Updated December 2016: This post has been updated and revised from this original version. Most of the content is the same, but I have added more details about each talking point. Read the updated version HERE.
When my husband (boyfriend at the time) suggested moving to Alaska. I was thinking, “okay, no big deal.” I was ready to get out of the Midwest anyway and we didn’t plan on staying beyond a year. Plus it wouldn’t be that different, right?
Well, 5 1/2 years later, we are still here. It has been quite the adjustment for me, so I wanted to give a rundown of the things that I have learned while living in Alaska. There is a disclaimer: I do live in Anchorage, which some people claim is 5 minutes from Alaska. So while Anchorage is a decent-sized city with all the amenities of other mid-sized cities, there are still things that make this state and city unique and one-of-a-kind.
1. High cost of living.
We are talking housing, groceries, gas, and everything inbetween. I come from the Midwest where things are cheap! Now it is normal to pay $5-6 for a gallon of milk, $3-4 for a dozen of eggs, $3 for a pound of apples, and $4 a gallon for gas. It is ridiculous! We spend at least $400-500 per month on groceries—and that is buying things on sale, clipping coupons, budgeting, and meal planning. And don’t even get me started on rent—easily $1500/month for a decent two bedroom apartment.
2. Not a walking-friendly city.
Anchorage is a poorly laid out city. Things are spread out, stores are not always easily accessible by foot, and the routes needed to take to get places might require you to walk along a busy street. There are several trails throughout the city that people use for biking, walking, and running, but all-in-all things are too spread out to walk from one place to the next.
3. Dog-friendly city.
People here love their dogs. Dogs by far out-rule cats—everyone has a dog. There are several dog parks throughout the city, and these canine family members go everywhere with their owners.
4. Function over Fashion.
There was a reason Anchorage was identified as the least trendy city. You will not find the trendiest people here. It is all about function over fashion. Why would you own a pair of heels since there is snow on the ground six months out of the year? Plus, isn’t like you can wear your heels hiking or fishing in the summer. Commonly recognized brands: Dansko, Carhartt, Bogs, XtraTuf, and Skhoop.
I find there is an odd dichotomy between levels of fitness with Alaskans. I find people are either very active year-round or very sedentary year-round. I don’t doubt this dichotomy applies to other areas of the country as well, but the difference seems more stark here.
6. Dark summer nights.
Don’t even think about enjoying the ambiance of a camp fire on a dark, summer night—it doesn’t exist. Instead you will be sitting around the camp fire with the sun shining bright at 10 p.m. Sorry, but that just does not have the same feel as a campfire under a dark, starry night. Yes, the sun does eventually set, but you won’t need a flash light to find the bathroom in the middle of the night because the sky is still dusky.
7. People are either very helpful or ignore you.
There are a lot of friendly people who live here, but there are also a lot people who would say, “give me my gun, my land, and stay away.”
(As a disclaimer, my husband is the nicest, sweetest person who would give the shirt off his back for his neighbor despite what this picture may reflect.)
(From this post)
8. Alaska feels like its own country.
In many aspects, when I first moved to Alaska, I felt like I had moved to a new country. Seriously, you are thousands of miles away from the rest of the United States and people have their own way of life here.
9. Definition of “The South.”
When people say “The South,” they are not referring to southern states of Mississippi, Louisiana, etc. “The South” is any of the 48 contiguous states.
10. Airline tickets are expensive.
It never occurred to me how expensive it would be to fly out of state. Even though Seattle is a “quick” 3 hour flight, you’ll be lucky to find a ticket under $500. And that just get’s you to Seattle, then you have to transfer to a second–and sometimes a third plane—to get to your final destination 10+ hours later. And red-eye flights are the norm to travel out of Alaska.
11. You get paid to live here.
Yes, it is true the state government gives each person (who has lived here for one complete calendar year—January – December) receives a PFD—no, not a personal flotation device, but a permanent fund dividend. This last year it was about $900. And that is per person, so if you have a family of 5, 6, 7 that really adds up. (Click here to read more about the PFD.)
Also check out these posts: Things I Wish I Had Known Before Moving to Alaska, Part II and Should I Move to Alaska?
What else am I missing? (I know a lot; I’m sure I could write a book on this topic.)