My friends began the conversation by asking if I could ever see myself living in Australia again. It quickly moved onto speculation that I would end up settling down in Denmark after my time here and become a ‘good little Dane’.
I never try to lock things out: I mean, we could end up staying in Greenland forever, we could move to Australia, and we could also venture onto a fifth continent. But yes it’s true that Denmark is also a possibility in the future.
My foreign friends in question have lived in Copenhagen previously. And from the way that they explained their experience after, it sounded almost like survival. They found it hard to make friends with the ‘cold’ Danes when living there, and they said that many of their foreign friends shared the same struggles. Actually, the reason that they left after a few years was because it was so hard to cultivate local friendships in Denmark.
This was the warning:
“If you guys are moving to Denmark, make sure that you have the mindset that it is a trial. Be careful that you don’t just get stuck there – prepare an exit strategy.”
I have only spent one year living in the smaller city of Aarhus and that was more than six years ago. During this time I spent a lot of time hanging out with my fellow international exchange students…..and perhaps unconventionally, J’s parents. In fact, I would say that his parents were the Danes that I became closest to. While it made sense for his parents to try and get to know their son’s relatively new girlfriend, their generosity and care went well beyond the usual expectations of this type of relationship. I am forever grateful for their kindness. I didn’t actually make any other new close friends while I was there.
COMPARING GREENLAND AND DENMARK’S APPROACH TO FOREIGNERS
When comparing Greenland and Denmark, my friends said that it was actually much easier for them to integrate into life in Nuuk. However, I think that we came to the conclusion that it can be pretty hard to get in touch with the locals anywhere you go. Because as you might have read in my blog before, the ones who stay longer in Greenland have the infamous two year friendship policy. I need to add in the caveat that I actually do have some good friends who are local, but I don’t really make a distinction as to what race they are. If you want to say Inuit friends, I still have a handful.
Locals are grounded, they most likely already have their jobs, their networks and friendship groups. Many do not have a need to make new friends. This can be said for locals everywhere, including Denmark.
One thing I can say in defence of Denmark and the Danes is that at least they have an awareness about the problem. In Denmark there are free language lessons available and also support networks for foreigners in the country. Whether the motive is integration, assimilation or cohabitation, at least the Danes and some active foreigners have taken the initiative to provide this sort of service. I think many foreigners can agree that in Greenland, we just exist. To make a huge generalisation, Greenlandic society is apathetic about foreigners. Foreigners are either considered problems, or not considered at all.
I can’t speak for places other than Nuuk, but recently there have been some baby steps to address the ‘newcomer’ issue in Nuuk. The town recently launched a tri-monthly introductory bus tour for the new in town, so that they could get to know the main services provided by the government. It sounds like a great initiative. So if you do come to town and are new, look out for that.
THE DANES IN GREENLAND
This conversation did eventually lead to the question in this heading: Are Danes nicer in Greenland? The context is that most of the foreigners who come to Greenland are in fact Danes. They play this inbetween role of being the colonisers, foreigners and yet also having a deeper connection with the country due to the language and the system.
So like everyone else moving to Greenland, the Danes who come are automatically moved out of their comfort zone. They are therefore new, more vulnerable and also more open to making new friends. They are so open here in fact that a ‘new girl’ I spoke to recently joked that the ‘Danes were nicer in Greenland’.
WILL I SURVIVE IN DENMARK?
I would like to hope that I could survive anywhere, but I’m a little less certain than I was in my younger and braver years. So yes, I’m a little bit scared of moving to Denmark if that day ever comes. And we will definitely need to plan an exit strategy.