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Cultural Considerations in Business

Discover how cultural norms impact business and employment in Greenland

Communication styles in the workplace

In Greenland, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, the work environment is unique, blending Inuit cultural values with a touch of Danish formality in its communication styles.

Indirectness with Respect (Kalaallit Qaqortoq)

Greenlandic communication leans towards indirectness with a strong emphasis on respect. This concept, known as Kalaallit Qaqortoq (meaning "Greenlandic way of being"), prioritizes maintaining harmony within the group. Greenlanders may avoid direct confrontation or disagreement, opting for more suggestive language or deferring to those with seniority.

  • Examples: Instead of bluntly saying "no" to a request, a Greenlandic colleague might use phrases like "it might be difficult" or "we'll need to consider other options."

Formal Yet Approachable (Danish Influence)

Greenland's colonial history with Denmark leaves a subtle mark on workplace communication. There's a touch of formality, particularly in initial interactions or with superiors. Titles are often used, and meetings might follow a more structured agenda. However, Greenlandic culture is inherently egalitarian, so the atmosphere quickly becomes more collaborative.

  • Example: When addressing a manager for the first time, you might use "Hr. Jensen" (Mr. Jensen) or "Fru Nielsen" (Mrs. Nielsen). As the relationship progresses, a shift to "Jens" or "Anna" is more likely.

Non-Verbal Cues: Building Relationships (Silence and Body Language)

Greenlandic culture places a high value on nonverbal communication. Here's how these cues factor into workplace interactions:

  • Silence: Silence is not seen as awkward but rather a space for reflection and formulating a thoughtful response. Avoid rushing colleagues to fill pauses in conversation.

  • Body Language: Maintaining good eye contact and an open posture demonstrates respect and attentiveness. However, personal space is more extensive than in some Western cultures. Don't be offended if a colleague seems to stand a bit further away during conversation.

Building Relationships is Key

Greenlanders value personal relationships in business. Take time to build rapport with colleagues before diving into work-related matters. Sharing a cup of coffee or engaging in small talk is a great way to establish trust and create a more open communication environment.

Negotiation practices

Greenland's negotiation landscape is a fascinating blend of Inuit cultural values and modern business practices. Understanding these unique dynamics is crucial for striking successful deals in this dynamic territory. Here's a breakdown of key aspects to consider.

Collaborative Approach: Qaujimaaqatigiit (Knowing Each Other)

Greenlandic negotiation emphasizes a collaborative approach over adversarial tactics. The concept of Qaujimaaqatigiit (meaning "knowing each other") takes center stage. Building trust and rapport with your negotiation counterpart is paramount. This may involve informal meetings and discussions before diving into core issues.

Patience and Consensus Building

Greenlandic negotiators prioritize patience and consensus building. Decisions are often reached through a consultative process involving multiple stakeholders. This can feel slower compared to more fast-paced negotiation styles, but it ensures all voices are heard and fosters a sense of shared ownership over the final agreement. For instance, a negotiation might involve extended back-and-forth discussions, allowing each party to present their perspectives and raise concerns.

Cultural Norms: Respect, Indirect Communication, and Long-Term Relationships

Several cultural norms influence Greenlandic negotiation practices:

  • Respect: Maintaining respect throughout the negotiation is crucial. Open displays of aggression or impatience are highly discouraged.

  • Indirect Communication: Greenlandic negotiators may favor indirect communication. Don't expect blunt pronouncements of demands or immediate concessions. Pay attention to subtle cues and be prepared to interpret underlying meanings.

  • Long-Term Relationships: Greenlanders prioritize building long-term relationships with business partners. Striking a quick deal that favors one party over the other might secure short-term gain but damage future prospects. Negotiate with a win-win outcome in mind and demonstrate a commitment to building a sustainable partnership.

Greenlandic negotiators are guided by the principles of Inuit Qaujimaajatuqangit (IQ), a holistic worldview emphasizing environmental and social sustainability. Negotiations may incorporate considerations for the impact on the environment and local communities.

Understanding hierarchical structures

Greenlandic businesses exhibit a unique blend of hierarchical structures influenced by both traditional Inuit culture and modern management practices. Understanding this interplay is crucial for effective business operations in Greenland.

Cultural Influences on Hierarchy

Inuit society traditionally values consensus and collaboration. This can translate into flatter hierarchies within businesses, where employees expect to be involved in decision-making. Elders hold positions of wisdom and experience. This can manifest in hierarchical structures that value seniority and deference to experienced leaders.

Management Theories in Play

Some businesses might adopt a paternalistic style, where leaders act as benevolent figures, making decisions but also looking after employee well-being. This reflects the emphasis on community within Inuit culture. Incorporating elements of consultative decision-making can leverage the cultural value of collaboration. This fosters employee engagement and a sense of ownership over decisions.

Impact on Business Dynamics


Consensus-based decision-making can lead to a slower pace compared to more hierarchical structures. Employee involvement can enhance transparency and trust within the organization.

Team Dynamics

The cultural emphasis on collaboration can foster strong teamwork and a sense of shared responsibility. Balancing traditional respect for hierarchy with open communication can be a challenge.

Leadership Styles

Leaders who prioritize building strong relationships with employees can be more effective in Greenlandic businesses. Empowering employees and fostering a sense of autonomy can leverage the cultural value of egalitarianism.

Understanding these cultural and management influences allows businesses in Greenland to develop appropriate leadership styles. Leaders who understand the cultural context can adapt their style to be more effective. Clear communication that respects both hierarchy and open discussion is key. Encouraging collaboration leverages the strengths of Greenlandic culture and can lead to better decision-making.

Holidays and observances affecting business operations

Greenland, an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, has a rich cultural calendar and national holidays that significantly impact work schedules. Understanding these observances is crucial for businesses operating in Greenland.

Statutory Holidays with National Significance

  • New Year's Day (January 1st): This national holiday follows Danish tradition, marking the beginning of a new year. Businesses are typically closed.
  • Great Prayer Day (Fourth Friday After Easter): This Christian holy day is observed throughout Denmark and Greenland. Many businesses close or operate with reduced hours.
  • Constitution Day (June 5th): This day commemorates the passage of Greenland's Home Rule Act in 1979, marking a significant step towards self-governance. Public institutions and some businesses close for the day.

Unique Greenlandic Observances

  • Qavanamiut (Spring Equinox): This celebration marks the return of sunlight after a long winter. Traditionally a time for hunting and community gatherings, some businesses may have shorter hours or adjust schedules to accommodate these activities.
  • National Day (June 21st): This is Greenland's official national holiday, celebrating its unique culture and identity. Most businesses close, and public festivities are widespread.

Regional Variations

  • Uunartoq (Midnight Sun): This is celebrated primarily in North Greenland during the summer solstice, when the sun remains continuously above the horizon. Businesses in these regions may adjust hours or close for local festivities.

Cultural Considerations

  • Greenlandic Summer Vacation: Public schools close for summer break in late June/early July. This can affect businesses with a high concentration of employees with school-aged children.

The Greenlandic Working Environment Act outlines statutory holidays and minimum vacation entitlement for employees. Businesses are required to adhere to these regulations when setting work schedules.

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