10 first impressions of Greenland

Like all new destinations, Greenland gives many impressions to the fresh eye. 

Here are 10 observations our guests made when visiting Nuuk and Greenland. 

Crazy about flags

Outsiders notice that Greenlanders and Danes love their flags! There are lots of flag poles, people wear t-shirts with flags motifs, and the buses are decked with flags almost once a week to celebrate a special occasion. To give contrast, if you wear or hold a flag in Australia any other day but National Day, you’d be considered a redneck (meaning over-patriotic and over-protective of your country). In Greenland, it is just cosy. Flags are decoration too, for example on birthday cakes. It’s a bit nuts…. and cosy =)

Instagram: Flags are important in Greenland, something which you can also notice in Denmark.

The traffic jams of Nuuk

An Aussie friend of mine took a city tour, and driven out to Qinngorput where she learnt about rush hour in Nuuk. The tour guide said (very seriously, I might add), “you have to consider when you leave in the morning because if you drive around so-and-so o’clock, you might get stuck in traffic and be 5 minutes late for work.” My friend was amazed. I’m sure most would love that type of traffic jam!

Construction zones

You can get very close to a construction zone here in Greenland. Maybe too close, in the case of an accident.

Instagram: Construction zones can be play zones. During the summer, everything is being dug up so you cannot avoid construction zones.

Friendly drivers, friendly people

Cars will stop for you! When crossing a road, most car drivers are very gentle and aware of the pedestrian. Road rage might exist still but generally car drivers are very nice. If they know you, they will likely pick you up. Others have mentioned how many people acknowledge each other on the streets.

Off-road hiking

To a tourist from a highly regulated country more concerned about rules and safety, Greenland’s hiking opportunities seem so free. There are no paths, there are few signs and you’re completely immersed in the nature. A hike can mean actually climbing. You can hike anywhere you want if you can get there. The only ‘rule’ is that if you climb a mountain, you should go with an experienced person who has done it before. It’s presumed you use your common sense. Compare this to more and more places in the world where you must stick to a recommended footpath, it’s a very different experience.

Instagram: Hiking in Greenland can involve climbing.

Kids are free

It was mentioned more than once that kids in Greenland seem to have a lot of freedom. The entire city or settlement is their playground, and it’s not unusual to see young kids roaming around in the city at 11 o’clock at night. People say that the cities or settlements are in general safe places, and let’s face it, you can’t get too lost even in the biggest city of Nuuk. However, there is also concern that some kids are running around because their parents do not take proper care or responsibility for them.

As an aside, perhaps the relationship to ‘night time’ is different from non-Arctic regions, because in the summertime it’s always bright, and in the wintertime it’s always dark. So darkness might not influence what time a kid goes home. I’d be interested to know what others think of this.

Surprisingly warm

Travellers who come to Greenland are usually ready for the cold. They sensibly deck themselves out in warm technical gear but are sometimes taken aback at how warm the strong Arctic sun can get. Our visitors this summer were impressed that they were able to walk around in a t-shirt and shorts!

Instagram: Showing off my pale bare legs.

Child Smokers

Friends who went on the coastal boat Sarfaq Ittuk noticed that not only did the kids run around aboard the ship, but a high proportion of young’uns smoked too. 10-year olds, maybe.


There is not much security in Greenland. Definitely not compared to the President of the USA. Or the Royal Family of Denmark.

The wheels on the bus goes round and round.

Do you know the song, ‘The wheels on the bus go round and round?’ Well, here in Nuuk, the bus literally goes round and round… in a loop! Travellers from bigger cities were a bit confused at first, because here you get off the same bus stop that you get on again to head home. It’s no surprise that the tourists might take awhile to understand the bus routes and times, as locals have had trouble remembering the new bus timetable since it was released earlier this month.

Share your first impressions of a new city / did they stick after time? 

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20 thoughts on “10 first impressions of Greenland

  1. I’m so intrigued by all of this. I’ve gotten rides from strangers in Canada but I’ve always been a bit apprehensive… though I suppose the elderly gentleman who picked three of us up probably had more reason to feel scared. I would never ever try this in Dubai though.

    You do see some kids out late at night unsupervised in Dubai but they are generally rowdy brats. Come to think of it’s always just boys you see late at night…

  2. Pingback: How to piss off a Greenlander | The Fourth Continent

  3. Sounds like there is a strong culture of trust over there in Greenland. Have often have you known the driver and actually gotten a free ride somewhere? I’ve never had that happen to me in Melbourne. Then again, we are a large city. Kids roaming the city there close to midnight? They must be very happy kids, playing to their heart’s content and maybe their parents are pretty cool parents. I am a fully grown adult and if I can, I avoid roaming Melbourne’s city after 10pm – very little lights and it’s hard to see where you’re going.

    • I’ve gotten rides from strangers a few times. There are only so many roads in Nuuk. I think more people should give lifts here, especially when it is bad weather. Mostly they only pick up friends. I don’t think people pick up though because taxi drivers also need to make a living, and they probably know them too.

      That’s an interesting thought. Kids here seem very content, it’s a great place to raise your kids. Still, even here, I don’t think it’s socially acceptable to let kids roam out at night. I think many parents still impose bedtimes here in Greenland, and it’s usually children from homes with social problems that stay out at night. However, it is probably safer than in other countries, and especially in the summertime, it’s likely parents are ok to let them play outside later. When it feels like 4pm when it’s 10pm, why not? =)

      • Interesting. I was thinking if the taxi drivers would mind if everyone started carpooling like this. Getting a ride here and there sounds like a way to meet everyone in town, maybe not be close friends with every single one of them but at the very least get acquainted with them.

        Greenland does sound safer than other countries. Somehow the city looks and feels different at night, at least to me. At night, stressed people rushing around are absent in cities. Maybe that’s what makes wandering the city at night peaceful.

  4. Spanish kids are also out at all hours. And not just teenagers. Parents will bring their babies and to restaurants with them, and dinner is eaten quite late here, so they may not leave till midnight or even 2am. This would be unthinkable in Germany or the UK, people would look at you as being a ‘bad parent’. I must confess, I’m not particularly fond of kids, so I do wish they’d leave them at home 😉

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