Greenland is my favourite country in the North! And I would say in the whole world but it's not like I've travelled that extensively so let's stick with the North.
I was fortunate enough to spend a week in the country in the summer of 2015 in order to collect data for my MA thesis ("(Post) Colonial Relations on Display - Contemporary Trends in Museums and Art Exhibitions depicting Greenland" in case you're really bored and would like to read more).
Anyway, through my research and talks to various Greenlanders, I found out so much about the country, its people and culture, that goes far beyond all those other "10 interesting things about Greenland" posts. I mean: "Greenland isn't green but Iceland is - how crazy" - seriously?!!
I'll just pretend that you're reading this because you're either a regular reader of my blog or because you have an interest in Greenland and/or the Nordics, and therefore you already know "crazy" facts like that one. Also, "you can see the Northern Lights in Greenland" - oh really? Duh!
But if you actually don't know much about the country, let me give you a quick rundown before I totally overwhelm you with my 5+1 facts.
Greenland is the largest island in the world and larger than Mexico but has only around 55000 inhabitants. The country has been settled by Vikings and Inuit and is today part of Denmark after having been a Danish colony. Greenland however is self-governed and not part of the European Union even though Denmark is.
About 80% of the country is covered by ice - hence those stupid Greenland is icy and Iceland is green jokes. The name Greenland goes back to the Vikings whereas the Inuit call the country "Kalaallit Nunaat", meaning land of the people.
Find more facts about Greenland at Norden.org
Basic facts covered? Then let's get to some real facts you didn't know about Greenland yet!
1. Brigitte Bardot is not very popular in the country
Since the 1980s, the French actress Brigitte Bardot has been involved in animal rights activism and started a campaign to stop sealing. Hunting seals, whales and polar bears has been the main source of livelihood for Inuit all around North America and Greenland up until this day, and the results of Bardot's campaign have been severe for many.
The price for seal skin has dropped significantly in the last decades and in addition to animal activists campaining against sealing, the EU has banned the import of sealskin in 2009, making it even more difficult for Inuit hunters in Greenland.
The Canadian Inuit director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril has made a movie about the struggle of Inuit to fight for their right to hunt seals, that also applies to Greenlandic hunters.
2. English might become the country's official language some day
As of today, Greenlandic and Danish are the official languages in Greenland. However, many people are critical of the connection of the country to Denmark and would rather be independent. The past of Greenland as a colony of Denmark is still a problem for many considering that Danes still hold a majority of high-paying jobs in the country.
Also, Danish as a language is seen as provincial by many - after all, it's only spoken in Denmark which is quite a small country. A lot of the young Greenlanders look therefore over the border to Canada, which is much closer to Greenland than Denmark is, to connect with other Inuit there. Plus, with tourism growing in Greenland, English gets more and more widespread, and looking over the pond for business opportunities could potentially bring money to the country too.
So who knows, Greenland might become independent from Denmark one day after all and Danish might be replaced by English when that happens.
Read more about the topic in "Post-colonial identity in Greenland?" by Ulrik Pram Gad
3. The effects of colonisation are still noticeable
The researcher Tine Curtis write in "VIOLENCE, SEXUAL ABUSE AND HEALTH IN GREENLAND" that "the rates of violence and homicides are high in Greenland as in other Inuit communities, and are a major concern for public health".
The image of the drunk Greenlander has been a common stereotype in Denmark in the last couple of decades and although there are several artists and activists who try to change this image, Greenlanders still sometimes meet those stereotypes down south.
But where does the problem come from? Studies show that colonisation and enforced modernization can be seen as origins to problems like alcohol abuse, violence and suicide not only in Inuit but also Sami communities in Scandinavia.
While the problem is known in Greenland and Denmark though, it's still a taboo topic among the Sami that's only slowly starting to change.
You can read more about the problem in "Modernization and Mental Health: Suicide among the Inuit in Greenland".
4. Thai's and Filipino make up the second biggest group of immigrants to the country
Greenland has about 55000 inhabitants whereof ca. 5000 people are Danes. Less than a 1000 people come from other countries - most of them from the Nordics, the other half from Thailand and the Philippines, Lena Lauridsen writes in Inussuk.
Why would you leave warm and sunny Thailand to move to Greenland of all places, which consists to 80% of ice and where temperatures rarely go beyond 0 degrees, you ask?
Well I'm afraid I can't give you a real answer here. Might be that people from warmer climates are fascinated by snow and ice as much as we living in the North are fascinated with sunshine and beaches...
Whatever the reason is, Nuuk offers Asian cuisine in restaurants and supermarkets so if you ever visit and crave rice and noodles instead of musk oxen burgers and whale goulash, no problem!
5. In the 1950s, Greenlandic children were taken from their families and sent to Denmark
The colonial past of Greenland is indeed a dark chapter. Similar to Norwegian "Norwegianization" policies of sending Sami children to boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak their mother tongue, Denmark send 22 Greenlandic children away from their families to learn the Danish language and culture in 1951.
The aim of this action was for the children to become "Danicized" and leaders of the new Greenlandic sociey under rule from Denmark. Needless to say that the "experiment" failed and left 22 traumatized children and their families alone.
You can listen to a BBC interview with one of the former children below:
The Danish state has yet to apologize for its actions.
Read more about the issue here:
6. Rock'n'Roll led to a Greenlandic revolution
Okay, maybe not a revolution in the strict sense of the word but the Greenlandic band Sume did something in the 1970s that nobody had the guts to do before: speak up about being ruled from Denmark.
Even though Greenland in the 1970s was not a colony of Denmark anymore, many people still felt as if it was because Greenlanders could not decide about their country on their own back then. The band Sume thematized this issue in their texts, which were sung in Greenlandic, and thus lead to a small revolution in the country.
There's an English movie under the name "Sume - The Sound of a Revolution" that you should definitely watch if you're interested in finding out more about that time.
I realize that this was quite a political post but honestly, I'm so over these superficial listicles which don't actually tell you anything about the country or its culture other than the things you can copy from Wikipedia.
If you'd however like to read funny and informative listicles about Greenland, try these two:
10 Possibly True Facts About Greenland! by Phil Taylor
and Ten Real Facts About Greenland by Sarah Woodall
And if you're looking for a travel guide to Greenland, head over to my resource library below:
Is there something that surprised you? Or something else you'd like to know about the country?
Leave a comment below and don't forget to check back for replies!
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