I Was Born and Raised in Alaska: Here Are the Most Ridiculous Things People Asked Me About Living There

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Growing up in Alaska and then moving to the lower 48, especially during the early internet days, meant I was asked A LOT of questions about living there. Most of them came from a place of genuine curiosity, but many were just plain ridiculous.

It was quite frankly hard to believe that so many people from the same country as myself could be so completely and utterly clueless about life in the nation’s largest state.

But that didn’t mean I didn’t take the opportunity to have a little fun at their expense and carry on some white lies about living on the sea ice and riding dog sleds to school every day. It was all in good fun, though, and it was a good opportunity to teach others about what life in the Last Frontier was really like.

Here are some of the most ridiculous questions I was asked over the years about growing up in Alaska.

Did you live in an igloo?

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This was by far the most asked question, and although the questioner was frequently asking in jest, there were more than a few folks who asked it and couldn’t have been more serious.

For anyone wondering, the answer is no, we didn’t live in Igloos in Alaska.

Did you ride sled dogs to school?

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This, along with the igloo question, lapped the field for most asked questions. This was the one that I would most frequently lie about just a little to see how long I could convince people that I did, in fact, ride a dog sled to school every day.

I just had to gloss over the fact that I grew up in a very temperate part of the state where dog sledding would only be possible for a month or two out of the year.

Did your house have electricity?

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This question goes hand in hand with the igloo question, as I guess if one assumes the only homes we have are igloos, then we probably wouldn’t have much need for electricity. When I told them that we, in fact, had power plants and power lines and ovens and everything else that most cities have, that tended to blow their mind a bit.

I don’t think most folks truly believed we lived without any modern amenities, but when I told them that we lived a very similar life to themselves, that was a bit of a shock to some.

What was it like when the sun didn’t set?

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To be fair, this is a very fair question to folks who call Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) home. Once you get north of the Arctic Circle, the sun does not set for days or even months at a time.

The percentage of the state’s population that lives above this waypoint is fairly small (Utqiagvik’s population is only around 5,000)

In my town, near the southern edge of Alaska, the longest day of the year still had around 4 hours of darkness at night.

What was it like when it was dark all winter?

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This question probably came up more than the light all-night question, but the answer was generally the same. Only at the northernmost reaches of the state was it dark all winter long. Even in Fairbanks, which is considered by most folks to be pretty far north, the sun comes up for at least a few hours, even on the shortest winter days.

On the shortest day of the year in my town, we had around 7 hours of sunlight…that is when the sun was actually out. The town was one of the rainiest locations in the United States, so the gloom and constant rain were much more of a drag than the lack of sunlight.

Is it always freezing?

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I once had someone ask me if I had to buy shorts and t-shirts when I moved out of Alaska since they assumed I only owned winter clothing because the state was frozen year-round. I politely informed them that we did, in fact, have summer, and in the interior of the state temperatures could reach triple digits.

I don’t think a lot of folks belived me that it could be that hot and in the pre cellphone days there usually wasn’t an easy way to look it up to prove it.

Did you have a grocery store?

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This is another question that could be very valid for many parts of Alaska. But for most people in the state getting food was the same as anywhere else. Drive to the grocery store and pick it up. There were certainly days where the barge didn’t make it in and we were stuck picking through week old wilted lettuce or reading a sign that said no milk until next week. But we did have grocery stores.

What was it like living on an island?

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This question is a little ironic since I did in fact grow up on an island in Alaska. The ridiculous part of the question was the fact that it came from people who grew up looking at maps of the United States were Alaska is stuck floating to the side off the coast of California. And they genuinely belived that was were Alaska was located.

Nevermind the fact that if this was true the weather in Alaska would be a whole lot nicer!

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest