Greenland’s a Hole in a Drainpipe: So What Can One Do There?

FACT: Big and small is relative. Sydney is a major city in Australia with a population of 4.5 million people. A third-tier city in China such as Kunming has 6 million residents. It’s considered a small, cultural backwater. The second largest city in Denmark, Aarhus, has 240,000 people. And Nuuk has a touch less than 16,000.

Right now I feel like I’m the focus of a social experiment, except that I put myself into this. The question to test is simple: If you send out a regular city girl who loves the sun and surf to the harshest and coldest regions of the planet, take away all of life’s normal pleasures and privileges such as cafes, lots of friends, festivals and a professional job that she enjoys, then will she survive? What will she do there?

Visiting Greenland is one thing. Moving or staying there for an extended period of time is another.

I’ve heard that there’s at least one movie cinema. Two cafes. Three good restaurants.

There’s one university which has really cool architecture, albeit it has a population of about 150 students. To put it into context, the university I am soon to finish in caters for more than 36,000 students.

Since we’re venturing on this stat trail, here are some more mind-blowing numbers, courtesy of the country’s tourism website and wikipedia. (I know, I’d fail if this was an academic paper). The country has a population of roughly 58,000 people. Less than 16,000 residents live in the capital city. Double that and minus a little, and we have a figure for the number of Arctic hounds in Greenland. Probably no Apple store?

The other day, it popped into my head that if my phone had problems and froze to death, I wouldn’t be able to easily access an Apple store to salvage its life back. First world problems in a nutshell. I know, it’s a bit funny I was thinking of that, because there will be so many other things to worry about. Like integrating into the small town culture, and finding friends. Maybe even a really cool job.

In the past week, one of the main questions people have asked me is what I’m going to do in Greenland. My stock standard answer has been ‘I’m not really sure, I’ll find out when I get there’. When I’m in a rebel mood, I tell them I’ll be learning how to shoot my own food – ‘cos that’s just how I roll (and it’s not unusual to do that there).

A colleague at work jokingly remarked that my next job title could be ‘fish gutter’, ‘seal blubber harvester’, or ‘hole-in-ice cutter’. I’ll need to skill-up to attain these positions. The ability not to squirm when seeing blood and guts is probably a key selection criteria.

Having reflected upon the question a bit more, I realised that by taking myself completely out of one environment and placing myself into this harsh, bare place means I’ll be going into a new world. This means new experiences, and potentially, new opportunities.

So what have I heard of about Greenland in terms of professional opportunities?

I’ve heard that there’s lots of potential resources in Greenland, and many Chinese corporations investing in the area are flying in loads of Chinese workers. There’s copious amounts of research happening there. It’s a great place for tourism, if anyone can afford to travel to it.

Perhaps with my English skills and knowledge of China, I will have a chance to work in the HR or internal communication space as a cultural liaison in one of the larger companies. Perhaps I can be the 25th employee of the University of Greenland.

Maybe I’ll find someone who is making a documentary who I can help somehow. It would be a dream to work for their tourism office, which looks half based in Denmark. Though I don’t doubt it will be tough going, I’m open to expanding my horizons.

In an email from the awesome photographer who kindly let me use his images for my blog headers, he wrote something so poignant that affected me:

“Nice lives are appreciated more when you aren’t living them, but they aren’t the times a person is usually proud of. Growth is always painful and I suspect you’re in for a lot of growth and pain. This is a privilege, so grab it – and good luck!”

P.S. I know that you’re probably thinking, where’s the reference to Greenland being a hole in a drainpipe? Is she saying that there’s not much to do there? That it’s a cultural backwater? Actually, it’s a literal reference. My friend Diane sent me this blog post on accidental cartography. It’s a very cool post showing how images of countries can be found in places where you least expect them.



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