I spoke with a friend a while back, an older Greenlander. During the conversation he used the phrase “real Greenlanders” several times. It can’t be avoided that different conduct and behavior become ingrained in people.

Which original customs can be attributed to the Greenlandic people of our day? Which pair of glasses should we wear in order to answer this question? Should one use customs from an external source or those customs and habits which characterize us as Greenlanders?

We Greenlanders have inherited many practices and habits from our forefathers. Many of them have been lost, but some of the most hardy, yet exist as a sign of our Greenlandic identity. The older Greenlander I mentioned in the beginning had probably experienced the following customs and habits.

Probably the oldest custom is laughter in response to humorous stories which underlines the Greenlandic identity. Laughter is an important part of cozy Greenlandic fellowship, where funny stories are told. They say that the laughter muscles go to work when we and our friends gather for friendly fellowship. Laughter lives on today as it did then. Laughter is healthy and must live on in the next generation

Unwillingness to argue is also a custom which characterizes us as a Greenlandic folk. This form of behavior has also been inherited from our forefathers. Some question the healthiness of having an aversion to arguing. In the large community gatherings, yesterday’s Greenlanders probably discovered that arguing, dissatisfaction and criticism gave bad results and in the worst case could even result in murders. 

For that reason, the drum “battle” was developed as a way to handle conflict. Greenlanders have engaged in this form of “rap” up until recently. Ever since then Greenlanders prefer to avoid arguing. However, in today’s world, in order to avoid dictatorial rule, it has become necessary to exchange opinions in the cause of maintaining democratic principles. The Greenlanders’ desire to avoid arguing is still so strong that many reserve their opinion in order to avoid becoming involved in arguments.

It is painful to suppress one’s opinion and the resulting dissatisfaction adversely affects the innocent. In stead of arguing, Greenlanders use the art of backbiting to a large extent. Backbiting is a Greenlandic custom with some advantages. By using it, argument is avoided. However, this habit has a disadvantage. Folk in their backbiting pour their anger out over the innocent.

These old customs and habits have given birth to new practices. Today all are happy with gatherings free of strife such as bingo, card games, tarot, gymnastics, concerts and the like. The old Greenlandic custom of avoiding argument and the exchange of opinions is still quite alive and ingrown in the Greenlandic identity.

We Greenlanders have many old customs and habits the evidence of which remains to this day. Worth mentioning in connection with children, is the custom of naming a child after a deceased person. Cradle songs and the habit of showing excessive delight and praise in response to the darling’s activities are also noteworthy. All the stops are pulled out with each birthday, at the first day of school and the like, all of which are expressions of love for the child. To adore children, placing them on a pedestal is one of the ways of being a Greenlander. Occasionally, however, this adoration is unfortunately exaggerated. “She is the apple of my eye, and I adore her, she is my first grandchild,” and so on is heard repeated often.

We have inherited these types of customs from our forefathers and they are now ingrained in our upbringing. Even though one can question the value of these habits, they are so intertwined in our behavior that we will not be able to eliminate them for a long time to come.

To procrastinate or “doubt a decision” is also an old Greenlandic mannerism. For example, “I had better wait to see what the weather will be like before ..

.. or, When things are better next year, then are typical Greenlandic statements. Other nationals have learned the Greenlandic word “immaqa” (maybe) and use it often. Doubt is typical of a people that are subservient to nature’s moods and is an expression of man’s subservience to the weather. And we Greenlanders have difficulties adjusting to working methods, new technology, new impulses from outside our own sphere because we are hemmed in by our old habits and customs which characterize our identity.