The capital and largest city of Denmark, Copenhagen is situated on the islands of Zealand and Amager. It ranks amongst the best European cities for quality of life and environmental impact. Its 1,200,000 inhabitants are spread across 15 official districts, all of which have their own distinctive character. To non-Scandinavians, Copenhagen may seem to be a city of equality, but Smilla can easily distinguish between the affluent areas and the poor ones.
Smilla, the mechanic, Isaiah and his mother live on Christianshavn, an artifical island dominated by canals. Although for much of the 20th century Christianshavn had been a working-class neighbourhood, it developed a bohemian reputation and atmosphere in 1970s. Now it is a very diverse area, with artist, workers and middle class families living alongside each other. It also includes immigrants from post-colonial Greenland.
The Atlantic is the world's second largest ocean, extending between the Americas to the west and Europe and Africa to the east.
The North Atlantic is connected to the Arctic Ocean (sometimes considered a sea of the Atlantic) and in this northern part, on the route between Denmark and Greenland, that part of the book called "The Sea" is set.
Qaanaaq is the northermost town in the world. This is where Smilla comes from, and this is where Tørk Hviid heads in search of fame and money. It is one of the most difficult places in the world to live, because of the exceptionally harsh weather and long Polar nights.
The Qaanaaq area is inhabited by a Greenlandic minority, who use a different language. The main occupation is still hunting, although environmental bans make it more and more difficult to maintain a traditional lifestyle.