In some ways, life in Greenland is just like every other place in the world, but in other ways it is this totally unique place! Every so often I come across something on the Internet or something comes up in conversation that makes me suddenly think, “Whoa, I haven’t thought about that in FOREVER!” And why? Because that concept simply doesn’t exist in Greenland. Or, at the very least, it is a concept that is so far reserved from my own everyday experience. Funny to think that some of these things used to be so everyday and normal to me in another time, another life.
Here’s my list of Concepts I Forgot About, After Living in Greenland.
Okra. Such a random thing to think of, I know, but nope we definitely don’t get that vegetable up here. On the other hand, we do get a ton of variety otherwise! Lots of kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, passion fruit, mango, fresh herbs, lettuce, apples, oranges, pears, grapes, berries, avocados, bell peppers, hot peppers, lemons and limes, eggplant, tumeric, etc. And once I saw two things I had actually never even heard of – pitahaya and kaki. I guess there was a sale on exotic fruits the day the grocery made their order!
Jewelry stores. This one came to me when watching a documentary on television about, of all things, Doris Payne, the infamous jewelry-thief grandmother. A picture of a Black, Starr & Frost jewelry store popped up, and suddenly I remembered that my family and I would always go into these stores in the mall – just to look – on Saturdays.
I have seen one dedicated jewelry store in Nuuk, but usually little shops around the coast just have a jewelry counter, if any, amongst all the other merchandise like clothing, makeup, outdoor gear, etc.
Cutting grass. This one hit me hard when I looked out the kitchen window at our old house in Nuuk one day and realised, we literally just have rocks as our driveway and front yard. (Don’t mind the woman walking with a tree in her arms! Ha.)
Aside from South Greenland and the island Qeqertarsuaq in North Greenland (which myth says actually came from the south originally), there is not much green in Greenland. Sure, there’s some small patches of grasses and flowers here and there, and in the fjords where it is warmer in summer there can be nice bushes and small trees, but generally speaking, there are no full lawns of lush grass requiring a trip with the John Deere every weekend.
Edited to add: now that we live in South Greenland, greenery and trees is something I will have to adjust to, but nonetheless, in my every day life, there’s still no grass around the house, for example, that requires cutting 🙂
Seasonal clothing in stores. Yep, winter jackets can be found year round here. And summer things like bathing suits are basically nowhere to be found. Things like that you just have to order on the Internet.
Commercials for new movie releases. Ok, this could just be me and my lack of cable television, but the few air channels we do have (KNR, DR1, DR2) do not show commercials like I used to know them. Nothing promoting movies or products. In fact, KNR’s version of a commercial is more like a powerpoint with still pictures changing every so often. Or just a blue screen for like, 13 minutes straight when they have nothing to air.
McDonald’s & Happy Meal collectibles / Monopoly sticker things. Calling anything at McDonald’s a Mc-Something. A Facebook friend posted a photo of their McFlurry and I literally laughed out loud!! I’m so glad there are no McDonald’s here. I know one singular person who talks about wanting to get one here, and I fight back saying, No, no no, every time it comes up.
Express lanes & HOV lanes on highways (and paying to drive in them). I watched my friend’s Instagram story about sitting in traffic in the Washington, D.C. area waiting to get onto an express lane that cost 30-something dollars (200 dkk / 27 eur), and I was in awe for a minute remembering that I, too, used to be victim to the outrageous thing called bumper-to-bumper traffic, and the fact that people will sell their souls to get out of it.
In Greenland, well, first there would have to be any sort of highway at all, in order for a special express lane to exist, let’s just establish that right off the bat. For anyone that does not already know, there are no roads that connect one town to the next in Greenland. (However, there are roads within the towns themselves. But not in settlements.) So, there’s no Spring Break road trip. There’s no taking a Sunday drive to the countryside.
But ok, there can be traffic of the ice kind sometimes 🙂 This photo is taken by Robert Holmene from onboard Sarfaq Ittuk, the coastal ferry that sails between Qaqortoq and Ilulissat nearly year round. Last spring, April 2018, it got a little backed up in South Greenland.
Photo by Robert Holmene.
Country Stores. Just the style of that old, antique look with all kinds of jams, candies, hostess gifts, knick knacks for the house. There was one in Fenwick Island, Delaware called the Seaside Country Store that my grandmother and I used to ‘ride up to’ every other day on our annual beach vacation together. Suddenly I feel the need to see that place at least once more in my life! That being said, the Pilersuisoq stores in settlements in Greenland do have the same concept 🙂 They’re usually the one and only place in the settlement where things can be bought, so clothes are sold next to yarn and art supplies and on the next isle over boat motors and hunting rifles.
Power outages. I had never really thought about it before, but I guess the majority of power outages are caused by trees downing power lines? There are no trees here. Or, where there are trees, they’re not tall enough to do that kind of damage.
Thunderstorms, including lightning. Only ONCE in now seven years did I experienced thunder in Greenland, and I have NEVER experienced lightning here. Without knowing the ins and outs of these weather phenomena (although, I should, because that is something that is right up my alley), I say this is because of a lack of enough moisture or humidity to create the electrical charge needed.
Dry cleaners. It does not exist in Greenland.
Business clothes for the office. There is no professional dress code here. People wear whatever they damn please, whatever they feel comfortable in. The amount of suits I have seen in Greenland could be counted on one hand, and, true story, the other week we were in a meeting with various government Ministers and most people had on jeans and casual wear. I like it, really. To me, it means that everyone is just a person.
Retractable measuring tapes. Another REALLY random one! But in our house, at least, we used the old-school wooden zig-zag foldable measuring things instead. I just had to Google it, and surprisingly enough, “zig-zag” worked perfectly! I’m cracking myself up. It’s called a folding rule, for anyone interested to know.
And that’s it, so far! Really strange sometimes to think about some things being so common in some places while totally off the chart and out of mind in other places.
Aerobridges. You know, the enclosed walkway you pass through between airport terminal and plane. Yeah, we don’t have those in Greenland, and thus why first-time winter visitors to Kangerlussuaq get a huge shock to the system (literally) when they step out of the plane directly into -25*C air! So refreshing.
Bookmarks. I just flew out of Berlin and was looking around in their airport shops and came across an entire display of bookmarks. Go figure! I’m sure there are bookmarks to be found in Greenland, but it’s not something I run across every day, and honestly I don’t think I’ve thought of these since I was a teenager and my grandmother always used to bring me gifts like little notebooks, makeup bags and… bookmarks.
Paid parking/Restricted parking. Most places in Greenland do not even have designated parking lots or lines between which one should park, (OK, there are outside Nuuk Center, but again, that is the only shopping mall in Greenland) let alone rules about how one should park, where one should park, which hours one may park or not park.