I get asked a lot about how easy or difficult it is to assimilate to the Greenlandic way of life as a foreigner / as an American, and my own personal answer is always that I have had the best possible experience with it. It was so effortless, in fact, that I do not even use the words “adjust” or “adapt” or “get used to” to describe the experience.
But when I look at statistics about how few foreigners there actually are in the country (10% are born outside Greenland / 2% are non-Danish citizens), I start to get perspective on the fact that maybe it is not always the easiest process – or else there would be many more foreigners in the country, right? Of course, there are many factors at play.
Here are some interesting facts about Greenland’s population according to birthplace and citizenship.
The population of Greenland is 55.992 (as of 1 January 2019), which represents an increase of less than 1% over last year. This very slight growth has been characteristic year-over-year for the last five years. (Source: BEEST4 / “Population in Localities January 1st” via Statistics Greenland).
BIRTHPLACE OF RESIDENTS
One of the ways residents’ status is tracked is via their place of birth, either in Greenland or outside of Greenland. This can be one decent indicator of who is an international in Greenland, though you should be aware that it is an over-representation, as it is not uncommon for Greenlanders to be born outside the country, in Denmark for example, for whatever reason. (Source: BEEST4 / “Population in Localities January 1st” via Statistics Greenland)
In the whole country, 90% of residents were born in Greenland while 10% were born outside of Greenland. Therefore, as a starting point, it can be said that 10% of Greenland’s population is international.
In a city like Nuuk, where there is a much higher proportion of internationals, only 80% of residents were born in Greenland while 20% were born outside of Greenland. (Nuuk population: 17.984 as of 1 January 2019).
And to compare/contrast, Qaqortoq follows the national trend with 91% of residents born in Greenland and 9% born outside of Greenland. (Qaqortoq population: 3.012 as of 1 January 2019).
And in small settlements along the coast like Aappilattoq in the South or Saattut in the North, they have much lower proportions of residents born outside Greenland (2% in Aappilattoq, population 103; 0,8% in Saattut, population 240, both as of 1 January 2019).
CITIZENSHIP OF RESIDENTS
Another way residents’ status is tracked is via their citizenship, and here individual countries can be isolated. However, as Greenland is politically part of Denmark, all Greenlanders are technically Danish citizens, so the figures for Danish Citizenship are sky high with no way to distinguish between Greenlanders and Danes. (Yes, Danes are considered internationals in Greenland). So with this variable we are also still left with a less-than-precise picture of internationals in Greenland, though we can know with certainty the extent of non-Danish internationals in Greenland. (Source: BEEST6 / “Population by Citizenship” and BEEST6NUK / “Population in Nuuk by Citizenship” via Statistics Greenland).
2% of the country’s population is a non-Danish international. TWO PERCENT! That equals 1112 individuals. 1112 persons that had to assimilate in one of the most fundamental yet difficult ways – language – which is one big difference between Danish internationals and non-Danish internationals.
As Danish is an official language in Greenland (the colonial language), and as many Greenlanders have Danish as their mother-tongue, Danish internationals actually have a very easy transition communication-wise when arriving in Greenland. In any case, it is one huge advantage that Danish internationals have over non-Danish internationals. (That being said, if there was no ‘security blanket’ of being able to speak Danish in Greenland, the Danish internationals would be in exactly the same boat as non-Danish internationals).
There are currently 44 nationalities represented in Greenland – Greenlandic, Danish, Philippino, Thai, Icelandic, Swedish, Chinese, Norwegian, American, German, Polish, Other American (ex: Mexico), Other Asian, French, Canadian, British, Spanish, Finnish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Other African, Dutch, Italian, Russian, Lithuanian, Oceanian, Irish, Portuguese, Slovakian, Croatian, Hungarian, Austrian, Swiss, Turkish, Other European, Moroccan, Iranian, Japanese, Pakistani, Vietnamese, Latvian, Belgian and Indian – in that order.
The largest non-Danish nationality represented in Greenland is The Philippines with 0,5% of the country’s population. Afterwards comes Thailand with 0,3% and Iceland with 0,2%. All other nations represent 0,1% or less. USA contributes with 0,08% of the country’s population, thanks to a whopping 46 individuals. Me included!
So now you are a little bit wiser about the population in Greenland!
All figures based off of data published by Statistics Greenland on their Statistics Bank.