6 Times the Greenlandic Language was Easier Than Others

kalaallisut language map

<< This is a post that I started some time ago and it suits perfectly for today, 21 February, International Mother Language Day. 

Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) is not my mother tongue, but I am learning it because it is the mother tongue of the country I call home and because it is the primary language of many friends and ‘in-law’ family members. As part of the International Mother Language Day celebratory events, Oqaasileriffik – The Language Secretariat of Greenland interviewed foreigners learning Kalaallisut and created posters out of their replies. See mine here ūüôā >>

Truth: Kalaallisut, the Greenlandic language, is said to be one of the hardest, most complex languages in existence due to its polysynthetic nature. It adds derivative after derivative after derivative – up to 12! – to a root (like a verb or noun) to modify meaning, and the letters change based on the last letter of the derivative preceding it, if they are not dropped, or ‘eaten’, altogether. Words look very long and repetitive with several double letters, but they are, in fact, whole sentences. Transitive verbs (with both a subject and an object, such as “I saw him”) have a different derivative ending for each possible relationship (I-you / I-him,her,it / we-you all), and they also change based on tense (present, past, conditional). And yes, their letters, too, change based on the last letter of the derivative preceding it. All in all, there are upwards of 200 different possibilities just to express the transitive relationship between subject and object!

Basically, you rarely see the exact same combination twice. Linguists say that is one of the reasons it is difficult to learn Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) by ear, because you only hear the same combinations 4% of the time whereas in languages like English or the Romance languages, you hear the same combinations something like 20-25% of the time.

And the pronunciation, well, despite all the letters look like the standard English alphabet (which is more than can be said for Danish with its √ł, √¶ and √•), they combine in ways that make four sounds very different from other languages (the -q- sound, the -ll- or -rl- sound, the -gg- sound and the -rr- sound). The Q is nearly a glottal stop, similar to that found in Hawaiian, for example, while the others are made with a special placement of the tongue. Many people say you have to spit a little to make the sounds properly ūüôā

BUT

Also truth: Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) can sometimes be very exact and to the point, without need for fluff and filler. And once you know the rules, you can do a lot! There are also a lot of abbreviations/shortening of words and exclamations, and it is these which get especially engrained in the brain.

For example, “Torrak!” is a way to express a high level of agreement, excitement, happiness, support or satisfaction with something – it’s basically the universal word of positivity. When I travel to other countries, I still have this word in front of all others in my brain, so if I don’t accidentally blurt out “Torrak”, I sort of stumble looking for the right word that expresses the same meaning. Should I just say, “Super!” or “Great!”? That just sounds funny to me now.

I present 6 times the Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) way of saying something (usually as slang) is easier than other languages (i.e. English or Danish, in this country’s case).

ALUUGOOQ“Say hello for me” or “Send my greetings”

SULI –¬†“Same status” / “nothing has changed”

SALL’ – “You’re joking right” / “you’re lying” / “you’ve got to be kidding me”

TUSAS –¬†“Talk to you later”

USORN¬†–¬†“I’m so jealous!”

QAAThree totally different meanings:¬†“Great suggestion, let’s do that!” OR “Come on, quit playing” / “Give me a break” OR “Come!” like a command to a child

For more information regarding Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) language-learning resources, see the “Language” section on my Tips for Tourists page.

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International Mother Language Day, 21 February

Oqaasileriffik – The Language Secretariat in Greenland did a number of things to celebrate International Mother Language Day, including a public event in Katuaq Culture House in Nuuk, where the Prime Minister spoke, and a series of portraits of foreigners who have learned, or are in the process of learning the mother language of Greenland – Kalaallisut (Greenlandic).

I was recommended to participate in this portrait series, and so I gave an interview, from which this poster was created. We were 6 in total, and our posters hung in Nuuk Center as well as in Katuaq. What an honour!

Read my full interview below (in English).

International Mother Language Day _ Poster _ Woodall

 

What were your first thoughts about Kalaallisut language?

It is amazing. In the start, of course I could not understand the words, but it was nice, like a song. Actually, that’s exactly how it was. Many times, a song’s lyrics can be felt in your soul, and that’s how it was for me with Greenlandic. As if it was somehow already in my heart. It was not until the learning phase that I realised how hard it is, but it did not matter. It must learn it no matter what.

 

What was your motivation to learn Kalaallisut?

I wanted to learn Greenlandic even before coming here. In all honesty, I did not know there were other options. My director at that time did say that a good deal of people could speak English, but my thought process was: I took it upon myself to come live in Greenland, so of course I should learn to speak the local language. I think I started going after it seriously the year after I arrived.  I have to say though, I will probably be in a learning phase forever. I hope at some point in the future I will be fluent.

 

What was the hardest in learning Kalaallisut?

It really requires a good memory, as there are so many suffixes and derivations. There must be at least 200 endings!

 

What was beneficial learning Kalaallisut?

Facebook really is one of the best resources. My friends are usually writing in both Greenlandic and Danish or English, so I can easily translate. In that way, I am able to learn new grammar and words. Thankfully my network supports me. They are patient, and they understand that I still talk slowly.

 

What is the most important thing in learning Kalaallisut language?

Remember that willpower is a gift. Learning any language is difficult, and from time to time the road may seem completely impassible. But it will come. Every single day there is something to be learned ‚Äď by shopping, reading, listening to music and talking with people. Imagine that so few people in the world speak Greenlandic, and yet we do. We should be proud.

The pink text is that which Oqaasileriffik – The Language Secretariat of Greenland selected as a quote to my poster.

Learn more about International Mother Language Day.

Find resources for learning Greenlandic in the “Language” section of my Tips for Tourists page.

Concepts I Forgot About, After Living in Greenland

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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 Рpitahaya 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 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 ūüôā

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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‚Äôs & Happy Meal collectibles / Monopoly sticker things.¬†Calling¬†anything at McDonald‚Äôs 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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā 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.

A Snapshot of Internationals in Greenland (2016)

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Last year I wrote about some statistics and figures related to the nationalities of Greenland’s residents, and I thought I would do it again with the most recent figures to see if there are any significant changes this year over last. (The short answer is: no).

As of 1 January 2016, 11% of Greenland’s population of 55847 people is foreign born, which equates to a whopping 6021 individuals¬†who hail from 51 different countries. This¬†is literally only just a few handfuls of people more than last year, so the proportion of foreign presence is staying quite stable.

Danes account for the vast, vast majority of internationals in the country (76%). Faroese account for 5%, and Icelanders and Thai, 3% each. Filipinos and Swedes account for 2% each, and all others are 1% or less per nationality, including people from Norway, Germany, USA (39 individuals, or 0.6%), Poland, Other Asia, Other America, Other Africa, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Great Britain, Romania, Canada, China, Oceania, Iran, Holland, Italy, Spain, Pakistan, Lithuania, Slovakia, Russia, Other Europe, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Austria, Lebanon, Belgium, Hungary, Turkey, Ethiopia, Iraq, Japan, Latvia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Ukraine, Morocco, India, and Syria. In that order!

The distribution of internationals around the country is also very stable this year in comparison to last year.

  • 62% of internationals live in Nuuk (3733 people, which is actually about 100 people more than last year)
  • 7% of internationals live in Sisimiut (414 people, which represents a slight decrease actually)
  • 6% of internationals live in Ilulissat (384 people, which is slightly more than last year)

And, it’s still true that no matter where you are in the country, you will always be in the minority compared to Greenland-born residents.

  • The 3733 internationals in Nuuk still account for only 22% of Nuuk’s¬†population.
  • The 414 internationals in Sisimiut account for 7% of Sisimiut’s population.
  • The 384 internationals in Ilulissat account for 8% of Ilulissat’s population.

Think you could hack it is an international in Greenland?

All figures based off of data published by Statistics Greenland on their Statistics Bank.

The best thing about life in Greenland

What is the best thing about life in Greenland?

In a picture, this:

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I bet you expected a picture of a breathtakingly beautiful fjord with a mirror-like sea and northern lights floating overhead, didn’t you? For that you can just take a scroll through the¬†@ilovegreenland¬†Instagram account. Ok, ok, here’s¬†a picturesque shot¬†to hold you over.

skaermbillede-2016-10-21-kl-18-39-00Photo by @danielkordan, regrammed by @ilovegreenland

While¬†it would be an incredible understatement to call¬†the inescapable natural beauty of Greenland just a ‘cherry on top’ of the experience, for me the best thing about life in Greenland is actually intangible and wholly impossible to¬†capture¬†through a lens.

The best thing about Greenland is that there is no societally-imposed glorification of busy. Instead there is a¬†prioritization of one’s own happiness¬†and never apologizing for that.¬†So if that means keeping busy because you want to, great. If that means keeping an open schedule, also great.

Through four and a half years I have collected a lot of stories and impressions, but one red thread holds solid no matter the person, season, town, or situation: personal¬†time is sacred. There is generally an 8-hour workday, and all other time is protected and reserved¬†for whatever¬†one wants to do.¬†This¬†manifests itself in so many different ways –¬†being in the nature sailing, or reindeer hunting, or spending the weekend¬†in a hut… preparing a delicious home-cooked meal¬†to enjoy with friends or family…¬†doing a hobby like¬†painting or knitting or working out… or doing nothing at all!

Let me back up a few steps…

What is the glorification of busy?

It is the view that always doing something is a good thing, whether that be work-related with tasks, projects, and business travel, or related to private life, with extracurricular activities, dinner parties, and other goings-on.

It is the putting of plans or work on a pedestal.

Where did this come from?

I believe first¬†world countries these days are to blame for this glorification trend. When places¬†get nicknames like “the city that never sleeps,” clearly being¬†uber busy, stretched thin, completely¬†over-worked, over-jetset, and always having a full social calendar has become the norm, and people¬†love it because ultimately it is a status symbol. It means one is important, trusted, sought after, powerful, connected, needed, wanted. It means success.

But is busy synonymous with successful?

Research on productivity ¬†in the workplace shows that no, being busy is not necessarily synonymous with success, at least not in USA.¬†USA is arguably the busiest country in the world, but with converse¬†productivity levels. It is¬†the No Vacation Nation,¬†as¬†Americans are¬†proven to¬†take hardly any holiday time, to¬†answer mails while ‚Äôrelaxing‚Äô on a white sand beach, or to simply¬†not be granted paid holiday at all. I think we all can relate to the feeling that nothing gets done well when one has too many balls in the air at the same time. Have you heard of¬†the phrase¬†“work hard, play hard”? It’s a phrase¬†that came into my vocabulary¬†on Day 2 of undergraduate at the University of Virginia and pretty much¬†never left.

What’s wrong with being un-busy?

What I wonder more and more is why people feel guilty about not answering an email after work hours, why someone feels bad to turn down an invitation for weekend plans because they want to do something else instead, why someone apologizes for doing what makes them happy.

I hypothesize that the glorification of busy also equally comes out of a fear of appearing lazy, uncool, unwanted, forgotten, solitary, and unsuccessful Рespecially on a personal level. A stigma associated with not being busy perhaps starts all the way back in grade school, a period when fitting in and being accepted are of the utmost importance, and carries through to adult life.

Professional versus personal success

I also hypothesize that the societies that glorify being busy are the same societies that primarily define success via professional indicators Рjob title, number of subordinates, sky miles, and income, to name a few, which then lead to a domino effect of commodity-based indicators of success like house size, car ownership and style, clothing, and so on ad nauseam.

In contrast, there are societies that define success in other ways, namely via personal indicators Рquality of relationships, good mental and physical health, access to nature, becoming a parent, and the big one, happiness.

Greenland absolutely falls into this category. I’ve actually heard it said many times that Greenlanders just aren’t driven by earning money the way other cultures are, so one must incentivize through other means. I don’t totally agree with that, but certainly¬†Greenlanders know that money doesn’t buy happiness and have harnessed the ability to seek pleasure outside the workplace.

My place on the busy-not busy scale

To be painfully honest with myself, I am on the busy side. When I zoom in a few levels and look at my day-to-day, I always have something whether it’s training, a brunch date, or a kaffemik. The week starts more or less open, but a free Saturday never stays so for very long.

Take this past weekend, for example. I’ve been out traveling for work for 6 weeks, and what do I do when I finally land in Nuuk? I drop my suitcases at the foyer¬†and run back out to my friends’ house for the evening. Actually, it’s the family with whom I lived whenever¬†I was in Nuuk for the past three years – my original host family, my family. And then on Sunday, I was on the go with training, brunch, an Art Walk around the city, grocery shopping, socializing with a friend, and picking up some new things I bought.

That being said, I don’t believe I necessarily¬†glorify being busy because I also really love – and need – time to myself. While I suppose I can sustain extended periods of busy, I can also ‘crash’ really hard into periods of doing nothing. Believe it or not, I am¬†an introvert, or so the Meyers-Briggs test has said several times since I was 15.

Hedonist, YOLO-head, dream-chaser

Busy bee or not, I have definitely internalized the Greenlandic mentality of prioritizing one’s own happiness.

As a highly independent individual¬†from the start, going for what I wanted was never a weak spot, but I was always told I was a bit of a black sheep for it – the only one with such a strong will. Now imagine this personality¬†being immersed in a culture that cultivates exactly this type of personal independence nearly to a fault and screams, “Do what’s best for you!” You can’t help but get an added jolt of chutzpah.

My decision¬†to move to Greenland was the ultimate display of this. The reality is that I left all and everything and everyone in USA because I wanted to do what made me happy. I jumped off a cliff. I put myself first, and I¬†don’t apologize for it.

Hedonist, YOLO (you only live once), and dream-chaser were the¬†nicer insults some people gave me regarding my decision, but I also went up against “selfish”, ¬†bat-shit crazy”, “abandoner”, and “mentally ill”. They said, sure, they might¬†also like to jump up and move to Spain but obviously that was never going to happen because it wasn’t realistic. They said they didn’t agree with my decision and didn’t think I should go. And so on.

You know what criticisms people in Greenland gave me? None. I was met instead with congratulations from all and words of encouragement. Nobody I know from Greenland has ever made me feel bad about my decision, and that speaks volumes.

8 ways to have a cosy time in Greenland

Greenlanders love to cultivate cosiness – whether that’s by completely enjoying your own company by curling up with the cat, a heavy blanket, and a good book… by feng-shuiing your living room on a Saturday morning… or by inviting friends over for a dinner party.¬†

I think every culture can recognise the concept of a true comfort activity. Think about gathering to watch American football games on Saturday afternoons in USA with chips, dips and beer. Think about shinrin-yoku / forest bathing in Japan to destress and reconnect with nature. Think about knitting in the Faroe Islands.

Here’s how I ‘do cosy’ in Greenland!

1. Go to Kaffemik (or host your own) –¬†Kaffemik is a get-together of one’s family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to celebrate exciting life events like a new baby, a baby’s christening, a child’s first day of school, birthdays, confirmations, weddings, a new house, etc. As host, you spend days baking and cooking in advance¬†to fill your table with¬†oodles of cakes, biscuits, coffee, tea, and all sorts of good things on the big day. The entire day is exciting and joyful with a constant flow of people coming and going. As guest, you bring a small gift for the honorary person.¬†People often make Facebook groups to spread the news about kaffemik, but word of mouth is also just as effective, especially in the small settlements.

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2. Make arts & crafts¬†–¬†Of course, stretching your artistic legs requires that you have artistic legs to begin with, but for me, I have always loved putting energy toward drawing and painting and making beautiful things. The hours just fly by! Here¬†is a card I made one evening¬†for my friend out of plain old sequins, card stock, needle & thread, and a little¬†inspiration from the Greenlandic women’s¬†national costume, plus a few¬†beaded necklaces I’ve made which also pay homage to the colourful patterned nuilarmiut, or pearl collar from the costume.

 

3. Make sealskin crafts –¬†There’s no shortage of sealskin in Greenland, and using it is not only fashionable but functional. I love to make things for others, and what a luxurious gift sealskin is! I once made a vibrant red sealskin belt¬†for my friend to wear at her wedding, and I’ve even made cell phone pouches out of the same. When the temperatures are very cold, sealskin works as a perfect insulator to keep your phone warm – and on! ‘Sewing clubs’ are a common thing in Greenland, but I’ll admit that all the ones I have experienced end up being much more about socialising than sewing – not necessarily a bad thing. Read here about my creations.

 

4. Relax with¬†cosy candles and hot teaSelf-hygge is not always my strongest point.¬†I admit,¬†it can be a challenge for me to¬†make myself stay in because I’m constantly wanting to be active, socialise, and take advantage of the fun events that happen in Nuuk. But when¬†I do finally take¬†that evening to relax with candlelight and a big pot of tea on a cold night, it feels oh so good!

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5. Bake delicious treats¬†– Even if there’s no kaffemik on the immediate horizon, practice makes perfect, right? I don’t think there ever needs to be a ‘good reason’ to make something tasty!!

 

6. Make homemade soap –¬†Okay, this one isn’t my own hobby, and I don’t think it’s that common anyway,¬†but I have assisted my friend with¬†soap-making twice¬†now. It’s pretty fun! We tried a simple and gentle baby soap recipe with light lavender and bergamot scents. There’s something satisfying about seeing your hard work (1.5 hours of stirring with an electric mixer definitely counts as¬†hard work!) come to something useful in a few weeks’ time. PS – the goggles and gloves are just a safety precaution when preparing the first step. The rest of the¬†process is more fun and less¬†mad-scientist! Photo credit: The Fourth Continent.

 

7. Eat meals together with others¬†–¬†Food is a universal language, and people bond¬†when sitting to a shared table, no matter what. Whether it’s Friday morning breakfast at the office (a common thing in Greenland) or a burger night with friends or a little bit fancy dinner,¬†meals are typically a super cosy time with tables full of delicious food, good conversation, and laughter.

 

8. Sunbathe on the terrace –¬†Nearly every single town and village in Greenland is built on the coastline, so that means¬†nearly every flat and house has some sort of fjord- or ocean-view and a terrace to take it in. Summers in Greenland can get quite warm, so shorts and t-shirts suit perfect for outdoor time. But¬†when the view is that perfect, sometimes you also¬†need a terrace day in the middle of winter. Here’s The Fourth Continent and I on her terrace out in Qinngorput on 14 February this year. With a thermos of good tea and some snacks, we stayed out¬†there and chit-chatted for almost two hours!

Luckily for us, it does eventually get warm enough to sit outside¬†without the winter jacket ūüôā

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Follow @Polarphile on Instagram!

Follow me on Instagram at @Polarphile to see what my daily life in Nuuk, Greenland looks like!

Here’s a few snapshots from the last week:

COMING SOON: ‘Inussuk: Culture Crossing’, a New Book About Living in Greenland (English)

inussuk photo  Photo credit: Inussuk.info 

Read my quick review of the upcoming¬†book Inussuk: Culture Crossing by Lena Lauridsen, my evaluation of Danes as the ‘quintessential’ foreigner in Greenland, and a presentation of statistics that show the picture of internationals in Greenland today.

A SNAP REVIEW

Inussuk: Culture Crossing by Lena Lauridsen is a new book in English for non-Danish internationals that are seriously considering or planning on moving to Greenland to live and work. It should be hitting the proverbial bookshelves in December 2015!

(Note: I specify ‚ÄėNon-Danish‚Äô here as there is also a Danish language version of the book specifically for a Danish audience, called Inussuk: Pejling mod Gr√łnland. See further below for a discussion of Danes in Greenland.)

I can warmly recommend Inussuk: Culture Crossing. The book covers every topic imaginable from the big picture elements like workplace atmosphere in Greenland and how to manage feeling different to some more technical issues like what paperwork and permits you need to file and how to stockpile hot commodities in winter. The book also poses questions throughout asking you to evaluate the information you have just read and to think honestly with yourself whether this is a lifestyle you can handle.

The primary reason I stand behind this book is because it aims to set internationals up for success in Greenland, and by success I mean: positive experiences, noticeable cultural integration, and perhaps most importantly, cultivation of the desire to stay in Greenland for an extended period of time, and perhaps forever. The more prepared you are for the realities of living and working in Greenland, the more socially and economically beneficial your presence in Greenland will be.

A shameless plug goes out to The Fourth Continent and myself, who contributed to the chapters on culture shock and language, respectively.

WHY SO MUCH DANISH?

Historically, Danes were the only nationality emigrating to Greenland, and the present concentration of Danish internationals in Greenland is due to the political and economic relationship that ties Greenland to Denmark.

Young Danes looking for a new experience yet still wanting the comforts of the same language and currency find Greenland to be a land of adventure, a veritable playground for their gap year. Others are driven by the professional prospect to be a big fish in a little pond, as Danes are typically paid more than Greenlanders and can often walk directly into managerial positions. Some are merely along for the ride while their international significant others chase dreams in the great north. And still others fall in love with Greenlanders, typically while they are studying down in Denmark, and return to their homeland together with them.

With the political ties and the linguistic and economic similarities facilitating the moving process, it should be a piece of cake for Danes to move to Greenland, right? Wrong!

Speaking Danish and holding a Danish passport is not at all a golden ticket to making it in Greenland. The truth of the matter is: while the politics, linguistics, and economics make the process of moving to Greenland easy for Danes on paper, they are just as likely as anyone to misunderstand the culture and to have unrealistic expectations. Therefore, having a good base knowledge of the culture and customs of daily life are what make the move successful in practice.

A successful transition, or ‚Äėmaking it,‚Äô is necessary if someone should have half a chance of staying in Greenland for a long period of time ‚Äď which is, of course, the most sustainable labor model for Greenland as a country.

And hence why Lauridsen originally wrote this book. As a Danish international in Greenland herself, I can only imagine this book came out of a need for information that Lauridsen herself missed when moving to Greenland with her own family just a few years ago.

WHAT’S CHANGING?

The demographics of internationals in Greenland are changing and can be seen in the larger places like Nuuk (the capital), Sisimiut, and Ilulissat. Here you find small contingencies of Thai, Americans, Germans, Icelanders, Australians, Faroese, French, Brits, and even a New Zealander or two, plus other nationalities that I know I’m missing.

I am personally very glad that Lauridsen saw the trend that Danes are not the only ones moving to Greenland anymore and thus that there is a demand for an English version of this book. Perhaps it is part of a much larger sociopolitical trend that points toward a diversification from all things Danish in terms of immigration, importation, foreign investment, politics, language, and so on.

SHOW ME THE NUMBERS

Statistics Greenland tells us that, on 1 January 2015, 11% of Greenland’s population is foreign-born, which amounts to a whopping 6009 people who have decided to make Greenland their new home.

There are some places in Greenland that attract internationals more than others, but whether this pattern is driven by the employers or the internationals themselves cannot be determined here, although, naturally, it is directly related to the availability of employment and level of industry and infrastructure. The top three most populated towns in Greenland ‚Äď Nuuk, Sisimiut, and Ilulissat ‚Äď get nearly three-quarters of all the internationals.

  • 61% of internationals (3636 people) live in Nuuk.
  • 7% of internationals (433 people) live in Sisimiut.
  • 6% of internationals (370 people) live in Ilulissat.

But that’s not to say that internationals don’t branch out further. Out of 87 inhabited places in Greenland, 62 of them have at least 1 international living there, although the small settlements have, quite literally, just the one.

Despite being surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of fellow internationals and even having a strong network like the Internationals in Nuuk group, it does not mean you will be in the majority. No matter where you are in Greenland, as an international you will be in the minority.

  • In Nuuk, the 3636 internationals still account for only 21% of the city population.
  • In Sisimiut, the 433 internationals account for 8% of the town population.
  • In Ilulissat, the 370 internationals account for 8% of the town population.

If living somewhere with a high international-to-Greenland-born ratio is of great importance then, aside from Nuuk, you would fare better in Kangerlussuaq (21% international) or Narsarsuaq (17% international) than in Sisimiut or Ilulissat. However, the tradeoff is that Kangerlussuaq and Narsarsuaq are both small settlements with populations of 510 and 145, respectively, and with an infrastructure centered entirely on operating an international airport and the tourism it facilitates.

LET’S CHAT

Are you seriously considering or planning to move to Greenland? Are you already an international in Greenland? If so, leave a reply below or write to me at sarah@greenland.com. I’d love to hear from you!

A Snapshot of Internationals in Greenland (2015)

IMG_3390  Photo credit: The Fourth Continent. Taken at Hotel Hans Egede in Nuuk, Greenland at an Internationals in Nuuk gathering in October, when Fernando Ugarte, an international from Mexico working at Pinngortitaleriffik (the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources), spoke.

SHOW ME THE NUMBERS

Statistics Greenland tells us that, on 1 January 2015, 11% of Greenland’s population is foreign-born, which amounts to a whopping 6009 people who have decided to make Greenland their new home.

There are some places in Greenland that attract internationals more than others, but whether this pattern is driven by the employers or the internationals themselves cannot be determined here, although, naturally, it is directly related to the availability of employment and level of industry and infrastructure. The top three most populated towns in Greenland ‚Äď Nuuk, Sisimiut, and Ilulissat ‚Äď get nearly three-quarters of all the internationals.

  • 61% of internationals (3636 people) live in Nuuk.
  • 7% of internationals (433 people) live in Sisimiut.
  • 6% of internationals (370 people) live in Ilulissat.

But that’s not to say that internationals don’t branch out further. Out of 87 inhabited places in Greenland, 62 of them have at least 1 international living there, although the small settlements have, quite literally, just the one.

Despite being surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of fellow internationals, it does not mean you will be in the majority. No matter where you are in Greenland, as an international you will be in the minority.

  • In Nuuk, the 3636 internationals still account for only 21% of the city population.
  • In Sisimiut, the 433 internationals account for 8% of the town population.
  • In Ilulissat, the 370 internationals account for 8% of the town population.

If living somewhere with a high international-to-Greenland-born ratio is of greatest importance to you, then, aside from Nuuk, you would fare better in Kangerlussuaq (21% international) or Narsarsuaq (17% international) than in Sisimiut or Ilulissat. However, the tradeoff is that Kangerlussuaq and Narsarsuaq are both small settlements with populations of 510 and 145, respectively, and with an infrastructure centered entirely on operating an international airport and the tourism it facilitates.

Are you soon going to be an international in Greenland? There’s a book for you!

WATCH TONIGHT! House Hunters International – Greenland

After a few years in the pipeline, this day has finally come!

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TONIGHT (Monday 12 May) РWatch House Hunters International Greenland on HGTV at 10:30 PM (USA Eastern Time). On international television, virtually meet my friend over at The Fourth Continent and her husband, and get a lovely introduction to the vibrant city (and not to mention the killer real estate) of Nuuk, Greenland!

Did you ever ask yourself, What is it like living in Greenland? or What is everyday life in Greenland like? Tune in to House Hunters International Greenland tonight to get the 30 minute tour of Nuuk, one of the northernmost capitals in the world!

~

House Hunters International is a reality television show that follows¬†expats around the world as they move from one country to another. The real estate bit is, of course, central to House Hunters International, but the show is¬†also a great showcase of the expat couple’s personality and the culture of their new home.