10 things everyone knows in Nuuk


The things everybody presumes everyone else knows around here…. or not!

“PLEASE DON’T DO THAT!” my friend asked me nicely (but firmly).

Sometime during the Summer, I mentioned that it would be a fabulous idea to go for a swim at Cirkussoen, which is the drinking water lake in Qinngorput. Apparently, you’re not supposed to. Maybe common sense tells you that. All I could imagine was how refreshingly crisp it might be to drench myself in the cool water. The next time I went there I saw there was a sign that read “Please don’t pollute the water” (which I guess also included no swimming!). Evidently others had also missed the sign, since a few people of all ages were happily splashing away in the water.

That made me start thinking about the things everybody presumed everyone else knew around here.

1. Don’t go swimming in Cirkussoen! 

For the reasons above. =)

2. Like you’re supposed to know that you don’t have a choice. 

I made the rookie mistake of asking which phone company I should go with. And which internet company gave the best options for broadband. The answer was Tele…. and Tele. Yep, for people who hate to make decisions, life is easy in Greenland!

3. There’s only one flight per day from Copenhagen to Nuuk.

When J was offered his job, they agreed upon starting on Valentines Day, which meant that they also booked his flight to Greenland for that day. Many weeks went by and there was no information provided about flight details – no confirmation number, or email about times. Very confused, he finally asked his boss two days before he flew. We found out then that if you fly from Copenhagen to Nuuk, there is only one indirect flight per day. There is no need to ask what time the flight will take off! This makes sense if you’ve done this trip before – but of course, how are you supposed to know this if you’re new?

4. You can’t buy alcohol after 1pm on Saturday, or at all on Sunday.

That is a newbie mistake everyone makes. Just remember, if you want to buy it for the weekend, buy it in on Saturday morning. Otherwise, there are places you can buy it illegally. Ask a taxi driver, they know it all.

5. You’re supposed to know where everything is… without an address.

People who have been here awhile tend to forget that some people don’t know anything. If you ask where something is, most people won’t know the street the place is located. Instead they will describe the location, and then say it’s next to so-and-so landmark. For example, it’s by the red row of houses behind the green house.

6. Maik’s corner!

This is a landmark that everyone uses to give directions to elsewhere closeby. Maik by the way is a hairdresser slash apartment rental dude slash the founder of Greenland Ice (cream). And his hairdressing parlour is located ….shouldn’t you already know?

7. If you’re unhappy with someone, you’re not supposed to express your actual ideas in public!

Unless you’re a politician, but that’s a different story. To some extent there is a high level of self-censorship in Greenland. This is because Greenlanders are afraid that they will insult you when they insult your cousin, or uncle, or brother that they didn’t know you were related to. Oops. In private circles among people they trust, they can of course talk honestly.

8. The bus ticket expires after 1.5 hours.

It doesn’t actually say that on the ticket, but it does on an information sheet. It’s a useful tip to know if you only have to be in the city for a short stint!

9. In the only swimming pool in Nuuk, kids rule.

If you thought that you wanted to go swimming for exercise, think again. The swimming pool is open to the general public between 6am – 8am, 2pm – 4pm and 6pm – 8pm (I think. You should probably check that. The rest of the times are reserved for things like swim school and swim club). If you’re capable enough to remember these at-first-seemingly random times you’ll have to contend with the kids who play everywhere. There are no designated lap lanes. This pool is the only one available in the city and it was designed at a time when Greenlanders didn’t really know how to swim.

10. You think this weather is bad? Wait, there’s more…

For the newbies from more gentle countries, you’ll be horror struck by the incredibly vicious weather cycle Greenland can offer. Hurricane-level storms brew and when that happens it means all public transport stops. When it gets worse, normal life halts and everyone is content to bake and drink coffee in their homes. However, when you mention the aforementioned storm to a Greenlander, don’t expect them to be impressed. They’ll tell you “This is nothing! In East Greenland, they have pitarak!” (an incredibly crazy wind that can blow full containers away).

Is there anything else you would like to add? =) Another one a friend said was that you can only watch a movie within a two week timeframe! And that most of the cafes are order at the counter, not table service! Please share your thoughts =)

28 thoughts on “10 things everyone knows in Nuuk

  1. Is the blog still going ? Was just in Iceland ….thinking of spending a few weeks or months in Greenland

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  3. Hi
    You can order anything from the shops, cafés or restaurants by calling the taxi center. The taxi driver will buy what you want, take them to your place, you pay both for your order and for the service….and there you go 🙂 easy 😉

  4. Hey Tanny! I’m thinking of putting this blog post into a small magazine which is all about the culture and people of Greenland. I will give you full credit and even a copy if you accept! It would mean so much if you would allow me to use this article. Oh! And I am a 20y/o graphic designer and illustrator based in Leicester, UK 🙂

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  8. I loved this post! I had not idea about this all…it must be really interesting living in a place like this. I think you might know everyone in the city already right? hahah so cool! 🙂

  9. It’s funny to read a foreigner’s remarks on Nuuk or Greenland 🙂 but i think you were misled in some cases, fx Inu:it also offers internet, so Tele isn’t the only option, as well as there r often 2 flights to Copenhagen, plus up to 4 times a week to Reykjavik, which give many connections to USA 🙂
    The swimming pool has the timetables eplained on their webpage, so there’s no need to remember, when the schools rent it… and in many other countries schools don’t have their own pools, so they rent time in the public ones.
    Regarding the addresses… most of the streets can’t be found on google maps and don’t have signs, so it’s more difficult to find a place with an address than with just an explanation of the area 🙂

    Enjoy yr stay!

    • Hey Anna. Thanks for your comment!

      You’re correct – I did find out recently that Inu:it offered internet, but had no idea before, nor where to look for it when I first got here.

      For flights, I specifically meant the CPH to Nuuk route – is there more than one departure from CPH a day? That’s great. And loving the flights to Reykjavik….

      It’s true that the timetable for the swimming pool is on the web – the funny thing for me is that there is this roster at all. It makes sense though because everyone is sharing this one facility. I still think it’s strange, even if logical =)

      Understand that it’s easier to describe the area…even if it doesn’t help someone like me who gets lost all of the time anyway. I really need the street signs to help me find where I am, and I love the GPS function on the phone to help me get around. =) Google maps has improved alot already even in the past year, I think!

      All the best and enjoy your stay too =P

      • The locals has got a great sense of humor. When youre not local you often miss out on it, because its extremely understated, but when you get the hang of it, its great.

        Also its a good thing to know, that a greenlandic story doesn’t always have a point, maybe the story is just at story. I have often sat there waiting, thinking this store mus have a point – get to it. It didn’t, and it wasn’t supposed to, it was just supposed to be at story. Quite strange when you not used to it, but as with the humor, you will learn to appreciate it. Just dont get frustrated, if you don’t get the point 🙂

        • Hi Martin,

          I think Greenlanders smile and laugh all the time. A gentle humour, maybe?

          Haha I have heard a few stories from Greenlanders but they have always had a point… will wait for the one without the point then. That day I will remember you… =D Or maybe I’ll be too ubsy wondering what the point was!


          • I only just discovered your blog, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your posts. I Can see you’re staying in Nuuk, and that you go by the airport every day, so I guess its ind the Qinngorput area. You know you can hike all the way to kapisillit from there right? I’ve heard its a beautifull trip.
            I stayed in Nuuk to, when I lived in Greenland, but I travelled a lot. Hiking is great in South Greenland in the summer, but when you get to March go north, if you can get the chance, and go dogsledding at either Sisimiut og Ilulissat.

            When you get out and around you will get your pointless stories and understated humor. It’s a tradition and has a lot to do with the weather. Nuuk is great, but its not the same, because you can actually get entertainment in the winter, so you dont have to make up long pointless stories 🙂

  10. Wow! Well descriped! I couldn’t say it better myself! (I’m born and raised in Nuuk) but, to be honest, the best time spent in Nuuk is in winters. It snows, people hang up orange stars on the window, in the Christmas time. And then there’s new year eve! When the time hits 12, there’s fireworks everywhere! The whole town is lid up! And there’s so much more happening in the winter 😀

    • Hey Josephine – winter is lovely and I loved the fireworks! Even if it is still a little dark…. it’s not as bad as I thought it would be! Seeker below asked about the best time without blustering winds… is there are time? =) Tanny

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