Follow the tell-tale signs
Rows upon rows of shoes line the wall outside the entry. The familiar smell of reindeer meat and fresh baked goods waft into the hallway.
A general buzz of merriment escapes as people come and go through the front door. These are the tell-tale signs that kaffemik - a social gathering - is happening inside that flat!
“You get close to the Greenlandic people at kaffemik. They are very happy, very open, and quite easy to talk to!” - Ethnophile
“Yesterday, we were at a child’s 5 year birthday party, even though we did not know the people! We had met the little girl in the Culture House. She said to us, ‘Come to Kaffemik tomorrow!’ So we did. We had a very nice fish soup and cake, cake, cake! It was very fine!” - Globetrotter
A Social Institution
Greenlanders hold kaffemik to celebrate special events of all kinds - births and birthdays, first days of school and confirmations - but the real enjoyment comes from being in a room filled with people.
While others in the world might go out for such an occasion, Greenlanders keep the festivity close to home. The honoree throws their own party, usually preparing for days in advance and often pulling out all the stops with fine china and decorative table linens. When the big day comes, their home becomes a revolving door of celebration with old friends, family from out of town, colleagues, and brand new friends all through the day.
Thanks to this eclectic mix of social circles, walking into a kaffemik can simultaneously feel like a small reunion and the first day of school. Faces familiar and unknown subtly nod hello from around the room while children dart between the food table and the kid zone into the back bedroom. All the while, “Welcome!” and “Congratulations!” are exchanged with the host.
Kaffemik guests stay long enough to taste all the food but short enough to make a seat available to the next arriving guests.
Kaffemik goodies run the gamut of homemade cakes and sweets like crowberry muffins, apple tarts, and marzipan cookies to full-fledged meals of reindeer and muskox meat, fish soup, and lumpfish roe blinis. A kitchen full of Greenlandic specialties! Often there are sodas and carafes of angelica-infused water, and there is, by definition, always a fresh pot of coffee.
Kaffemik for Travelers
As a traveler, attending a kaffemik tour is more about getting a special look at Greenlandic life than celebrating. You will step into the actual personal homes of locals, and get a feel of what it’s like to live like a Greenlander.
Notice how the furnishings and design might be of Scandinavian influence yet the impressive collections of artwork, crafts, and skins make no mistake that you are in Greenland. Just like in your country, homes reflect individual personalities. Take for example the home of Thomasine in Tasiilaq, East Greenland, photographed here. She is skilled in making the East Greenlandic national costume, and her hobby and passion to make art out of beads is evident throughout her home.
You might also notice how facial expressions and body language can speak more than verbal words. You’ll see that cultural exchange is unfolding right before your eyes.
Kaffemik is a Greenlandic word that literally means “via coffee”. It is social engagement by way of coffee.
A kaffemik is an all day affair with 50 people or more coming and going.
Invitations to kaffemik typically spread via social media and word of mouth.
Casual wear is the dress code at kaffemik, although on very special occasions the Honoree wears the national costume.
Don’t forget to remove your shoes before entering the host’s home!
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