It’s close to exam time in Greenland and Denmark. While teaching in Greenland I was often sent out as an external examiner (that sounds awful). I could be sent all over Greenland, and enjoyed several visits to Upernavik – fantastic town even if the fog often means you can’t leave for a day, a week, sometimes longer. Getting to the schools always involved flying, and it’s fun for me to remember flying in to be an examiner at a tiny school on a small island, for example.
One April I took the “big” helicopter from Upernavik (above) to Kullorsuaq (below).
It was also fun to be a part of the exams.
The education system in Greenland struggles in many ways and for many reasons, and it is always the kids who suffer from the challenges of teaching in the Arctic. I won’t go into that here, not today. But I do want to share a short anecdote plucked from an exam as it highlights the cultural differences between Greenland and Europe, for example.
One of the classes I was examining had the topic Fast Food. One fifteen year old in the English exam was doing her best but struggling. To keep things going I asked her if she had ever been in Denmark.
I asked if she had been to McDonald’s.
She nodded, but then frowned as she remembered the experience. She had a Big Mac.
“How was it?” I asked.
“Not good,” the girl said.
She shrugged, and said, “I don’t like vegetarian food.”
A few questions more revealed that the salad and tomato in the Big Mac were just too much! Sure, something was lost in translation, but for a teenager growing up in a hunting community (and with sporadic English lessons) she was telling it like she knew it. Salad in a burger is akin to vegetarian meals.
And… there are no McDonald’s in Greenland!
Graham Williams says
And ‘internal examiner’ sounds good?!🤣
If the diet is predominantly meat for the Inuit people,does that mean that ‘the west’s’ panic about too much meat is erroneous?(now there’s a name to conjure with!). Are the Inuit dying earlier because of their diet? Just a thought.
Christoffer Petersen says
Hi Graham! Internal vs external … I got nothing. 🙂 As for your question about meat … I’m definitely not qualified to comment on that. The West gets a lot of things wrong, but then it’s based on wholly different lifestyles. 🙂 Traditionally, the Greenlanders, and Inuit, had a predominantly meat-based diet, but it was “good meat”, and varied as they ate pretty much everything, lots of fish, whale skin is full of vitamins and minerals, blubber has “good” fat, and they needed it because of the environment. The problem today is that junk food (even without McD’s) is prevalent in Greenland. So suddenly there’s a tonne of sugar, and “bad” fat. Diabetes II is common now among Greenlanders. However, I say “today’s problem” and “suddenly” as if junk food has just arrived. It’s been in Greenland for many years, but the effects are now evident and have been for a few decades. On the fruit and veg side of things,berries are a big part of the traditional Greenland diet… that I know… I’ve eaten my fair share of them! 🙂 Oh, and Erroneous! Yes, need to write more about him! 🙂
I agree with your student’s sentiment about “rabbit food” on burgers and as side decoration or whatever you want to call it.
I love these stories about Greenland life. Thanks for posting them.
Christoffer Petersen says
Thanks, Elentarri! 🙂