Culture clash: Greenland to Denmark

It’s a huge step for Greenlanders to move overseas for the first time, and most of them move to Denmark. This is because of the connected social welfare system and existing community already there.

This recently made video popped up on my Facebook feed, and I thought it so insightful and funny that I should share with you. For those who don’t know Nordic, here is an English summary of highlights of what the volunteers at the ‘Foreningen Grønlandske Børn’ (Greenlandic Children association) say.

Mødet med Danmark from Foreningen Grønlandske Børn on Vimeo.

Denmark is painted a beautiful place…
With tall trees, green grass, and the little Mermaid!

Danes get scared when…
Greenlanders say hello to them on the street.
Greenlanders are used to saying hello to everyone, especially in the smaller towns. Here in Nuuk people don’t say hi to everybody though.  

There are so many types of…
Toilet paper! Shampoo! And vegetables! Fun Vegetables (and broccoli)!

There is always chaos…
There’s not much peace and quiet, with so much noise and life in the city of Copenhagen.
This is especially personally funny as I know some Asians would say Copenhagen is very boring because shops close so early. In many parts of Asia shops might close at 10pm everyday. 

Greenlanders are much more spontaneous…
They take it as it comes. They try to come on time, but when they’re having a fun time they might forget that they made another date…

Danish are much more systemised.
They can organise a dinner 1.5 months in advance. Greenlanders can organise an event on the day.

If you have a play date with a Dane, that ends at kl.16.45…
You better pick up your kid precisely at that time!

ON CONFLICT: Greenlanders and Danes have a different way of discussing.
“In Denmark, it’s okay to have different opinions. You might say your opinion, the other then say theirs. If there is a disagreement, that’s ok. It doesn’t work exactly the same way in Greenland.”

People don’t end disagreement the same way in Greenland. If one person seems to mean that their perspective is more ‘correct’ than the other person, then the other person might show the white flag very easily. One very much tries to avoid conflict in Greenland.

How to say ‘we were otherwise on the way to church’…
Vi var ellers på vej til kirken – eight words in Danish
Oqaluffimmukarnialeraluarpugut – one word in Grenlaandic

Non-verbal communication in Greenland is high
Eyebrows and scrunches – check this post on ‘How we talk in Greenland’  =)

Greenlanders get confused with the equivalent of ‘not’ in questions. 
Are you ‘not’ hungry? They might reply, ‘yes’ but it could go both ways…

There are so many strange faces in Denmark.
“I am alone here. I am here alone with my language. No-one knows each other, but here in Greenland everybody knows each other.”

“On the other hand, people have no idea who I am, so I have alot of freedom.”

The school system is very different
Students need to learn Danish, French, English …. and still keep Greenlandic. Parents should also help with assignments, they are also well informed of the school system and how the kids are progressing. In Greenland, perhaps not so much information is given out.

Greenlanders laugh at themselves… and you.
“If I said something dumb, or broke my leg, I would laugh about it… and others would also laugh. If Danish people describe breaking their leg, it’s a very solemn experience.”

“If I fell from my bike, I would laugh. Though in Denmark 25 people will stop and flock towards me, to ask how I am – and then be puzzled over why I am laughing!”

Many of these experiences would be shared by someone leaving a small community for a bigger one. Do you also have a cultural experience from moving? 

8 thoughts on “Culture clash: Greenland to Denmark

  1. Hi Tammy, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and I have to agree with most of the points you’ve made. I’m Irish and live in Holland (sorry, the Netherlands), and the Dutch are sometimes worse than the Danish. As opposed to the Irish, Dutch folk almost have a panic attack when someone they don’t know speaks to them in the street, they aren’t so spontaneous, are seriously over-punctual and are unable to really laugh at themselves. They’re okay, though, don’t get me wrong! I think that the Irish and Greenlanders are very similar in some ways. I’ve met a few, and I quite like them. Great post; very funny! 🙂

    • Dear Pat, Thanks for reaching out! =) I’m happy to know that someone reads my blog =)

      I think the Dutch and the Danish have a lot in common… in fact most people get them mixed up for some reason. They say that the Dutch are from Denmark. Danes in many ways are spontaneous, creative and able to laugh at themselves, but they don’t laugh at others the same way as Greenlanders laugh at themselves and others. Having said that they are soooooooo anal with the time! =) I thought this was a German thing growing up… but apparently it is a ‘northern’ thing in that region. In Southern Germany, they don’t have such a strict relationship to time the same way as the northern Germans close to Denmark have.

      I’m so interested to hear about how Irish and Greenlanders are similar! Please do give me a few examples.

      I just checked out your blog about football – I just sent it to my brothers’ and Jonas who are crazy about football =) Me? Not so much =)


      • Thanks, Tammy; each to their own, of course! What do Greenlanders and the Irish have in common? Well, we’re pretty relaxed about our time-keeping, we laugh at ourselves (a lot) and others (even more so), perfect strangers will not just say hello to you in the street, but will probably strike up a conversation with you as well, we’re pretty spontaneous in our own way – we don’t live by our diaries/agendas either..and then there’s the “are you not” (instead of “aren’t you”) routine as well! The last point is very common, especially amongst older people.

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