Top Ten Tuesday! Ten Real Facts About Greenland

Remember last weeks Top Ten Possibly True Facts about Greenland? I know this may come as a shock to you, but I made most of those up. What I learned, based on comments to that post is that you and I know very little about Greenland, except that Greenlanders don’t visit our blogs very much. Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. I reached out to Greenland and found Sarah Woodall. Many years ago Jane Goodall went to live with the gorillas to understand them. Sarah Woodall, an American,  went to live with the Greenlanders for the same purpose, but hopefully with less nit picking. Sarah is an International Relationship Manager for Visit Greenland and after seeing last weeks Top Ten she offered this awesome Top Ten of real facts about Greenland.

 10. People live in Greenland! 55,984 of them. They’re not Eskimos, but they are Greenlanders, and Thai, and Americans, and French, Spaniards, Danes, Australians, Scots, Norwegians, Swedes, Finns, Poles, Canadians, Germans, and Saudi Arabians. The capital city, Nuuk, has just under 17000 residents.
9. Fish food: The Greenlandic diet relies heavily on locally-sourced land and sea animals! A freezer can be filled with cod, char, halibut, shrimp, capelin, reindeer, lamb, muskox, seal, walrus, whale and polar bear – much of it self-caught. These same ingredients are turned into beautifully-crafted gastronomic experiences in restaurants. A reliance on hunting and fishing is one aspect of life where tradition still overpowers modernity, for personal preference and practical reasons.
More info: Greenland Gastronomy page on

 8. Greenland is green! The old tale that Viking explorers cheekily switched the names of Greenland and Iceland wasn’t totally misleading. In the 20% of the landmass that is not covered by glacier, there is place enough for quite varied plant life. In particular, South Greenland is the garden of Greenland. It is filled with green valleys, blooming flowers, an arboretum, and even small farms growing strawberries, lettuces, radishes, and potatoes, though not nearly enough to support even Greenland’s small population.
7. Owning pet dogs is forbidden in some parts of Greenland! North of the Arctic Circle on the west coast and everywhere on the east coast, people keep Greenlandic sled dogs as working dogs, and nothing can jeopardize their extremely pure blood line. The Greenlandic dog has a resistance to cold that lets them stay outdoors 365 days a year. Elsewhere in Greenland where there is no sea ice, and thus no need for sled dogs (like the capital region and in South Greenland), people own many other traditional breeds of dogs.
6. There are no chains in Greenland! Leave your Starbucks card at home and save your Hilton points for another holiday. In Nuuk, the capital, there are a few Scandinavian retail stores like Matas, Jysk, and Elgiganten, but the other retail stores, hotels, coffee shops, and restaurants in the country are small businesses. In the small settlements there is usually only one central store where one can buy something.
Check out the Nuuk Center website to get an idea of some of the retail options in Nuuk, Greenland.
Nuuk Center Mall

Nuuk Center Mall

 5. There is no private land ownership in Greenland! When you go scrambling on the rocks by the coastline to find a good sunset outlook, or when you go walking in the hills for an afternoon, you don’t have to worry that you’re trespassing on someone’s property. But do abide by the unspoken code of conduct to not litter and to give respectful distance around people’s homes.
4. The Nuuk you saw portrayed in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was NOT Greenland! It was Iceland. Some of the elements were as realistic as possible – like the name of the bar actually has a true meaning in Greenlandic – but those who know Greenland could pick out dozens of incorrect elements – like the sidewalk construction and the fact that jet planes cannot land at Nuuk Airport.
3. Greenland is accessible year round! If you’re Icelandic or Danish, there are direct flights to Greenland via Air Greenland and Air Iceland. If you’re not, then a connection via Reykjavík or Copenhagen gets you to Greenland. These flights are year round so whether it’s the winter northern lights or the summer midnight sun that draws you north, you can get here!
Check out my How to Get to Greenland blog post.

2. Muskox wool from Greenland is nicer than cashmere! Called qiviut in Greenlandic, muskox wool yarn is spun from the inner fur of a muskox and made into clothing and accessories like hats, scarves, and even baby clothes. It is extremely warm, providing healing effects for those with arthritis, and it softer than cashmere! Nearly all the muskox wool yarn production in Greenland comes from a female business team in the towns of Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut.
1. The Greenland Ice Sheet is one of only two ice sheets in the world and the only one with an indigenous population! The other ice sheet is Antarctica, and it just has a mass of penguins. In some places, the Greenland Ice Sheet is 3 km / 2 mi thick – that’s like 10 Eiffel Towers stacked on top of each other! You can take guided glacier walking tours to the ice sheet to experience this mammoth geologic feature for yourself!
Sarah, thank you so much for your entertaining and informative Top Ten list. Guess what folks, we’re not done with Greenland yet, and I’ll need your help. Sarah has agreed to come back for a Friday interview, so I’ll need some questions. I know what I want to ask her, but if you have questions for her about living in Greenland please put them in the comments today and I’ll include them.

9 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday! Ten Real Facts About Greenland

  1. Phil, this was brilliant! You’ve just given me 10 reasons to want to go to Greenland. Had I known earlier when I was planning my summer vacation, I would have included a puddle jump from Reykjavik to Nuuk!
    There is sooo much interesting stuff in here … why do I suddenly have a yearning for muskox clothing to prepare for next winter? 😉

  2. Love this, Phil. I had no idea on all this!

  3. What a wealth of information
    I do not envy you
    To find anything else to ask
    In your interview.

  4. Coincidently I’m reading Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig and have just got to the part where he says if you live in Greenland you are 27 times more likely to kill yourself than if you live in Greece (this might have changed recently considering Greece’s financial problems!). Get a Starbucks in there and make it quick, they can’t afford to lose any of those 55,984 …

  5. At least you can spell coincidentally!! How’s the financial situation there tonight? Do we need to start looking for loose change down the back of the sofa?

  6. Great follow-up post, Phil. Here are some possible questions for Friday:

    1. What five things did the great book “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” get wrong about Greenland? (I have no idea if it got even ONE thing wrong.)

    2. Is the population growing or shrinking? If the latter, why?

    3. How did Thai’s wind up in Greenland? The others I can work out, but not so much the Thais.

  7. Pingback: Polarphile on The Phil Factor | Adventures of a Polarphile

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