I’ve always heard of people talking about the warmth of the Greenlanders, although I didn’t always get why. Sure Greenlanders are nice, but having lived in the capital for the past 2.5 years, I guess that’s where Nuuk is different from Greenland. It has the vibe of a bigger, cooler city – where everyone is still a little bit more anonymous. Anonymous meaning slightly less warm.
I was told I was going to get into some trouble saying something like that. Because people immediately jump to conclusions.
That’s not to say Nuuk Yorkers are not polite or friendly. When I first started getting to know people in town, I HATED meeting them on the bus in the early morning on the way to work. Early meaning before 7AM. Years of commuting to work each day (2.5 hrs x 5 days a week of my life mind you) had conditioned me to close my eyes and sleep. Or just stare ahead blankly into space. This time of zen was mine to use as I pleased, and I usually wasted it away thinking about the trivialities of life.
For a long time, the bus ride in Nuuk wasn’t long enough as the commute only took ten minutes. Add to the equation that at least three of my sweet colleagues got on to the same bus and always said HELLO TO ME IN THE MORNING EVEN THOUGH I WAS HIDING UNDER MY BIG HOODED JACKET I felt like I couldn’t really fall asleep or pretend to ignore them. Yep, I really felt that conflict for a long time.
Since changing jobs last year my bus commute has lengthened slightly to twenty minutes, and I have to walk ten minutes to the office after the bus stop. It’s as far away in Nuuk as one can go. I’ve become accustomed to meeting people on the bus and enjoying the hello. While walking between the bus stop and the office, I still get surprised at the one or two people, strangers, who say hello to me in the morning. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s so nice when it does.
Still, it was only when we landed in Sisimiut as part of a Hurtigruten cruise up north Greenland for work, that I began to understand what people meant by being part of a smaller community. My colleague who lived there for around six years greeted every second person he saw. We were on a tight schedule and really… it was difficult keep to time because he kept on saying hello to his friends (he blamed me, I blamed him). Heehee.
Then when we walked around the beautiful streets of Qeqertarsuaq and Qasigiannguit, I started to notice that nearly every person on the street was actually noticing and acknowledging a stranger, me! Their interest in me was genuine, and it was so nice to say hello to every person you walked by. This can only happen in small towns. You would agree that it would get tiring in a bigger place, right?
I realise I never really wrote about the cruise because I have been ferociously thinking about it at work. However, I will say that it created moments that I will never forget, visiting tiny isolated towns barricaded by icebergs such as Illorsuit and Ukkusissat. Places with less than 90 people living there all-year around. And you can’t really just drive or even fly there easily. If you are interested in reading more about the Hurtigruten cruise you can check out a travelogue series published on the Arctic Journal. Two random photos below.
So wow to settlements, and Greenlanders thanks for being so polite. I love it when it’s not 7am in the morning!
Do you ever try to avoid friendly people and if so, what are your tactics?