Things they didn’t tell you about living in Alaska

  • Friday, November 17, 2017 10:53am
  • Neighbors

Hi, welcome to Juneau! Watch your step! Here is your complimentary flannel shirt, bottle of Alaskan Amber, and our little brochure:

Things They Didn’t Tell You About Living In Alaska But That You’ll Find Out Soon Enough

1. Driving is… different. Note that on Egan, the sign says “slower traffic keep right,” not “slow traffic keep right.” That is because SLOW traffic is for the left and SLOWER traffic is for the right. Except for that like 15-minute spot in the morning when everyone is driving 70. Don’t ask me, I don’t get it either.

Also, we know how to drive in the snow and ice here. Don’t be surprised to see people easing on their brakes hundreds of feet before a stoplight — it’s just how we, you know, don’t die.

2. Get a Costco group. Did you know about this? If you got some friends to get in on this, and have a calculator, you can save a lot of money in a place where groceries are far from cheap. The premise is simple: You pick some friends and you all write down your shopping needs. Then one person (with a Costco membership) goes and buys all of it, and sells it at cost to his friends. They all split the cost of the membership, and they all get to save money without needing to eat, say, all 20 avocados in three days before they go bad.

3. Exertion is the best sweater. If you can’t get bundled up, get moving. If you’re going off into the cold, bring some food and try to stay moving. Also, use layers that you can remove.

4. Don’t fear the rain. Maybe you’ve heard that you should always stay dry outdoors. Not true. Impossible, actually. Just take care of your clothes by keeping them dry until you need them, and they will take care of you. It’s not about umbrellas and galoshes and rain jackets; it’s about technical fabric, extra wool socks, and keeping your layers in your pack, not on your body.

5. The winters are really dark. Just trust me. After latitude, like, 55, the dark winter starts to make a big difference. It’s really important to eat fish and find your own version of sunshine.

6. Uncomfortable truth: It is a small town. People will gossip, and it’s not great.

7. Respect the outdoors. It is bigger than you. Chances are, you will at one point wonder if you even have anything left to learn about being safe outdoors. You do. Don’t get sloppy.

8. You will have to argue for statehood like it’s 1955. People will not believe you when you say your state is a part of the U.S. And when I say people, I mean shipping agents at your favorite online stores, American tourists, and the ballot-counters in presidential elections.

9. Fresh produce in the supermarket. It is a dream gone by. However, may I invite you to pick some blueberries just behind the supermarket?

10. The Alaska Native Brotherhood. Elizabeth Peratrovich. Native tribes and corporations. Permanent Fund Dividends. Colonial history. Oil and gold.

There are a lot of things that set our state apart politically and historically, and it’s important to learn about them if you live here.

11. Shovel the berm ASAP. Just shovel it now. Do not wait, unless you own a Swiss Army shovel with a pickaxe attachment.

12. Learn to dance with the weather. Maybe you’ve heard of the Sunshine Holidays of the 70s? It rained so much in the summer that on rare sunny days the government would just give everyone the afternoon off. That’s pretty much the attitude around here. But don’t forget it goes both ways: learn to ignore the rain so you don’t spend all your time indoors!

13. There’s just something about it …. Someday, while watching ads for a Caribbean resort, wringing out your socks, and trying to ignore the steady drip of the 30th day of rain, you’ll want to leave. But I can almost guarantee it, you’ll be back.

• “Guy About Town” appears the first and third Sunday of every month and includes seasonal musings on what changes and what doesn’t in a small town. Guy can be reached at

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