On rainbows and relocating to Greenland

For those looking for new opportunities in job and life, is Greenland the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? 

The first time I flew to Greenland, I read a (business) magazine which made it sound like Greenland was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You just had to get to the other side to hit it rich; or dig deep enough, to put it in a mineral context.

‘The country’s hot now because the Arctic is one of the last unexploited regions in the world, so why not try to strike it rich here?’, I read between the lines of this magazine.

It makes sense then that businesses and individuals are asking about business and professional opportunities in Greenland.

JOB OPPORTUNITIES
You may be surprised to know that random people have written to ask how easy it would be to move to Greenland, or how difficult it would be to find a job here. I admit that I didn’t think too hard about the decision since J got a job. I did as much prepatory research as I could though. It was hard trying to find information about the job market or the expat community; the one ‘job help website’ I did find initially gave me high hopes but quickly let me down and disappointed.

To the people who asked, my standard reply was that I could not give a simple yes or no answer, because I didn’t know the person or their situation. ‘Success’ really depended on a number of factors, including the individual.

BUT….(and now I jump to the pretending I know something bit)…this is the jist of what I said…

If there is a need for your specific profession (e.g. doctors, nurses, economists, lawyers, skilled labour workers, etc), then yes, it’s highly possible. Setting immigration and language issues aside, of course. It’s linguistically and legally easier for Scandinavians because of Greenland’s Nordic ties, but it’s not completely impossible for the non-Scandinavian speaking citizens of the world. In some jobs it’s possible to work in English (luckily).

While the country has many opportunities, your skills need to be required or you just have to be very good at your job.

On the personal level, you should consider how you deal with living in a small society, a fishbowl lifestyle in a place where nature rules. Even in big cities, sometimes people live in fish bowls…

One of the first things a friend of ours told us was that educated people have a good shot at creating an opportunity or name for themselves.

Greenland can be very quick to adapt a job opportunity to a person. There is much need for educated people here, that sometimes people even create jobs for you. For example, an architect (or something similar) moved to one of the smaller cities in Greenland. The kommune had no position available but they saw that they could use him, so they created one for him, easy as that.

In that sense Greenland can be agile and responsive. However, I also know of an incredibly talented person who found it hard to be recognised and get paid for the quality work that was delivered.

GETTING A RESIDENCE PERMIT 

The first thing that non-Nordic citizens have to deal with is residency. This is probably the hardest step. If you are a Nordic citizen, you’ve got it easy and can just move here no problem. The Greenlandic immigration system is a huge mammoth with seemingly fragile frameworks, rules, or service timelines. It is actually under the Danish jurisdiction, but somewhere along the lines the Danish and the Greenlandic systems have to communicate and something gets lost in transition.

I hear that things are slowly improving, though. For example, I think they have now implemented a service timeline for when you would receive a response when submitting an application for residency. It’s three months for people who have applied for a residence visa.  When I applied just last year, there was no service goal. I don’t want to think about those who applied a decade ago!

I’ve never heard of anyone who has just moved to Greenland in the hope of finding a job; but many come as partners of people who have accepted a job. Others come as semester exchange students, others come because they have family here (note the Filipinos and Thais).

TIP: For those who are looking to move here for a job, being a student or family reunification you should check nyidanmark.dk. If you or your spouse are looking to come on the basis of family reunification and one of you is a Danish citizen, you need to be able to document that you’ve lived together for a decent period of time.

MOVING WITHOUT A JOB

If you have moved here without a job, it may take time, but that’s normal anywhere. Time to create your network, time to become familiar with the job market, time to see where you can adapt your skills to what is needed here. Coming from a big city, I was so surprised at how easily accessible people are, and how much time individuals have for you. The awesome and scary thing about this town is that it’s so small that you will eventually meet everyone.

So really, think about life as your network.

I would suggest that you just try to make as many friends as possible. Join events that you’re interested in, join activity clubs, create a project, try to have coffee with people who you think have similar interests to you and could be fun to hang out with. When I look back now to what I did in my first month here, I’m glad I was brave enough to try things, and also that some lovely friends took me under their wing. I also need to keep that spirit up.

TIP: The main job website is job.sermitsiaq.ag/. Greenlanders also use LinkedIn and for the white-collar professions it’s a good place to do some homework.

TIP: Here are some tips for moving to a new place.

SOME PRACTICAL CHALLENGES

HOUSING
There are also many structural challenges of moving to Greenland and getting a job. For one, it is pretty difficult to find housing in the private market. Not impossible, but the system now means that most companies offer housing when they recruit new employees. It is a way which makes a job more lucrative, or another job less desirable. It is an understatement to say that the housing system in Greenland is rigid and inflexible. It may even make you stay at your current job for longer, because moving jobs may also mean losing your accommodation.

FINANCES AND ISOLATION
Moving to Greenland can also be financially challenging compared to other places because of its high prices. It’s all relative though. It can be isolating because it separates you physically from other countries, and it’s not that cheap to fly in and out.

LANGUAGE
In Greenland, people speak Greenlandic and/or Danish. Almost anyone who is not Greenlandic will probably end up in a social situation where you don’t understand everything. When I was living in Denmark (just for one year) I sometimes got so bored and uncomfortable at parties because I was the only non-Dane there. If you move to Greenland, you’ll just have to get used to it if you can’t speak either.

TIP: Luckily there are a few places that teach Danish and Greenlandic now – Bente Meilvang and Per Langgård and the language school in Sisimiut.

JUST DO IT!
Well, there are many other things to consider but that’s all for now. I should note that there are many people who have taken the plunge to move here (albeit it’s usually with a job or a partner with a job) and it’s been a piece of cake. There’s much love in Greenland once you’re ‘in a circle’. When you have a little network, word can also get around and chances which you would not have dreamed of before will drop in your lap. From what I’ve been told, Greenland can be an amazing place for people who show initiative and have energy – so maybe there is that pot of gold!

POSTSCRIPT: I have thought long and hard about these topics above, because I am still dealing with some of these issues in my everyday life. So please note, these are only my reflections of living in Greenland, and someone else may have had a completely different experience. You should not use this as professional advice – get a lawyer…

If you have any tips, opinions, or questions, or if you think what I say is completely bollocks, I’d be interested in hearing from you. 

41 thoughts on “On rainbows and relocating to Greenland

    • Hi Chau, It is pretty difficult to find a job in Greenland if you don’t know anyone at all or are not a Nordic citizen. Alot of Filipinos are in the cleaning and restaurant business, and they are sponsored by their work, so you could look into that. Some others I know are also au pairs so you could check that out. The website to research is ‘New In Denmark’.

  1. Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is important and everything.
    However think of if you added some great photos or video
    clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content
    is excellent but with pics and videos, this website could undeniably be one of the greatest in its niche.

    Amazing blog!

    • Thank you Token for your kind words. Yes, I have thought about including photos and videos. But lately, I almost have not been able to write my blog, so adding photos is another step altogether. Would be great if I had time and energy… =)

  2. Hello sir, I am an Indian. And I am very keen to move abroad to find a job and while browsing I saw about Greenland.I want to share few questions regarding this to you………Is there any Indian working there in greenland?and what is the prospect of a fresher with BBA degree to get a job there in greenland?And from Mumbai to Nuuk the airfare is $3000, so how much i can earn over there?Will it be viable for me back there?Thank you for your time and consideration

  3. Hello!!

    I have read your article several times!! I am determined to relocate to Greenland with my son ~ he is five. I am finding it very difficult to research & to find people to speak with from Greenland. I’ve thought about taking a few weeks of travel to Greenland to find out everything I need to know ~ to make contacts surrounding jobs, housing ect. So I thought I would reach out to you!! I’ve been following up with alot of your links!! Thank you it is most helpful as well. Many thanks
    Lindsay

    • Hi Lindsay, I only just saw this email. Yes, researching about Greenland is not SO easy – we don’t have so much in English. If you can read Danish there is much more. Anyway as I said before feel free to ask questions and I’m happy to help =) Tanny

  4. Thank you so much for your thoughtful entry. I was not going to write, just bask in your glow, until I read the comments of the other “americans,” I thought I would say that I’m born in the US and LOVE to travel, as do most of my friends. We don’t watch FOX News, so we know that our country is not being overrun by anything other than ignorance. That said, many thanks for the ex-pat view into Greenland! I’ve had “thing” for it since high school but the furthest north I’ve made it is Sweden…and I didn’t want to leave. I must get to Greenland before it all melts away. How are things for you now? I see the post is a year old. best, -Anna

    • Hi Anna,
      Thank for writing. I have met so many cool Americans, so don’t worry you’re not the only one! I am very bad at watching the news in general so I am also guilty of ignorance and lack of knowledge.

      Things are going great in Greenland. One year on and nothing has changed yet everything has changed. Relationships, friends, the weather, job, etc.

      I just tried to look at your blog but saw that it was private. I will say that from what I know of Sweden it is very different to Greenland, although maybe the northern areas share similarities. Thanks for coming by Anna.

      Tanny.

  5. I wish there were more countries that have a thing going where if you are of ancestry of the area its easier for you to immigrate there. I am Acadian and it would be cool if I could live in France easier. I can trace my ancestry back to France. 🙂 Greenland sounds like a cool place.

    • Hey Ivy Mosquito… I guess I use the term ‘fishbowl’ in the sense that I go around, doing the same things, meeting the same people, going around and around and around.

      Actually, many people do this even if they live in bigger cities. They go to the same cafes for their coffees, they meet at their favourite bars, they go jogging around the same park. I think people like their rhythm and they like their patterns. It allows sense in an otherwise hectic world.

      As for me in my fishbowl though, I like trying new things and one can’t always do that here. You’re limited by the space you’re in, also because you can’t get out and surrounded by mountains and water (and expensive flight tickets!). Get what I mean?

  6. Interesting. Especially that tidbit about accommodation being tied to your employment. Every country has these little idiosyncrasies. In Germany, for instance, people tend to take their kitchens with them, so you had better check that your new rental accommodation has one, otherwise it could get a tad expensive, even if there’s an IKEA nearby;-)

      • Clarification: German tenants BRING their own kitchens, and then, when they move, they take it with them to the next place. And yes, that involves everything – cupboards, shelves, oven, dishwasher, etc. That’s fine when you’re ‘in the system’, (you might have to buy a kitchen just once or twice in your life) but a bit of a shock when you’re a foreigner who doesn’t expect to find the kitchen totally stripped.

        You can find rental properties with kitchens in them, of course, but you really need to check that first and not assume.

  7. Great post! Very informative and I like your reflection on how Greenland has been portrayed in the press. I’m moving from Denmark (lived here about a year) to Norway soon, which has also built a reputation of being ‘a land of opportunity’ but it’s so important that expats remain realistic and well-informed of the systems there.
    Will definitely be following your posts in the future!

    • Hi Toots (?), thanks for coming by my blog. Yeh, it’s definitely important to have realistic expectations hey? Some friends of mine just moved to Norway, now one of them is trying to find a job. I hope there are chances in that land of opportunity!

      Are you going there with a job or without one? I think it will be interesting to compare the Norwegian living to the Danish living, look forward to reading more about it. Cheers, Tanny

      • Hi there, no problem at all!

        I currently have no job lined up in Oslo (bit scary!) I’m moving there because my partner is Norwegian and we decided to relocate to his homeland. He’s just completed his masters and has interviews lined up. I’m thinking of possibly continuing my education later next year but a lot of it depends on the fella and timings and whatnot.

        I’ve heard lots of ‘horror’ stories about trying to find work without proficient Norwegian skills but, on the other hand, I’ve met people who had bar work etc without learning a word of the language. So I guess I’ll have to see! I think a lot of it depends on your level of education and what field you work in.

        I wish your friend all the best 🙂

        Toots x

    • How is it some of you live in so many different countries? I’m an American and have never been out of the US. We are about to be taken over by the united nations and turned into either a communist or a muslim country. Is there anywhere left that is safe that I could move to?

      • Hi Evelyn, if you seriously mean this I don’t think it is acceptable to say that being in a Muslim or communist country is unsafe. If you travel around the world a bit more you might be more open to other cultures and ideologies, so I suggest you do that.

      • Hi Evelyn,
        I know exactly what your saying, I’m in Illinois looking for places to “escape” to as well. Its a very unfortunate situation we find ourselves in.
        Kelly

      • I started thinking about escaping the US when Bush was president, and now that Trump in inexplicably, unfathomably somehow managing to be so popular I’ve come to the conclusion that in the highly unlikely event he gets elected I will definitely be running away to somewhere more sane. I thought Mr. Obama would be a stabilizing influence on the country but watching the shocking amount of open racism with which he has been met, and how people are now embracing their uglier sides under Trump, I’ve lost hope. I’m looking at Greenland because of all this, and climate change, and climate in general. I have doubts I’ll be able to make it happen, but it’s worth a try. Can’t wait to be away from the ignorance in my own country. I think I can tolerate living the rest of my life adapting to any ignorance I come across elsewhere provided I’m not burdened by living next door to a republican. Personally I think anyone who is right wing. politically, should be banned from emigrating to any country more socially or politically liberal or socialist than the US. Would serve them right. I’ve worked 7 years in the middle east and despite multiple faults it’s NOT what hysterical home-bound ‘Murkhin’s think it is.

  8. Wow I started reading this post and I just couldnt stop, it is very interesting to read about your experience and learn all these aspects of living in Greenland. I have never thought about them before! Im looking forward to read more 😃

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