Since Greenland is such an obscure country for many people, I thought that it would be interesting to document how people’s opinions about the country are informed. Below are what I’ve bumped into so far. One thing’s for sure – it’s definitely contributed to how a conversation about Greenland might go.
It’s been nearly two months since I found out that I was going to that big white island. Two months mean that I’ve now had plenty of time to get used to the idea of Greenland, and open up about it. I’m now more comfortable with chatting on the topic, and have had a whole range of people to do this with. Though the conversation might start the same way, the knowledge and background of the people in context means wildly different topics of discussion. All I can say is that I’ve also been learning a lot: I’m less scared and more excited now, and feel that there’s hope yet that I can get a job and contribute to society in a meaningful way somehow!
In this blog post, the cultural curator in me and my humanities background emerges. I map out the different relationships outsiders have to Greenland, which in turns reveals the myriad of complexities affecting the country. It’s gathered from my past two months of intensive dabbling with the country. I should note though that I’ve just started my little trip in Europe (now in Amsterdam!), so the only responses I can document are mostly from people living in Australia and Denmark. It’s still diverse, and on a scale of unfamiliar to most familiar, they cover the most extreme reactions you can get.
- I’ve lost my radar
Can I paint broad brush strokes and say that many normal Australians fall into this category? Most people in this group know that Greenland is the country with all the ice, because Iceland is the one that is actually green, but that’s all. Aussies must have been taught this in high school, because so many have popped out with this line. People in this group don’t know where it is on the map, or what the capital city is. Most of them know a lot of things, but this is just not on their radar.
- It’s all exotic
Slightly more informed, these people have watched documentaries on Greenland and have seen the wildness of the country through the eyes of adventurers. The documentary probably contained the star of the show going with the natives on a dog sled adventure where there’s days of nothing but sheer white landscapes. They probably watched some Greenlandic people hunting seal/polar bear in icy terrain and surviving off the nature. Impression? Limited, but they think it’s a strange and harsh country.
- The Arctic/Antarctic enthusiast
The scientists, geologists, the researchers and the ice-lovers. They know things that normal people just don’t, and it’s exciting stuff they’re working on. They can drop you names and stories of the first pioneers, and will tell you about their research expeditions. You can try to understand what they tell you, but chances are you might not get it.
- The investor
Untapped and undeveloped are the key words here. The investors are searching for resources, and besides Africa, Greenland is one of the last unexplored regions in the world. Hello, mining companies! What makes it more luring is that Greenland is a country who needs the help of others to explore for them.
- The political watcher
It’s an exciting time for the cousin to the investor! They’ll tell you that unknown to many, the superpowers, aka China and the USA, are contenders among others in a geopolitical race for soft power over Greenland. A large reason is because of security. The other is mineral colonisation. Also, on the Danish/Greenlandic front, there’s an election coming soon. If you’re interested in all things political and can read Danish, watch this space - word on the block says that there’s a very interesting article brewing in Kongressen.
- A past visitor
They hiked, they fished, they slept with the midnight sun or gazed at the northern lights. They also marvelled at the amount of things available at the local supermarket. Everyone who I met who’s been there wants to go back again… though maybe not to live.
- A past resident
I’ve only met Danes who have lived in Greenland, but I’ve heard that Nuuk is composed of at least 30 different nationalities. The residents tell you stories about the kaffemiks, the underlying problems existing in the social fabric such as alcoholism and domestic abuse, and about the tension that exists from development and colonisation. Love it or hate it, Greenland has affected these individuals’ lives and they now mark their time as before and after their life in Greenland.
- The climate changers
People who have watched awesome videos like this, which shows the effects of climate change. This is an iceberg calving the size of Manhattan, described as a magical, miraculous, horrible, scary thing:
So did I cover most of you in the conversation? I hope so. Rebuffs are welcome.
- Greenland in comics: Scandinavia and the World (thefourthcontinent.com)
- My first meeting with a Greenlander – she was a cheeky teenager. (thefourthcontinent.com)
- Greenland’s a hole in a drainpipe: so what can one do there? (thefourthcontinent.com)
- Greenland: deal me in? (thefourthcontinent.com)
- Thanks To Global Warming, Everyone Wants To Mine Greenland’s Uranium Deposit (AA) (businessinsider.com)
- Denmark to decide whether Greenland can start mining uranium (mining.com)
- Surface ice in Greenland is melting – in winter (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- Greenland Could Soon Become a Rogue Whaling Nation (sunsetdaily.wordpress.com)