A Snapshot of Internationals in Greenland (2015)

IMG_3390  Photo credit: The Fourth ContinentTaken 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.


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 – Nuuk, Sisimiut, and Ilulissat – 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!