Concepts I Forgot About, After Living in Greenland

img_e8763

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.

Hotel carts. 

Cutting grassThis 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 🙂

IMG_9195

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.

29571444_10156270359973436_1909324448234321543_n 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.

Cultural perspective: Violence is a cultural norm in USA

skaermbillede-2016-11-05-kl-19-54-29 Screenshot from a True Activist online article

There’s a whole line of sociology about getting perspective on the good and bad parts of your own culture only after you have traveled elsewhere and seen a different way to approach something.

After spending the better part of the last four years outside USA, a huge takeaway for me is that violence is a deeply-engrained part of American culture, so much that it’s a part of 18 everyday phrases (see the examples below). But I’ve also learned that it’s not necessary; everywhere in the world is not this way. There is another way to live!

Violence in the media

I stopped watching the news in USA long ago because the entire broadcast comprised stories about violence – murders, school shootings, fires, fights – and finished with a sweet little 2 minute spot with a feel-good story. Not just here and there, but every single night. I was over it – completely sick and tired of having such negativity in my life by way of the television.

Violence is not necessary

Hey newsflash, America! You know what’s NOT happening on a daily basis everywhere in the world? Pointless deaths due to gun violence, gun accidents, gun miseducation, inadequate screening for weapon ownership, or whatever you want to call it. People don’t come out of the womb wanting to kill people. People aren’t born as racists. They learn it from the society they live in, and then it is fostered and supported by their society’s laws and policies.

Thankful to get out

I’m so glad I now live in a place where people literally gasp in horror when they hear stories about the depravity in USA, because it is so far from what they know about respect for life and the treatment of other human beings. 

Violence engrained in American English language

I thought I was far enough away that I didn’t really have to think about violent USA anymore, but it actually started coming back in my thoughts through language, of all things. 

When you live abroad and use a foreign language or two as your daily communication, you often find yourself searching through the Rolodex of words flying around in your head in multiple languages. Often times what comes up are sayings – phrases that actually have no (or hard-to-see) relevance when directly translated. Lately I’ve realised that WAY too many times I’m pulling forward sayings that use death and violence nonchalantly, and frankly it is embarrassing! I’m ashamed that such phrases are in my top-of-mind vocabulary.

What kind of society is USA if daily language talks about death or killing? No wonder there’s so much violence and depravity in that country – it’s completely the norm! It’s so normal it’s mainstream. 

Here are 19 American English slang sayings that normalize death, killing, and violence in general. Do you use any of these? Have you ever thought twice about what you’re actually saying?

  1. “Killer” to mean either really cool or really hard
  2. “To die for” to indicate that something is highly desired or high quality
  3.  “Start with a bang” to say something had an impressive beginning
  4. “Kill me now / Shoot me now” to express boredom or displeasure
  5.  “I wanted to die” to express boredom, displeasure, or embarrassment
  6.  “[My legs are] dead” to say you’re exhausted and totally out of energy
  7. “My parents are going to kill me” to mean you’re anticipating being in big trouble
  8. “Like I need a hole in the head” to indicate something is unnecessary or undesired
  9.  “Making a killing on” to say you earned a lot of money from something
  10.  “I would kill for” to express an extreme longing/wishing feeling for something
  11. “Don’t shoot the messenger” to ask to be excused from fault
  12.  “I’m dying” to say something is hilarious
  13. “On my deathbed” to exaggerate a feeling of illness.
  14. “Kill time” to say how to spend a certain amount of minutes or hours until something else happens.
  15. “Trigger happy” to say someone makes quick decisions or simply does things on a whim without thinking them through.
  16. “There was a gun to my head” to express being coerced into something against one’s will.
  17. “Shooting himself in the foot” to mean someone does something that is not in his best interest and ruins things for himself.
  18. “Could die a happy woman/man now” to mean something was so perfect and wonderful that they don’t need anything more in life.
  19. “Backfired”, usually with reference to a plan, to say something went completely in the opposite direction it was supposed to.