Moving to another country can be a daunting process.  It’s especially hectic when you throw in kids, furniture, your musician husbands 500 kilos of music equipment, and a dog.  This is exactly what we did, we moved from Copenhagen, Denmark to Nuuk, Greenland for a job opportunity.  

As a seasoned Alaskan expat who has moved around my whole life, I took into account the weather, the environment, the fact that even though Denmark is expensive to live in, we knew that Greenland is astronomically expensive as well.  We took a chance and went for it.  

The movers came, our worldly possessions were put on a boat on a container before we left, plane tickets were bought, COVID 19 tests were taken, the dog had all of his paperwork, kennel, shots, microchips, and permits.  And so we were as ready as we could be.  

Now we have been here for about a month and we still have so much to learn.  But so far Nuuk has been a wonderful experience for my family and I.  But I do know that it’s not for everyone.  How you find the experience – at least for an expatriate like me – depends on you. It depends on your character, your expectations, your attitude towards the people, the culture, politics, society, and your complete willingness to adapt.  And as much as we planned, there are still things I wish I knew before moving here, I’m sharing in hopes that it helps others who have plans to move here.

1. Get a WORK PERMIT

I don’t have anything other than to say than this is EVERYTHING.  Make sure that your WORK PERMIT is valid before you leave for the job in a foreign country.  That’s all. 

2. Keep that Freezer

As a Native Indigenous person from Alaska, I know what it means to have an extra freezer in your home.  I always had one to store meat and fish for the winter.  The same applies to life here in Greenland.  Previously we had a stand-alone freezer when we lived in Falster, and when we moved, we left it.  We should have kept it.  It would have been so handy and now we need it.  So keep thy beloved freezer because you will always need the room to store more food for the long winters. 

3. Everything is MORE Expensive that I thought

For real. For example, we have this family tradition called, “Slik Friday,” where we let the kids have candy on Fridays.  (It’s better than letting have candy all the time and they look forward to it:)  As our local mini market just right down the way from our apartment, a medium sized bag of M&M’s was 45kr.  Thats about a $7 bag of candy.  So Slik Friday has become wholly expensive.  And By-The-Way, Greenland’s currency system in is ‘kroner,’ the same as Denmark, so that’s at least less confusing.  Also, in terms of food, vegetables are double what they were in Denmark.  Say I wanted a head of broccoli, its 30kr. here and about 10-15kr. in Denmark.  So we’ve switched to frozen veggies now.  I think the trade-off is that we are getting fresh fish (not farmed fish), and meat which is how I grew up, a subsistence lifestyle.  Anyways, we are getting creative with our budgeting because of the astronomical price increase.  

4. You will eventually need wheels

We had sold our car when we left Denmark.  We knew that we could get around with our bikes and we have done well so far.  But when winter and snow finally arrives we will need a car to get around.  In all honesty, it has been hard NOT having a car here.  We’ve had to rely on others to help us move things and pick up things we’ve bought. The hills are especially steep here so it does make biking with a trailer filled with groceries, a toddler, and a dog in tow especially hard.  But the upside is that we are getting stronger and healthier.  Either way, we will need a car when the snow arrives.  Budget for this.  

5. Learn the language. 

It’s so much easier said than done.  I’ve been trying to learn Danish for the past 3+ years, not exactly trying hard but I should have stuck with it.  I am kicking myself for not being more proactive in learning Danish.  Now here I am deciphering business Danish and not understanding Greenlandic at all.  It’s all relative though.  I knew this would make communication harder, I just wish I had made Danish more of a priority.  So take it from me, learning the language will help you communicate and build relationships faster than fighting it.  

To date, I’ve learned to manage my expectations.  I’ve learned a lot from being an expat in Denmark.  I don’t expect to fit in easily and I’m definitely prepared for culture shock and differences.  Also, it helps if you are naturally independent.  It’s definitely to your advantage because you won’t feel so lonely or lost when you first move to a new place and need to restart your life.  Also, do some research about the new country first so that you have a general idea of the opportunities available to you before you move.  Furthermore, try to be open to adapting your perspective and mindset to a different lifestyle.  I’ve found when I’ve open to the possibilities of learning new things, I meet new people, and foster better relationships.  There are so many new experiences to be had in this little country.  If you don’t try, you don’t know what’s out there and what opportunities you are missing.  Reach out, network, join like-minded activities and have new adventures.  Live!

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