View Full Version : Danish Greenlanders

Sunday, October 14th, 2018, 06:31 PM
Danish Greenlanders are Danish immigrants in Greenland and their descendants.

Danish Greenlanders are a minority ethnic group in Greenland, accounting for around 11% of the territory's population. Greenlandic Inuit (including mixed-race persons) make up approximately 85%–90% of the total (2009 estimate).

Attracted by good employment opportunities with high wages, many Danes settled in the town of Nuuk during the 1990s. Nuuk has the highest proportion of Danes of any town in Greenland.


There was continuous Scandinavian settlement in south-western Greenland from the 10th century until the 15th century. It remains unclear exactly when and how these populations eventually disappeared, but climate change appears to be the primary cause. The majority of these Medieval settlers hailed from Norway (by way of Iceland), rather than Denmark.

From 1721 onwards, the Danish (and Norwegian) presence in south-western Greenland was restored, initially in the form of seasonal trading posts and missions, rather than permanent settlements.

Danish language

Both Danish and Greenlandic have been used in public affairs in Greenland since the establishment of home rule in 1979; the majority of the population can speak both languages. Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) became the sole official language in June 2009. Danish is still widely used in the administration and in higher education, as well as remaining the first or only language for some Danish immigrants in Nuuk and other larger towns. A debate about the role of Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) and Danish in future society is ongoing.

About 12% of the population of Greenland speaks Danish as a first or sole language, particularly Danish immigrants in Greenland, many of whom fill positions such as administrators, professionals, academics, or skilled tradesmen. While Greenlandic is dominant in all smaller settlements, a part of the population of Inuit or mixed ancestry, especially in towns, speaks Danish. Most of the Inuit population speaks Danish as a second language. In larger towns, especially Nuuk and in the higher social strata, this is still a large group.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danish_people_in_Greenland

Are Danes nicer in Greenland?


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.


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’.https://thefourthcontinent.com/2015/12/11/are-danes-are-nicer-in-greenland-moving-to-denmark/


With its vast ice-sheet and tremendous calving glaciers, its tundra and its fjords, Greenland is a must-see adventure-travel destination. The lure of the wilds is strong and tourists don’t linger for long in the city; most bypass it completely and head directly into nature. But there is a growing community of artists, chefs and artisans keen to prove that there is more to Greenland than icebergs and huskies. Nuuk, they enthuse, is the new Nordic city of culture.

Nuuk is one of the smallest capital cities in the world, with just 17,000 inhabitants – a mixture of Greenlanders and Danes. In 2009 Denmark granted Greenlanders the right to self-rule and the sense of newly found freedom is still tangible, with Greenland playing an increasingly significant role in the global Arctic community. Last year the Arctic Winter Games – for athletes from the circumpolar north – was hosted here. In October 200 artists from Scandinavia, Iceland and the Faroe Islands gathered in the city for the Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival, drawing an audience of around 10 per cent of Greenland’s entire population.

“The interest in the Nordic culture scene is developing rapidly,” says Mats Bjerde, director of the Nordic Institute of Greenland (Napa), which promotes Greenlandic and Nordic cultural cooperation. “We want to create a cultural Nordic playground in Nuuk where new skills can be born and avant-garde productions can be created across all creative genres.”

Nivi Christensen, curator of the Nuuk Art Museum, is equally passionate about supporting up-and-coming artists and engaging a new audience. Christensen says: “When I first became curator here, I wondered whether Nuuk was ready to have a cultural institution which had not only old paintings and sculptures but also new, exciting and challenging artworks. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

The single greatest cultural change in Nuuk came with the creation of the Katuaq Culture Centre, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in February. The undulating, timber-clad building, designed by architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen, echoes the form and movement of the nearby fjord, icebergs and the northern lights.

“Katuaq was built at a time when there was growing focus on the country’s own culture,” says the director, Julia Pars. “And so the centre became a symbol for nationalism, imagination and the possibility of a new Greenland. Today, we aim to be a window both to our own culture and to the outside world.” Katuaq – which means “drumstick” in Greenlandic – has become the beating heart of the city, hosting film screenings, theatre performances, gigs and exhibitions that attract 100,000 people a year. “Katuaq is like a musical instrument that can begin to play at any moment,” says Pars. “During the day it’s full of dreams – at night it acts like a magnetic field, drawing people into the light.”

Creative expression in modern-day Nuuk takes many forms, from exceptional “new-Nordic” cuisine or artisan craft beer made with glacial ice, to video installations and street art. With the exception of the Katuaq centre, Nuuk’s architecture is, on the whole, rather grey and unimaginative (some would say ugly). Yet this was an ideal canvas for artists Stefan Baldursson from Iceland and Guido van Helten from Australia, who created the huge artworks that bookmark Nuuk’s Soviet-style apartment blocks.

“I’ve always been attracted to extreme places. That’s why I really wanted to paint in Greenland,” says van Helten. “It’s been a privilege to work on the [apartment] block, especially as it symbolised another time and migration.” His artwork was inspired by a photograph taken in 1906 of a hunter who was relocated from a smaller community to Nuuk as part of a Danish objective to “modernise” Greenland.

More: https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/nuuk-greenland-capital-city-culture-nordic-artists-restaurants-aristans-katuaq-a7895001.html