Greenlanders have a dark, slap-stick sense of humour, which is a strange combination where I come from. I’m more used to either dark or slapstick, but not both at the same time. Seeing someone in the throes of an unfortunate incident, or even seeing someone hurt themselves is apparently hilarious in Greenland. A friend witnessed this in a small settlement on the east coast. He was watching some locals fishing, when one man slipped on the wet rocks and fell into the sea. The onlookers howled with laughter as the unfortunate man scrabbled helplessly, and unsuccessfully, at the steep rocky shore, desperately trying to escape the freezing water. When, my friend wondered, would they stop laughing and help him?
I witnessed a similar, though less life-threatening, humorous event on my commute one stormy winter morning in Nuuk. The previous night had been cold and rainy, leaving the roads coated in black ice, so the morning buses were long-delayed. The bitter wind blew icy snow in my face as I stood with a throng of commuters at the bus stop, hunkered in our hooded down jackets, waiting resentfully. Cars appeared through the blowing snow and crept past cautiously. Finally, a very late bus emerged from the blowing whiteness and we all crowded on board, the bus now completely packed to overflowing. As the bus continued its journey and approached the crowd of waiting commuters at the next stop, I could sense a growing gleefulness in the passengers around me, murmuring and snickering amongst themselves. And as the bus sailed past the bus stop without so much as slowing down, an angry man on the roadside waved his fist at us, and the passengers on the bus roared with laughter at the huddle of people left by the roadside in the cold darkness.