Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, is a place of wonder, mystery, and unique cultural norms. While it may be a small city in terms of population, it’s rich in traditions, quirks, and idiosyncrasies that make it a fascinating place to live or visit.
There are ten things that everyone in Nuuk knows – or at least, they think everyone else knows!
1. Don’t go swimming in Cirkussoen!
Cirkussoen, a pristine lake in Qinngorput, might seem like the perfect spot for a refreshing dip. But as inviting as it looks, there’s a reason locals stay out.
- Why Not? The lake is a primary source of drinking water for the area. While there’s a sign that politely asks visitors not to pollute the water, it’s often overlooked. And yes, swimming counts as pollution!
- A Common Misconception: It’s not uncommon to see people, both young and old, splashing around, especially during the warm summer months. But now you know – it’s best to admire Cirkussoen from the shore.
In many parts of the world, choosing a phone or internet provider can be a daunting task. In Nuuk, the decision is refreshingly simple.
- The Only Game in Town: Whether you’re looking for a phone connection or broadband internet, there’s only one name you need to know: Tele. It’s the sole provider of both services in Greenland.
- Decision-Free Living: For those who find too many choices overwhelming, Nuuk offers a respite. Just remember, it’s not about limited options; it’s about streamlined living!
3. Flight Schedules
Traveling to Nuuk from Copenhagen? There’s something you should know about the flight schedule.
- One Flight a Day: If you’re flying from Copenhagen to Nuuk, there’s only one indirect flight per day. No need to fret over multiple flight times or worry about missing your connection. It’s straightforward and hassle-free.
- A Common Oversight: Many newcomers, like J, learn about this the hard way. Without any flight details provided, it can be a bit disconcerting. But once you’re in the know, it’s just another quirk of life in Nuuk.
Planning a weekend get-together? Make sure you stock up on alcohol at the right time.
- Timing is Everything: In Nuuk, you can’t purchase alcohol after 1 p.m. on Saturdays or at all on Sundays. It’s a rule many newcomers learn the hard way. So, if you’re planning a weekend gathering, make sure to buy your beverages on Saturday morning.
- The Underground Scene: If you do find yourself in a pinch, there are ways to procure alcohol outside of official channels. Taxi drivers, with their fingers on the pulse of the city, can often point you in the right direction.
Asking for directions in Nuuk? Don’t expect a street name or number. Instead, be prepared for a more descriptive approach.
- The Local Way: Residents of Nuuk often give directions based on landmarks rather than specific addresses. For instance, “It’s by the red row of houses behind the green one.” It might seem vague at first, but it’s a system that works surprisingly well in a city where everyone knows every nook and cranny.
- Famous Landmarks: Some landmarks, like Maik’s Corner, are so well-known that they’re used as reference points for multiple locations. If you don’t know where Maik’s corner is, well, you’ll learn soon enough!
6. Maik’s Corner
Speaking of Maik’s Corner, let’s delve a bit deeper into this iconic Nuuk landmark.
- Who is Maik? Maik wears many hats. He’s a hairdresser, an apartment rental guru, and the founder of Greenland Ice (cream). His multifaceted career has made his corner a well-known spot in Nuuk.
- A Central Point: Whether you’re getting directions, meeting someone, or just looking for a familiar place in the city, Maik’s Corner is often the reference point. It’s a testament to Maik’s influence and the community’s love for local icons.
7. Expressing Discontent
Nuuk, like many close-knit communities, has its own set of social norms when it comes to expressing dissatisfaction.
- A Culture of Respect: In Greenland, there’s a strong emphasis on maintaining harmony and avoiding public confrontations. If you have an issue with someone, it’s best to discuss it privately. This is especially true given the interconnected relationships in the community – you never know who’s related to whom!
- Exceptions to the Rule: Of course, there are always exceptions. Politicians, for instance, are more accustomed to public debates and disagreements. But for the average Greenlander, discretion is the name of the game.
8. Bus Tickets
Using public transport in Nuuk? There’s a handy tip you should be aware of regarding bus tickets.
- A Limited Window: When you purchase a bus ticket in Nuuk, it’s only valid for 1.5 hours. While this information is available on an info sheet, it’s not explicitly mentioned on the ticket itself.
- Why the Restriction? This system is designed to facilitate short trips within the city. If you’re planning a longer excursion or multiple stops, it’s something to keep in mind.
9. The Nuuk Swimming Pool
Looking for a quiet, leisurely swim in Nuuk? You might want to adjust your expectations.
- A Hub of Activity: The city’s only swimming pool is a hive of activity, especially during public hours. With no designated lap lanes and a plethora of playful kids, it’s more of a splash zone than a serene oasis.
- Know the Schedule: The pool has specific public hours, interspersed with slots reserved for swim school and club activities. If you’re planning a visit, it’s worth checking the schedule in advance.
10. Weather Woes
If you think you’ve seen bad weather, wait until you experience a Greenlandic storm.
- Nature’s Fury: Greenland can unleash some truly ferocious weather, with hurricane-level storms that can halt public transport and everyday life. But for locals, it’s just another day in Nuuk.
- A Matter of Perspective: Mention a storm to a Greenlander, and they’re likely to shrug it off. After all, in East Greenland, they contend with the pitarak – a wind so powerful it can send containers flying!
What is the official language spoken in Nuuk?
The official language of Nuuk, like the rest of Greenland, is Greenlandic (Kalaallisut). However, Danish is also widely spoken, and you’ll find a number of people who speak English, especially in the service industry.
What currency is used?
The official currency of Greenland is the Danish Krone (DKK).
Is it safe to drink tap water?
Yes, the tap water in Nuuk is pure and safe to drink. In fact, it’s some of the cleanest water in the world!
What’s the best time to visit?
It depends on what you’re looking for. Summer (June to August) offers milder temperatures and longer days, while winter (November to March) is perfect for witnessing the Northern Lights.
Are there any traditional foods I should try in Nuuk?
Absolutely! You should try dishes like “suaasat” (a traditional soup) and various seafood dishes, especially those with locally caught fish, shrimp, and seal.
How do locals commute within Nuuk?
While many prefer walking due to the city’s compact size, there are also buses available. Taxis are another option, though they might be pricier.
Nuuk, the heart of Greenland, is a blend of ancient traditions and modern living. Its unique quirks, cultural norms, and breathtaking landscapes make it a must-visit for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure.
Whether you’re here for a short visit or planning an extended stay, Nuuk promises a myriad of experiences that will leave an indelible mark on your heart. Explore its culture, respect its norms, and embrace the beauty of a city that stands as a testament to human resilience and the wonders of nature.