When you’re new: ‘flyfrisk’ versus FOB

Lettuce in Greenland

Photo by Filip Gielda. Original post: What’s luxury to eat in Greenland.

Flyfrisk. This is a term often used in Greenland to describe people who have arrived ‘fresh off the plane’.

It might have originally referred to vegetables and other goods such as milk that are flown into the country ‘fresh’, but in Greenland it is more often than not discussed in the human context.

When someone says that you are ‘flyfrisk’, it means that you are new and don’t know how things work around here. For Greenlanders it is typically a Dane who asks stupid questions because they don’t know the system. In general, it describes anyone new.

I often wondered whether being called ‘flyfrisk’ was a neutral term. I think it is more of a matter-of-fact term and not a derogatory one, but I’ve also heard that it could be a positive one. I’ve more often than not heard it in a slightly negative context, however. And to battle the dilemma of being ‘new’, I know that sometimes the newbies who come to Greenland claim the term as their own, using it as an armour.

It’s always better to say it yourself before someone else does, right?

Meet the FOB

Yet, I shirk the term. As with any other wordplay, one makes their own associations based on their own assumptions or experiences.

In the area where I grew up in Australia, we used the acronym ‘FOB’ meaning ‘Fresh Off The Boat’. This term was used most during high school, where the different cliques would be called different names. Names like the basketballers, the cool kids, the druggies, and the FOBs.

A FOB in Australia (and apparently also in the USA) was the most Asian of Asians, the ones who still clung to their yellow roots. It was the untoward side of the Orient. I think for most high school kids, at least among the Asian community, the term FOB was a negative term and something you absolutely didn’t want to be. It was as bad as being called slanty-eyed. If a white person called you that, it would be definitely degrading. However, I think FOB was more often used by Asians who had already acclimatised to Western culture. I never really asked those dubbed FOBs themselves what they thought of the term. I also never really thought about the fact that we might have wanted to be ‘whiter’ because it was cooler. Not that being white was always associated with being cool, but they were the majority and the power brokers in many scenarios.

Why FOB is degrading

I tried to find out if FOB was ever a positive term. I wanted to know if there was any correlation with ‘Fresh Off The Boat’ and fresh vegetables or goods, but I didn’t find anything (or did not dig deep enough). The other connotation why I think FOB might be considered degrading was that it was originally used to describe refugees. Therefore the FOB was of the lowest pecking order. It suggested that you didn’t have much money, spoke with a funny accent, and that your parents probably bargained loudly at the shops. When I reached university age, I became aware of another FOB – the Rich Asian Kid. They would fly to Australia for an education and they would be able to buy a house and convertible on the day that they arrived because mummy and daddy paid for it. The Fresh FOB took a plane and could afford to buy shit.

The link between FOB and flyfrisk

So when anyone in Greenland says ‘flyfrisk’, my brain immediately jumps to all of the associations above. It is a complicated process of thought, and it is for that very reason I’m not sure that ‘flyfrisk’ is a negative or neutral term.

Does anyone know? 

2 thoughts on “When you’re new: ‘flyfrisk’ versus FOB

  1. Both terms also sound to me fairly degrading. I mean I’ve never been told anything like that except when I was new in the army but even there it aint nice.
    I always wonder why people (natives I cant use for example for USA and Australia as I guess the real native population wont really use for example FOB…) in countries have to create terms to describe “new” people, often in bad ways. Humans can be really weird

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