Christopher Petersen is a writer, currently living in Denmark, whose books are set in Greenland. He lived there for seven years.
ACPN: The inevitable first question – why did you move to Greenland?
CP: I’ve always been fascinated by the Arctic and knew I had to live there at some point in my life. When I met my Danish wife and we moved to Denmark, I trained to be a teacher. When I graduated, I applied for a teaching job in Greenland. It seemed to be the most logical thing to do.
ACPN: After making the decision, the planning started. Let’s begin with time. How long did you initially plan to live in Greenland and why that specific period of time?
CP: The initial teaching contract was for three years. So there wasn’t planning involved.
ACPN: Did your stay last the time planned? If not, why the change of plans?
CP: We stayed four years longer than anticipated. Mostly because I fell in love with Greenland.
ACPN: About budget. Did you have some money at the time you moved? What were your funding sources?
CP: We had no money, but the teaching job was paid, of course.
ACPN: Was that money enough? If not, how did you complement it? If yes, what did you do with the money you saved?
CP: Well, it was full-time employment, so, yes, we had enough.
ACPN: Had you planned to have revenues once in Greenland? If yes, did it work or did you have to find other funding sources?
CP: See above. 😉
ACPN: What expenses were you counting on? Which were unexpected?
CP: Ah, this is tricky, as we literally moved to Greenland, so we lived there, rented a house, etc. So it was our home country for seven years.
ACPN: What risks did you predict? How did you plan to overcome them?
CP: The risk was always that we wouldn’t fit in to the culture or make friends, etc. I think the best way to overcome problems is to treat people with respect, to listen before you speak, and to spend time observing what people do. It’s all about respect, really.
ACPN: What were your milestones?
CP: Each school year was a milestone, meaning we took it one year at a time. My wife worked in the hospital. It was important to take it easy, but to be aware of how you felt, just like it is in any job, in any country, I guess.
ACPN: How was your first month? As expected or everything went out of plan?
CP: Again, tricky to answer, as I was doing a full-time job, not travelling. But of course, there was a tonne of things to learn, and it took time. The culture and people of Greenland is/are different to what I was used to in Europe. And yet, many things were the same because of the Danish connection. But we weren’t travelling, we lived there. But having a bucket for a toilet was probably the biggest thing to get used to in the beginning.
ACPN: What were the main difficulties you found there? How did you overcome them?
CP: Hmm, this is tricky, too. Overcoming something suggests there were problems or challenges. Sure, things were different, and we didn’t know how things worked, like when we got sledge dogs. We had to learn everything from scratch. So I asked a lot of questions, read a lot of books, and watched a lot of people. Time is the best way to overcome a challenge. 😊
ACPN: What surprised you the most (good and/or bad)?
CP: That’s a difficult question. How long have you got? Perhaps the biggest surprise was realising that winter is the easiest (and longest) season. Everything is easier in winter. Sure, it’s dark, there’s no sun for four months (in Qaanaaq), but when dealing with sledge dogs especially, everything is easier – thinking about storing food etc.
ACPN: Comparing with your initial plan, how do you evaluate its execution? What went right and what went wrong?
CP: Ah, we didn’t have a plan. We simply moved. 😊
ACPN: The inevitable last question – if you could go back, would you do it again, with any changes?
CP: Yes, I would love to go back to Greenland. But I don’t anticipate living and working there again. In a word, Brexit has changed everything for me, and I have to think carefully about residency permits etc. before I leave Denmark again.
Check other interviews in the series.