Enjoy Kaffemik in Qaqortoq
I read about the Greenlandic tradition of kaffemik long before arriving in Greenland. Kaffemik, or "coffee social gathering" in English, is the Greenlandic custom of inviting someone into your home for a cup of coffee. Little did I know that within five minutes of arriving in Greenland I would be invited into a local’s home to enjoy this friendly tradition!
My travels this summer brought me to Greenland for the first time. I arrived in Qaqortoq, a small town of about 3300 inhabitants, also known as the unofficial capital of southern Greenland. The colorful houses that decorate the barren hillside make this a charming place to visit. In the summer months it’s common to see icebergs and whales in the bay.
If you’re arriving in Qaqortoq via cruise ship note there is no real port for large ships to dock. Similar to our last stop in Red Bay, Labrador our ship used its tender system to shuttle passengers to shore.
My parents and I got off the tender and immediately left the tourist-swamped gift shop near the shore to explore Qaqortoq. We wandered up the main road to admire the bright houses. A few blocks up we noticed a man looking down at us from his balcony. As we got closer he started to wave his hand and said “Come”, motioning for us to join him.
We were introduced to Poul, a native Greenlander, photographer, journalist, reindeer hunter, sports referee, and also the FIFA South Greenland representative – a highly adaptable man to say the least. I really enjoyed spending time in Poul’s home and getting to know him.
He proudly showed us some of his landscape and portrait photographs showcasing Greenland’s beauty and culture. His living room walls housed a rock and mineral collection, numerous reindeer antlers (even more of which were outside in his garden), an extensive amount of paintings depicting Inuit culture, and a lucky horseshoe. We talked about everything from travel to family to politics and Poul generously served us some kaffemik!
Before leaving his home, Poul kindly allowed us to borrow some of his net covered hats to protect from the nasty swarms of black flies, which were out in abundance due to the warm weather.
After leaving Poul’s home I quickly realized that Poul is a truly exceptional Greenlander. While the majority of people in Qaqortoq showed their curiosity towards us none were as welcoming as Poul. That’s not to say they weren’t friendly, they just preferred to keep their distance from visitors. I really can’t blame them. For the majority of the year they live isolated from the rest of the world – Qaqortoq can only be reached by ship or helicopter and these services are limited during wintertime when much of the area is frozen and covered in snow. I can also imagine that it must be overwhelming when a cruise ships drops over 1000 visitors for one day, adding a quarter more to the population.
After leaving Poul’s home we walked around Qaqortoq past the primary and secondary schools, Hotel Qaqortoq, the cemetery, and the old town square. Our path took us up one of the hillsides overlooking the town and we were amazed by the beautiful views onto the town and surrounding waterways.
I would have loved to spend more time in Qaqortoq and possibly gotten to know more of the locals. If there’s one thing I’ll take away from my short time in Greenland it’s that there are people here that still have time for one another and value conversation. No one is racing to a business meeting, or impatiently waiting in line at Starbucks, or stressing about finding an apartment or job, or glued to their smartphone. Their harsh environment forces them to bond and they make time for one another.