Work: traits every new employee should have


Most people describe living and working in Greenland as more ‘relaxed’, in all senses of the word.

So how does one fit into a relaxed environment and still get things done?

Working in a new place is always a bit nerve-wracking, and new challenges are sure to arise when you’re working in a foreign cultural environment. Like anywhere else, a work culture depends on the job, the place and your colleagues.

Since today is the 1st of May, which is International Workers’ Day, I thought I’d start a mini-series about working life and culture in Greenland. (I know I’m stretching the theme a bit, but it’s been on my mind…).

I asked a few people about their experiences with new colleagues from abroad, and what tips one could give to those who not only start a new job, but also a new life in Greenland. Note, most people who move to Greenland come here for a job.

Here are some traits people seemed to stress that one should have if they decide to work in Greenland:

–       An open mind
recognise that things may work differently here

–       Patience
things may run a notch slower than you’re used to

–       Tact
politeness is valued here, as well as a wish not to offend

–       Listening skills
silence is okay in Greenland, plus if you’re not talking you might learn something

–       Humility
Don’t walk in thinking you’re the boss – even if you are 😉

Sounds pretty normal, huh? You might notice that a lot of these values center on a willingness to learn ‘how things work around here’. Everybody hates a know-it-all. Still, one can run into bumps and humps, and this could be because things do not work the way you expect it to in Greenland.

For example, technology is a problem at my work. A whole semester can pass and a guest lecturer may not have access to the system which allows them to print or use the wi-fi. I’ve found that the local guest employees who’ve been here longer just don’t bother asking to get it fixed after the first time, and get their students to login for them. The newer ones ask for a solution. They’re not always successful, even if the friendly IT guys are doing their best to be helpful. Sometimes glitches happen.

That was an easy technical example. When it’s dealing with change management and perception, then the fun and games begin.

Any examples of tips for entering a new workplace in a foreign environment? I imagine the key set of ‘guidelines’ would be very different in another country.  

PS I’ve already got a few topic ideas for the next posts in this series including what mistakes you should try to avoid when you’re new. I’ll also give a silly personal example of ‘how the silly foreigner doesn’t know how things work around here’. Or if YOU have a post you want to write, send your thoughts to

8 thoughts on “Work: traits every new employee should have

  1. I think these tips are universal. No one anywhere likes a no-it-all. What types of jobs have people relocating to Greenland?

    • Hi there! I agree with you, but think that the set of traits people emphasise might be a different mix in another country. For example, understanding of hierarchy might be more important in a top down society, or clarity important in more western cultures.

      There are many jobs needed in society, from blue collar to office jobs to police to teachers to those in the health system. It’s a society that speaks Greenlandic / Danish so there are language requirements.

  2. Hey Tanny, an interesting and useful post indeed 🙂
    I just wonder what the composition of people you and the people who gave you some tips is like in their working places. I mean if Locals, Danes, other Europeans etc…
    I have sort of learnt what I should or should have not done (not that explicitly though) through my working experiences in DK, many of them match to what you’ve written here. Well, as you say, these are probably more or less universal 🙂 at the same time, I thought if majority of people who you may actually work with in Greenland are Danes, then it’d be also a good idea to pay attention to work ethics and environments that Danes are used to? that might have influenced on forming the particular working or just daily behaviors considered ‘normal’ in Greenland. Well, I’m not well informed and experienced the reality in Greenland, so it’s just my random thought though!

    • Hey Makiko! I asked a bunch of ppl but these included ones who have lived here for a long time, and some who just came. It was just in conversation… And also mainly in the context of corporate jobs.

      I might also say that because the Danish ppl are by far the group who move here for jobs, they are the group people think of when they talk about this. Culturally Danish are generalised as very direct and clear, whereas sometimes in Greenland it is much more implicit which can cause conflict.

      How did you ‘adapt’ to your new work culture? Would be interested to hear more!

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