1. You can’t get enough raw whale skin.
Whale skin combines two unique tastes of tough fat and salty skin that’s pretty easy to chew. Whale skin is a Greenlandic favorite and pretty difficult to get a hold of, whereas trout, salmon, Brünnich’s guillemot, musk ox, and shrimp is cheaper and more widely available.
2. You’ve climbed Store Malene mountain at least once.
Climbing this mountain is a rite of passage. It’s about 800 meters high and takes only three hours to hike. It’s located right outside of the capital city Nuuk and there’s a private home right at the starting point.
3. You have an endless supply of after-party stories.
The bars in Greenland close at 3am, and even though we don’t appreciate our reputation drinking too much, Greenlandic people do enjoy a good after party. These parties normally have someone playing guitar while the rest sing Greenlandic songs. If no one brought a guitar, there will definitely be a card-based drinking game (A true Greenlandic knows at least 15 drinking games). The parties last until noon the next day and produce some pretty awesome gossip for Monday morning.
4. You care about what people say about you. Even if you say you don’t.
Greenland is a small community, and gossiping is most people’s main source of entertainment. How can you blame them? If you don’t know a specific person, your friend does. Most of the time, you try and be careful how you act in public. But if you dance on a table at the Manhattan Club on Saturday night, you know you’ll eventually come to be called that “table dancing woman.” Word gets around. And did I mention the after parties?
5. You wear the ugliest clothes, hats, gloves, boots, and makeup so no one can recognize you on New Year’s Eve.
The time around Christmas is very important in Greenlandic culture, so we have a lot of small traditions that we do for fun. Dressing up and covering everything until it’s very hard to tell who you are on New Year’s is just one of them. The point is to put on whatever you have that’s used and ugly and go door to door dancing for strangers. They’ll try and guess your name and give you candies.
6. You’ve told a few foreigners that anaq and iggoraarsuk are ways to say “hello” and “how are you?”
Meeting a foreigner who knows Greenlandic almost never happens. Our language isn’t similar to any other, except for those of other Inuit tribes in Canada. To speak it, you have to know all of your throat muscles intimately. Anaq (“shit”) and Iggoraarsuk (“you sexy thing”) just so happen to be the easiest words to say. Honest!
7. You rarely see your family and friends in August.
Reindeer hunting season begins August 1st. And, of course, it’s a school vacation month too. You know that if you stay in town during August, you’ll feel left out. Every person you know will be either hunting, sailing, or staying in the family cottage, which is usually at least an hour or two boat ride from their hometown.
8. You know you’re not an adult until you’ve tried Greenlandic Coffee.
5cl coffee + 3cl Kahlua + 3cl whiskey + 2cl Grand Marnier, and last but not least, cream. Now that’s a real drink.
9. The various screwups of politicians are always a conversation topic.
We always vote for the best but the disappointment never seems to end. One way or another, we look for mistakes in the people who run our country. You may not follow political discussions, but you still know that the prime minister paid for a full makeover with Greenland’s money. Shocking!
10. Your childhood stories always involve playing outside.
Nature plays a big part in Greenlandic life, and it has a lot to offer a child’s imagination and creativity. You used to make houses with your siblings out of broken pieces of wood, grass, and anything else that was available. You’d play marbles outside or go fishing on Nuutoqaq if your parents allowed.
11. You know Santa Claus is from Greenland.
Santa had a house in Nuuk. Greenlandic schools help out with answering all the letters Santa gets. So, yeah, he was from here.
12. You can’t stop staring when you hear someone speaking a language you don’t know.
Let’s face it, Greenland doesn’t have any sandy beaches and the temperature doesn’t get higher than 25 degrees celsius in summer. It’s never going top anyone’s list of “best places to go on vacation.” The only reason people travel here — or even know it exists — is if they’re big hikers or arctic-sport athletes coming to participate in one of Greenland’s sponsored races.
13. You’ve played Puttaarneq (the most dangerous game) and survived!
As spring nears, fjord ice starts to break into different sizes. The goal of Puttaarneq is to jump on those pieces of ice as far as you can before turning back. This game is only for kids. You never told your mother you played because you know she’d kill you if she found out. Unfortunately, there have been more than a couple deaths.
14. You believe in magical Qivittoq.
Some people go to nature to get away from the modern world. They live wild without any kinds of modern gear, and by doing so the animals and nature give them any power they wish for. You’ve heard stories about flying and changing shapes, unbelievably fast running speeds, and being able to disappear instantaneously.
15. It’s not threatening to see someone with a rifle walking down the street.
Greenlandic people hunt all year long for either reindeer, musk ox, seal, hare, or grouse. And they carry their rifles with them to the store to buy food for the trip.
16. You skip shopping for dinner when there’s kaffemik.
Kaffemik means “Give me coffee.” It’s an open house for anyone who has a special occasion, anything to be celebrated with family and friends. These open houses always have many different cakes and cookies, and if you’re lucky there will be Greenlandic favorites like dried fish, whale skin, or reindeer soup.
Photo: Destination Arctic Circle