Greenlandic Culture Shock
Greenlandic Culture Shock
We moved to Greenland from Denmark in the fall of 2020 and experienced some Greenlandic culture shocks that we weren’t prepared for. It wasn’t what we expected but we kept an open mind as we chose to move here and we eventually adjusted. Life is funny that way, we’ve come to expect things to be challenging and different. This was the beginning of when we first arrived in Nuuk.
The things we noticed the first week in Nuuk:
- If you don’t have a car, walking and the bus is the way to get anywhere. This makes sense because Nuuk is fairly small in comparison to a metropolitan city and you can get around in a fairly short amount of time. The bus system is also reliable and usually comes every 20 minutes.
- Inuit people smile and acknowledge you when they pass you. I noticed this immediately because it was a stark difference from Danish people who don’t even acknowledge your presence, even if they are standing right in front of you. I love this as it reminds me of home, Alaska where people on the streets will smile or give you a nod as they pass you. It’s so great to see Native faces everywhere I look:)
- Mountains are a spectacular sight. We came from flat Denmark. And so seeing mountains was so daunting and amazing all at once.
- Even though people start work at 8ish, the town doesn’t wake up until the afternoon. Life and services open at 10 am, like most shops. True native-style town.
- The Internet can be slow and astronomically expensive. We pay about $200 USD monthly for mobile service and internet.
- Eating out is expensive. A lunch meal for a family of four can amount to $70.00 USD.
- Vino is horrendously expensive. Yes, wine is imported and expensive. Wait! Everything is so much more expensive here. Time to detox and get healthy I guess;)
- We were surprised at how many people do speak English. However, we have found that most people, especially the younger generations, are trilingual. They speak Greenlandic, Danish, and English. I’m kind of kicking myself for not sticking to learning Danish because it makes communication hard with locals. But on the upside, people speak Greenlandic to me even though I have no idea what they are saying:D I love it because it reminds me of Alaska Native people, and after living in Scandinavia, it’s a warm welcome to a place that is seeming more accepting of Indigenous people.
- Gone are the Danish bike lanes. We biked like we were back in the ‘village,’ dodging other people, bikes, and even cars all the while pulling a trailer with a toddler, a dog, groceries, and all the crap that it takes to keep them fed/watered, (essentials). And not to mention that went over actual steep hills. I learned early that my city bike wasn’t going to cut it. I need a trail bike to get around. And I had to master going over the mountains. Another thing about these hills is that I am not AT ALL used to running hills. Shit is hard! Get in shape, we did.
- It was like a different world that was free of corona and the pandemic in general. When we arrived, that whole fall season we didn’t wear masks or there weren’t mask mandates. It was lovely.
- I love it when people just ‘come over.’ They don’t need to schedule a month in advance or text us. Just come over:) This is another thing that I love about Nuuk people and life here in general, people just come over. It’s true native style and I so welcome it.
- Life moves at a SLOW pace here. I’ve noticed that things take a bit more time to process. There are daycare waitlists because there aren’t enough childcare centers. Work permit takes months because people send the applications to Denmark and they process them there. There are school waitlists for kids but luckily they got our son in for the Fall semester. Receiving boxes and mail in general takes time and we’ve learned all we can do is be patient and track it and wait. Along the same line, governmental systems are either very slow or broken. It’s not ideal but you learn to come to terms with this.
- We learned that we can’t leave anything on the balcony because the crows will get to it. They are like the pigeons in Copenhagen, they fly around and keep eyes on all the potential trash items in the open. They are fast too. I once left a bag of trash on the front porch. I left to get my jacket and when I came back, the trash was all over the front deck. It was only a matter of minutes but they worked fast and I learned to never leave it outside unattended ever again.
Even though life is different and we definitely pay for it in terms of paying living expenses, we accept it. We didn’t anticipate having to buy a washer & dryer, or a dishwasher when we moved into our apartment. But it’s a trade-off. We had jobs. We can fish and hunt. We had a boat and go exploring different areas of Greenland. There is a tax cap of 44% (which is less than in Denmark). We have mountains and nature all around us. We can hike, fish, hunt, and camp. We have seasons, which some are relatively shorter than others but we love the snow and we look forward to the snowboarding season. We have clean air. It’s a little bit Danish, a whole lot Greenlandic and we are here for it.
What culture shocks did you experience when you moved to a new place?
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