Here you will find a lot of useful information about clothing, Internet/communications, transportation, language, food pricing, etc. in Greenland. It is a continual work in progress, and you are quite welcome to leave a message at this blog post with any questions or comments about these topics and others.
I try to consider both tourists and people moving/staying for a while, but much of the information is applicable for everyone.
CLOTHES IN GREENLAND
NEW! Read my What to Pack article on visitgreenland.com.
* Bring items that are durable and have plenty of life left in them. Don’t come to Greenland with clothing that may not make it for the duration of your trip, i.e. jeans, snow pants, shoes or boots, etc. It’s not that replacing the items is hard, just that it is quite expensive to do so! While it may not be your thing to buy new items before a trip if you already have them, you would be wise to do it anyway if you have any doubt about their lifespan!
* Bring windproof and rainproof outerwear. Definitely bring a good jacket and a pair of pants that are wind- and rain-proof, and insulated if it’s the winter season. They will come in handy both on the water for boat trips but also (and maybe more so) on land. The rain itself is not anything out of the ordinary, but rain (or snow) plus wind makes for the potential to have very wet and uncomfortable clothing!
* Bring sturdy, supportive, and resilient footwear. Most people wear hiking boots or heavy-duty sneakers around town in summer or snow boots with good traction in winter, and if you are going sailing or plan to be in wet areas, waterproof boots (wellies?) are best. If you are buying new shoes prior to your trip, I would highly recommend spending the extra money for a nice pair rather than skimping for something cheap. The worst-case scenario is that you must purchase new shoes in Greenland. As I mentioned before, it will probably be no problem to replace them, but it will be expensive.
For winter time suggestions, see this great post about 7 Winter boots that will keep your feet warm by my friend and former colleague over at The Fourth Continent!
* Bring many socks! For one thing, it’s just good to have extras, especially if you will be doing hiking or other outdoor activities. Nothing is worse than sitting in damp socks! For another thing, if you will be staying in or visiting a private home (for example, for Kaffemik or to visit a friend), the custom is to take your shoes off at the door and go around in your socks.
Funny story: I made the silly mistake once of wearing shoes without socks to Kaffemik. When I got to the door and saw all the other guests’ shoes lined up outside, I suddenly realized that I didn’t have socks on! So I ran home real quick to get socks! Fortunately I lived just across the street.
* Bring clothing / accessories for many weathers. Layers are your best friend. The climate in Greenland is a bit tricky because there is very low humidity. What the forecast says and what the air temperature feels like can be two very different things. With no wind, it usually feels much warmer than it is. But if the wind picks up (and it probably will), it quickly starts to feel cold.
Basically, be prepared for many temperatures, many weathers, etc. Use multiple thin layers rather than a few thick layers to regulate your body temperature easily. Keep breathable, non-cotton materials close to your body; layer heavier knit/woven materials on top; always have windproof and waterproof outer layers available. And always have a pair of gloves and a hat available, even in summer.
* Check the weather. Make it a habit to check the weather daily, paying attention to temperature, wind, and precipitation. For one of the most comprehensive weather forecasts for towns and villages in Greenland, see Denmark’s Meteorological Institute – Town Weather. Don’t know Danish? Then read my quick lesson to decode the website.
COMMUNICATIONS / INTERNET IN GREENLAND
* Make an Internet game plan. You must pay for Internet in most places in Greenland, although hotels are finally jumping on the bandwagon and providing free Internet (like Hotel Hans Egede in Nuuk, Hotel Qaqortoq in Qaqortoq and Hotel Arctic in Ilulissat). Make sure to ask yours about their Internet policy if this is a deciding factor for you.
When you do have to pay for Internet, you have to pay a lot, so you should decide before your trip whether you need/want to use the Internet or not. You can purchase Internet via wi-fi hotspots or, if you have a smartphone, you could use its data capabilities. (See next bullet.)
Cafés, hotels, airports, etc. use wi-fi hotspot systems in which you purchase a set amount of time (30 minutes, 1 hour, 3 hour, 24 hour) and you receive a unique log-in code and password to use. MOST times you are able to meter the time by logging in and out – for example, use 5 minutes here, 20 minutes there, etc. But I have found a few places in Greenland that do not allow metering. Read the ticket stub – it always says there.
The best rate for Internet I ever encountered was 3 hours of Internet (metering allowed) for 120 DKK (22 USD).
* Know your phone’s international capabilities before you leave home. Is it unlocked for use with a local SIM card? What are the international fees for calling, texting, and data usage? Does it make sense for you to buy a cheap phone for Greenland specifically?
For someone staying in Greenland for a short period, it might make the most sense to use your smartphone (if you have one) and purchase an international data plan via your home carrier. For reference, my old international plan via Verizon Wireless was 30 USD for 100 MB of data, plus calling and texting. Every additional 100 MB of data was 25 USD, and it charged automatically.
For someone staying in Greenland for a long period, it might make sense to get a phone with a Greenlandic number, but be aware that probably only the larger towns will have places to buy such a setup (Nuuk, Sisimiut, Ilulissat, Tasiilaq and Qaqortoq are my best guesses). A cheap one can be 490 DKK (84 USD) for the phone and 400 DKK (68 USD) for the SIM card, which comes pre-loaded with a call/text allowance called Tusas. It’s like a debit system for outgoing calls/texts, and incoming calls/texts are free.
General pricing for outgoing calls/texts (2014):
- Outgoing Local daytime call price (per minute, 7:00-18:00) 1.75 dkk = 0.30 USD
- Outgoing Local evening call price (per minute, 18:00-07:00) 1.23 dkk = 0.20 USD
- Outgoing Call tax (one time, per call) 0.15 dkk = 0.02 USD
- Outgoing SMS price (per 160 character message) 0.33 dkk = 0.06 USD
So, the original SIM card purchase comes with approximately 114 minutes of outgoing calls or 567 outgoing SMS’s.
GROUND TRANSPORTATION IN GREENLAND
It is very easy to use the bus system in Greenland, where there are buses. There are buses in Nuuk, Sisimiut, Qaqortoq and Kangerlussuaq. Nuup Bussii (Nuuk’s bus system) is of course the largest. Keep in mind that you won’t always be looking for a big bus. Several of the buses are small minivans.
In towns and settlements without bus systems, you must either walk or use Taxi transportation. But remember that we are talking about the Greenlandic scale, so some towns can easily be walked from one end to the other in 15-20 minutes, and some settlements, 5 minutes max.
A single ride costs 16 DKK (2.50 USD), and you pay with cash/coins on the bus. Keep your ticket stub because it is valid for unlimited rides for a certain period, approx 1.5 hours. It is easiest to pay with exact change, and I’m quite certain the bus driver will not accept a bill larger than 500 DKK.
In Nuuk, there are many routes that reach all parts of town, including city center, Nuussuaq neighborhood, the airport, and Qinngorput neighborhood (the new development approximately 5 km/3 mi outside city center). In general, buses run from 6 in the morning until midnight, and they reach any given stop twice an hour. Always consult the Schedule/Route Map for your specific needs. It is available online, and it is posted at every bus stop.
(There is also a bus system in Sisimiut and in Ilulissat.)
For someone staying in Greenland for a long period, there is the option of purchasing an 11-ride per month card or an unlimited ride per month card. It can only be purchased at the Nuup Bussii headquarters. It makes financial sense to get a card if you anticipate using the bus a lot because there is a slight price break and it is, of course, easier than finding change every time.
For transportation to Greenland, see How to Get to Greenland.
LANGUAGE IN GREENLAND
* Greenland is a multi-lingual country. Greenlandic (called Kalaallisut) is the official mother tongue, Danish is the official second language, and English is a third language that children begin learning in elementary school.
* Language can be a tricky topic. Without going into many details about history and politics, language in Greenland is not clear-cut. There are Greenlanders who are fluent in Greenlandic, Danish, and English. There are others who only know Greenlandic & Danish or Danish & English, and there are others who know only Greenlandic or only Danish, or only English in the case of foreigners living in the country.
* From my personal experience, there are three very general trends regarding language proficiency.
- The larger the town, the more likely people are to be bilingual (Greenlandic & Danish or Danish & English) or trilingual (Greenlandic, Danish & English).
- The people that have consistent contact with tourists are more likely to be trilingual. This is a broad range of people from guides to restaurant bartenders/servers to airline staff, and so on.
- Many people are even proficient in a fourth language. Due to the closeness of the Danish language to other Scandinavian languages, this is typically Swedish and Norwegian. German is another common one!
* Signs are most commonly posted in Greenlandic and Danish. As a very general rule: signs are posted in Greenlandic and Danish always and in English sometimes. See my extensive photo gallery of signs around many towns in Greenland (old) for a good idea.
* There are Greenlandic language learning resources available. Here I will give general tips regarding language according to your mother tongue and your motivation to pick up a foreign language. Further below, I will provide a list of the Greenlandic language learning resources that I personally use, along with links. Others may exist.
The vast majority of Greenlandic language learning resources are produced in Danish.
- For Danish speakers, there is a Greenlandic-Danish dictionary (available online and in smartphone app form) that you can use. There is also a DVD set, interactive website, and a workbook available. See below for links to all of these resources.
- For non-Danish speakers. As a very general rule: signs are posted in Greenlandic and Danish always and in English sometimes. (See my extensive photo gallery of signs around many towns in Greenland for a good idea.) But don’t worry – spoken English is more common than written English. If foreign language is not your thing, my honest suggestion for reading signs, etc. that are not available in English is to have a translator tool on hand (for example, Google Translate). It will be easiest for you to do Danish-English or Danish-Your Language because the Danish language separates noun and verb words. In Greenlandic, it can be hard to pick out the nouns and verbs because it is a polysynthetic language and looks different from anything you have probably seen before. But if you want to pick up Greenlandic for fun, there is a Greenlandic-English DVD set available as well as a Greenland-English interactive website. See below for links to both of these resources. Or you can use a Greenlandic-Danish dictionary (online or smartphone app) or workbook. You will have to use a translator tool to supplement both of these. See below for links to these resources.
List of Greenlandic language learning resources:
- Greenlandic-English dictionaries, tools, etc. online at the Oqaasileriffik (Greenland Language Secretariat) website.
- Greenlandic-English or Greenlandic-Danish DVD called “Learn Greenlandic with Per Langgård“. Produced by Oqaasileriffik. Available online, and I have also seen it in Atuagkat bookstore in Nuuk.
- Greenlandic-English or Greenlandic-Danish Interactive Website called Memrise. English site here. Danish site here.
- Greenlandic-Danish dictionary, called “Ordbogit”. Produced by Oqaasileriffik (Greenland Language Secretariat). Available online.
- Greenlandic-Danish workbook called “Qanoq: Opgave- og Grammatikbog” by Helene Brochmann. I have seen it in the bookstore in Sisimiut and in Atuagkat bookstore in Nuuk.
- Language Center in Sisimiut, called Oqaatsinik Pikkorissarfik. Provides intensive classroom courses in Greenlandic.
FOOD IN GREENLAND
For dining out in cafes or restaurants, see my post with photos of food menus and signs around many towns in Greenland (old). There are no restaurant chains, only individual restaurants in each town. As a general rule of thumb, the larger towns have the most options and variety, and one can find cuisine ranging from traditional Greenlandic specialties to cafeteria food like burgers and fries to gourmet restaurants.
For groceries, there are two supermarket chains in Greenland, called Pisiffik and Brugseni, that exist in the larger towns on the west coast between Ilulissat and Nanortalik (See below for their websites). There is also a smaller food store chain, called Pilersuisoq, that is more common in the smaller towns and settlements. Buying fresh meat and fish is also possible at local markets, for example Kalaaliaraq in Nuuk and Qimatulivik in Sisimiut. Finally, in Nuuk specifically there is a local food store chain, called Kamik, that often carries international food items. There are also specialty foods at Matas in Nuuk Center or at privately-owned shops like Nerisarfik near the tunnel.
For information about what is available RIGHT NOW at the supermarket in Nuuk or elsewhere in Greenland, you can see Weekly Specials flyers online. The websites are in Greenlandic and Danish, but if you put an auto-translator onto your web browser, it should work pretty well for the Danish. And of course, you will have to convert DKK to your own currency 🙂
- Pisiffik – scroll down to “Ugens Tilbudsaviser” (This Week’s Discount Flyer).
- Brugseni – scroll down to “Ugens Tilbud” (Weekly Discounts Flyer) and choose the desired town
Below is a very random list of various foods prices at the supermarket or fresh market. Prices are converted DKK to USD. Please note: the exchange rate will, of course, change constantly, but these prices can give a general idea of the cost of groceries in Greenland.
* Prices for Greenlandic products (ex: reindeer, muskox, ptarmigan, sea mammals, fish, etc.) are set by the individual municipalities. The prices of Greenlandic products in the Meat section below represent Qeqqata Kommunia, the Arctic Circle Region municipality.
Steak 176 dkk/kg = $14.72/lb
Chicken breast 88 dkk/kg = $7.36/lb
Pork chops 90 dkk/kg = $7.53/lb
Fresh Reindeer 90 dkk/kg = $7.53/lb
Dried Reindeer 400 dkk/kg = $33.46/lb
Fresh Muskox 90 dkk/kg = $7.53/lb
Dried Muskox 400 dkk/kg = $33.46/lb
Snow hare 150 dkk each = $27.61 each
Ptarmigan 65 dkk each = $12 each
Fresh fish (cod, redfish, trout, salmon, capelin, halibut) 45-60 dkk/kg = $3.74-$5.02/lb
Smoked fish (trout, salmon, halibut) 180 dkk/kg = $15.06/lb
Lumpfish roe (Stenbider rogn) 60 dkk/kg = $5.02/lb
Fresh Whale meat (various species) 45-55 dkk/kg = $3.76-$4.60/lb
Whale mattak (various species) 100-250 dkk/kg = $8.37-$20.91/lb
Seal, various species (meat & organs) 45-60 dkk/kg = $3.76-$5.02/lb
Rugbrød 28 dkk for a loaf = $4.75 for a loaf
Wild Rice 35 dkk for 1000 g = $6.44 for 35 oz
Whole grain cereal 45 dkk for 375 g = $8 for 13 oz
Müsli 28 dkk for 1000 g = $5.15 for 35 oz
Fusili pasta 11 dkk for 500 g = $2 for 18 oz
Pasta sauce 17 dkk for 480 g jar = $3.12 for 17 oz jar
Wasa crackers (Delikatess, Frukost) 22 dkk for 285 g = $4 for 10 oz
Raisins 20 dkk for 300 g = $3.68 for 10.5 oz
Canned beans 17 dkk for 250 g = $3.13 for 9 oz
Marmelade 15 dkk for 400 g = $2.75 for 14 oz
Specialty Pesto sauce 14 dkk for 130 g = $2.58 for 4.5 oz
Pickwick tea bags 22 dkk for a box of 20 = $4 for a box
Yogurt 21 dkk for 1000 g = $3.87 for 35 oz.
Specialty yogurt (Icelandic Skyr) 30 dkk for 500 g = $5.52 for 17.6 oz
Sliced cheese 29 dkk = $4.91 for a pack
Large wedge Parmigiano Reggiano 50 dkk = $8.41 for a wedge
Cheese with Herbs 18.25 dkk for 114 g = $3.36 for 4 oz
Apples, 8 for 25 dkk = $3.82
Bag onions 15 dkk = $2.52
Avocado, 2 for 30 dkk = $4.60
Bell peppers 10-16 dkk = $1.50 – $2.50
Lemons, limes, 2 for 14 dkk = $2.20
Broccoli, Asparagus 40-50 dkk = $6 – $7.60
Lettuce 30 dkk = $4.60
Tomatoes 40 dkk = $6.12
Mushrooms 22 dkk for 400 g = $3.70 for 14 oz
Haricot Vert Green Beans 22 dkk for 700 g = $4 for 25 oz
Peas 25 dkk for 400 g = $4.20 for 14 oz
Chopped Spinach 13 dkk for 450 g = $2.40 for 16 oz
Wines, 120-200 dkk per bottle, average = $18-31
Beer & soda bottle deposit 2 dkk per bottle (refundable) = $0.33 per bottle – Greenland imports almost all of its beer and all of its soda, but it bottles the beverages locally.
Beer at a Bar 40 dkk for 200 ml = $6.80 for 6.75 oz (or $1/oz)
Beer at a Bar 75 dkk for 400 ml = $12.75 for 13.5 oz (or $0.94/oz)
Beer at a Bar 98 dkk for 600 ml = $16.70 for 20 oz (or $0.84/oz)
Nivea shower gel 51 dkk for 750 ml bottle = $8.63 for 25 oz bottle
Tampons 37 dkk for box of 20 = $6.26 for box of 20
Generic shampoo 12.45 dkk for 750 ml bottle = $2.11 for 25 oz bottle
Disposable razors 12.5 dkk for bag of 4 = $2.12 for bag of 4
KAFFEMIK IN GREENLAND
Kaffemik is a fun gathering of friends and family to celebrate birthdays, births, graduations, new homes, and other milestones! The person of honor usually hosts at his or her own home (unless it is a huge affair, in which case they rent a public space) and provides coffee, tea, cakes, sweets, bread, and oftentimes Greenlandic specialities like reindeer, muskox, whale, seal, fish, etc. Kaffemik events are extremely common and can happen any day of the week, but they are most common on weekends when many people are free. They are also very common in spring when it’s confirmation time, or late summer when it’s back-to-school/first-day-of-school time. They are typical in summer, too, though most know that attendance could be low due to many people on summer holiday out of the country. The entire event typically lasts for multiple hours, but guests usually only stay for a short visit.
Should you be invited to Kaffemik, these are some general guidelines to being a delightful guest. Please note, some tour companies do offer Kaffemik as an activity for travellers. In this case, the gift is not necessary. Please consult the tour company with any questions.
- Always take your shoes off before entering the person’s home (so wear socks!).
- Taste as many of the cakes and food as possible! They are delicious!
- Take a small slice or a small piece. There is supposed to be enough for everyone to get a bite throughout the entire day.
- Only stay a short while – enough time for a couple cups of coffee, say – so to give others the chance to take a seat and enjoy also.
- Bring a gift for the person of honor – something around 50-100 DKK worth (9-17 USD) is nice if they are an acquaintance, or more if they are a close friend.
Read more about Kaffemik in my Kaffemik Culture in Greenland article on visitgreenland.com.