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James Bond effect in the Faroes: this is how young people return to the islands

from Irene Soave

A boom in tourism, cinema and culture repopulates the Faroe Islands, an autonomous Danish territory: the population and the economy have been growing for a decade

I like the weather here. Not hot! (laughs ) And I like that the seasons are dictated by the light. Healthcare gives me some problems, because it is only public and I always have to wait. But it feels good here. Theresa Jacobsen, Bavarian, researcher of Scandinavian literature and paints, and lives in Torshavn, capital of the Faroe, from March 2020. The weather you like can be summarized as follows: 210 rainy days a year, temperatures never above 13C, 5 hours of light per day in December and 20 in June. Yet not a brake on the repopulation of the Faroe Islands, 18 islands north of the United Kingdom, 53,000 inhabitants overall (compared to 70,000 sheep, and in fact Fr er, the Feringian name of the islands, means islands of the sheep). Nine years ago they were 12% less, in 1993 25%.

A little James Bond effect: a key scene from the latest film in the series, No Time to Die, takes place between the basalt walls of the majestic island of Kalsoy, and some of the stardust left over on the archipelago, producing thematic tours, guides to Bond Island and the first direct flights (from Bergen, Norway).

But glamor is not enough to explain the reversal of a constant trend in western rural, island and mountain areas in recent decades: depopulation. Until 2010, the graphs show, this was also the case here; from 2013 onwards, however, the population increases by 1.2-1.8% per year.

I had been here as a student, Jacobsen continues. I came back for a job advertisement: they were looking for drivers for a bus tour of the island. Here I met my husband, a Faroese. An episode of Home and away, a weekly podcast in English that brings together the stories of foreigners in the Faroe Islands. There are many: the Romanian Levi Cerneac, the Norwegian Gunn Hersen, the Spanish Cinthia Gonzales, the Colombian Juliana Arias who tells the unexpected romanticism of the Faroese, “warmer” than the Latins.

The demographic growth of the Faroes continues also thanks to them, the foreigners: their number doubled in this time frame, and they are now 4% of the population. But the new Faroese are above all the returning Faroese, with children, who leave the cities abroad where they studied and started careers to return to the islands. Where, unlike in the depressed 90s, there is work for them too, thanks to massive government investments in the advanced tertiary sector. And more a pace of life in line with the new desires of the era of the great resignations: slower. Katrin Baerentsen, founder of a surfer agency, lived in the United States for years before returning. Here I make a difference, he says. Harriet Olafsdttir and her husband, returned, founded Hanusarstova, a house where they welcome tourists in an authentic way. Jhannus Hansen, founder of Reika, a tour operator from Vgar, never left.

in tourism the James Bond effect has been felt most. Tours of the islands on the places of 007 cost, for example, 280 euros per person (in Danish kroner, currency of the island); but the growth of the Faroe Islands – an autonomous territory of Denmark, but not of the EU – has for some time been standing at 5% per annum. Among its engines, fishing and fish farming; the bloody Grindadrp, the hunt for cetaceans that every year attracts controversy from all over the world, a tradition that the premier said this year he wanted to limit. It is not clear if he will succeed: the Faroese are very attached to it. Meanwhile, the thriller series is highly anticipated in 2022 Trom, with a cast full of Scandinavian stars, produced and set right in the Faroes. It’s about an environmentalist who is fighting for an end to the cetacean hunt. And the beginning of a new era for the archipelago.

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