. I draw, I take pictures, work with leather and ceramics. It is something that I could never live without. My experiences inspire me! I try to capture my feelings, from a certain moment in time in the pieces. Many of my pieces are dedicated to my travels. I often give them away to the people whom I shared the experiences with. Mostly, I create because I feel like something is missing. So, I will create something that I would want in a specific situation. My work is very personal to me, it is probably the thing I miss the most while living in the Faroe Islands. The workbench is still in Denmark, so I spend a lot of my time planning the pieces, and then get to work whenever I go back home. 

Q | How does the COVID-19 crisis change people's life in Faroe?

The Faroese people are very social, and this period of social distancing has definitely been hard. I think it was the biggest challenge, apart from economics. Not getting to hug or see your family and friends. There has been a massive shift in the economy of course, like any other country right now. I think the Faroes are in a quite unique situation though, along with other island communities. A very big part of the economy depends on tourism and only has for a few years. The service industry is relatively new here, and therefore not that stable. Closing the borders and recommending quarantines, that takes a toll on all the communities, not just big corporations. I believe life will be very different for a lot of people. But I think it will be good for everyone to take a step back, now we have time to reassess our daily lives. 

Q | To the outside world, Faroe seems to be a remote and pure land. How do people in Faroe perceive the outside world?

This is very difficult to answer. I think there is a generational aspect to this. The Faroe Islands are generally very religious, and very conservative. Keep in mind that this is the generation that runs the country. My generation however, I feel, are much more open. They thrive in a country that has finally opened to new cultures and is excited to meet people from all over the world. 

Q | In the face of the crisis, do you sense anything new about yourself, your neighborhood, or the local communities around you?

There is generally a very positive attitude in my community. I see people every day that are hopeful and encouraged to do better. Everyone is grateful to be lucky enough to have their jobs still. I think gratitude is the biggest thing I take away from this. 

Q | After traveling in many countries, where is your favorite destination and why? What is your travel plan after the pandemic?

I will always come back to Madagascar. In many ways it feels like a more tropical version of the Faroe Islands. I was made for the tropics, not the cold north. Madagascar was my home for 6 months; I have a family to return to. I do not think I have ever been to a more remote place. No electricity, no roads, just nature all around you. It is the most pristine and untouched wilderness I have ever witnessed. That place will always be special to me. And I had plans to go back in July. That seems highly unlikely now, so it is postponed until it is safe and responsible to travel again. 

Q | If people visit Faroe, where do you highly recommend going?

I think it is less about where, and more about the timing. Of course, all the well-known hikes and activities are super busy. I recommend you go on google earth and take a virtual tour before going anywhere. I usually do that before going on my hikes. You can find beautiful hikes everywhere, there are views all around. They don’t all have to be insta-famous. Sometimes the most gorgeous views are found in the pouring rain, sometimes in the windiest of conditions. I would say: prepare for the worst of weather and prepare to be amazed. 

And of course, if you fancy trying out the local cuisine, Heima I Havn has some of the best restaurants, lamb, fish, fermented things? They have it all! 

Q | What cultural norms should travelers know when visiting Faroe?

I think the most significant part of the culture is about respect. Respect the nature around you, respect the local people. Pay attention to the signs, just because something is famous on Instagram, doesn’t mean it’s respectfully achieved that status. Most people just like their privacy respected, so I would say to pay attention. Otherwise, everyone is very welcoming, it is a very loving and social culture. | TripCell

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