Living In Alaska: A Lower 48er’s View

 

So now that you know how we got here (Click here if you missed it), here are 5 Things I’ve Learned About Living In Alaska.
 
1. You need to be able to be Independent:
 
 So first off, if you are thinking about making a big move to Alaska it’s important to know that there will be difficult times with that big of a change especially if you don’t know anyone there.  At first it was very exciting.  Everything being new and different is enough to keep you distracted from what you used to have for a while but then the newness starts to gradually wear off.  
There seem to be a couple of different types of people up here.  The ones that are so busy go, go, going with their own plans and adventures.  While they are very nice people, they don’t really have any time to be friends or get to know you.  The other type are very loving, loyal friends that would drop what they are doing to come help you if you need it. 
 
When we left our families and friends back in Missouri and Texas we knew absolutely no one when we moved.  It’s taken us about two years to establish some of those good friends.  I’m sure that time frame is different based on you personally and your situation.  For me, being a stay at home mom with little children was hard as I didn’t get out very much.  Getting established in our local Church was critical for developing those good friendships.
It’s important if you’re married that your relationship is sturdy and in a good place with all the stresses of moving and living in a new place.  To add to the stress, we were also new parents.  We didn’t realize how much people rely on family and their own parents to help them out with their children until we saw our friends doing it.  That is  definitely something to keep in mind if you are moving to a place where you don’t know anyone and have little ones or might be thinking about starting a family. 
It’s definitely been challenging and frustrating at times not having help, but it has also been a great opportunity for my husband and I to fully rely on each other and do this parenting thing together to the fullest (but now we have those awesome friends that constantly offer to help out because they know we don’t have anyone to help us up here.  Love you guys!)  It’s kind of the way people think about Alaska right, being independent and self-sustainable?  Well maybe not self-sustainable, unless you live out in the bush…which we do not.
 
So that brings us to city life.  We live in Anchorage, the biggest City in Alaska.  We have all the normal things the lower 48 does with a few exceptions.  We’ve learned that…  
 
2. There Aren’t As Many Food Options (as in Chain Restaurants):
 
  No Panera- Also known as St. Louis Bread Co. Pretty big deal moving from St. Louis  
  No Sonic- For obvious (cold & icy) reasons, but Happy Hour is missed!
  No Chick-fil-A-  Yeah… you read that right.  It’s a total bummer and should be illegal for a place to not have a Chick-fil-A….am I right?! 😉
  At least we have Wendy’s.
We’ve not been able to find really good Chinese, Mexican, or Italian places yet, but if we do I’ll keep you posted. 
 
On the flip side here are some cool places that we have found:
  Moose’s Tooth: Pretty neat Pizza place.  Very popular with the tourists so be prepared to wait a long time as it’s jam packed in the summer.
  
Glacier Brewhouse: Really neat atmosphere with a giant rock fireplace.  They serve local sea food, steaks, burgers, and the like.  Oh, and they brew their own beer (hence the name.)  We personally don’t drink, but there is a large presence of people up here that do.  There are also several other places in town who do the same.  You’ll want to make reservations here as they get pretty packed all year round.
  
Rustic Goat: One of those several other places, but they serve good comfort food.  They have some awesome pork nachos and neat rustic looking building to enjoy them in.  The place is small and so is the parking lot across the street so make sure to go early to beat the dinner rush!
  There are numerous places that serve sushi.  Our favorites so far have been Sushi and Sushi and Peter’s Sushi.  Sushi and Sushi also has a great Yaki Soba and Peter’s Sushi Spot has the best Sesame Chicken we have found up here. 
Those are just a few. There are lots of little hole in the wall places and those are generally the best.  
 
  The absolute best food, though, is if you can hunt or catch your own!  I hated salmon before I had fresh caught Salmon up here.  It’s like it is a completely different fish and I love it!  Smoked salmon jerky is sooo good. 
  We will hopefully be on the water a lot this summer catching lots of different fish (and shrimp too!) so wish us luck as we try out the boating experience for the first time!
We haven’t had any moose yet but we are hoping to get one this year.   We have heard all good things about it.  
  I think I might have to start a separate page for food.  🙂
  
 There is another unique thing that is interesting about Alaska.  There are tons of these little independently owned “Coffee shacks” or “huts.”  They are spread all throughout the city with creative Alaskan names.  You just drive right up to these tiny little buildings and get your favorite espresso right there, no getting out into the cold!  Pretty cool.  They are so popular I was counting on the way home and we have 4 within the same block as well as an actual coffee cafe.  People up here love them some coffee just as much or maybe more than their beer.  It’s a great way to keep warm I suppose! 🙂 
 
3. There are Pro’s and Con’s to Living In the City:
 
  As you’ve probably heard, the cost of living is higher up here.  At least higher than what we were used to back in Missouri.  It might be the same as living in one of the huge cities down south.  Renting prices are very pricey and like I said in my last post, it can be hard to find a good place (Especially that allow pets. It was hard to find a place to allow our one dog, and apparently Alaska people hate cats…?)  Living out in Wasilla or Palmer (the locals call this the Valley) are much more affordable and easier to spread out in.  That’s where a lot of the farmland is.  The downside is that it’s a fairly long commute if you work in Anchorage.  About an hour and that’s if you don’t get stuck in rush hour traffic and if the roads are clear.  They can get pretty nasty in the winter and there are a lot of accidents.  Between Anchorage and the Valley is Eagle River and Chugiak.  That’s about a 30-45 minute drive but it’s not much cheaper than living in Anchorage.  You’re also further from hospitals than if you lived in Anchorage proper or in the Valley.
  
  -A little side note since I mentioned hospitals- It can be pretty tough depending on your insurance to find providers up here.  Also, if there is something really serious or you need a specialist, it’s probably best to go to the lower 48 for it and sometimes that is your only option.  Had our daughter’s hole in her heart been serious we would have had to travel back and forth down to Seattle, WA for her surgeries.  Praise the Lord we didn’t have to do any of that and that she is healthy but my heart goes out to the families that do.
 
4. There are Certain Areas of Town that are More Desirable than Others:
 
  We’ve learned that South Anchorage is your best bet at staying away from a lot of the mischief but unfortunately that comes with a higher price tag and not everyone can afford that.  There is a lot of theft and sadly we passed our record for homicides last year.  There seems to be a big drug influence.  So use common sense.  Here are some do’s and don’t’s (especially for women):
 
Don’t’s:
  Don’t go out after dark if you don’t have to 
  Don’t just sit in your car playing on your phone (There have been several women approached at gun point like this)
  Don’t start your car to warm up and leave it running without you (Cars get stolen ALL the time like this up here)
   
 Do’s:
  Do be aware of your surroundings (again, don’t be on your phone.)
  Do invest in or buy a car with remote start (for anti-theft and warmth reasons. Sooo worth it 🙂 )
  Do go places with a friend or in a group.  As you’ve probably heard the saying, There Is Safety in Numbers.  It’s true.
  Do carry a firearm and if you aren’t familiar with them, I highly recommend taking a class!  
  
  There are multiple reasons for owning and knowing how to use a firearm.  Not just for city safety but also for when you take hikes.  You never know who or what you are going to run into.  It’s not as scary as you might think especially the more you get used to it.  It can actually even be pretty fun.  My husband and I love to just go out and shoot!  That was actually what we did on our first date. 😉
 
5. The Shopping Here can be Interesting:
 
  We were loyal Wal-Mart shoppers down south.  The Wal-Marts up here can be a little, well….sketchy.  Nothing completely wrong with them, but they seem to be worse than other stores so we decided to take our shopping elsewhere.   I was tired of getting hit up for money every single time I went.  It made me pretty uncomfortable especially being distracted with my kids.  There is actually a lot of begging up here.  Coming from a big city you might be used to seeing that but since I wasn’t, it was something to get used to.
  We recommend shopping at Fred Meyer or Costco for cheaper options and where you aren’t being approached by strangers wanting money all of the time.
  Another interesting aspect of shopping up here is that it can be pretty hard to find good produce.  Pretty much all of the berries and grapes have mold in the packages.  I’m always the weird one going through all the packages looking at them intently to see which one looks the best.  The place that has had the best produce so far is Carrs but they tend to be pricey so my husband can’t seem to make himself shop there.  So we buy our groceries elsewhere, mold and all.  😉  (I mean it does make sense, it has to travel a long way up here.  It’s just something we definitely took for granted in the lower 48!)
 
  In the summer there is a Farmers Market that I have heard great things about.  I’ve just not been able to make myself get up early enough in the mornings to go though, so I guess the mold isn’t hurting me too bad…. 😉
 
  One more thing about shopping.  It can be very tough to get things shipped up here.  Everyone has a lot of the same things because well, that is what’s in Alaska.  If you do want to broaden your shopping to online, Amazon Prime can be a wonderful thing, expect you no longer get standard Prime shipping time frames, and that’s even IF they will ship it to you.  We have found that there are a lot of things that no one will ship up here.  It’s like we are a different country or something.  There have just been some things we have had to do without.
So it can be a bit of an adjustment moving up here but it can be so worth it!  For the next part of Living In Alaska series I’ll be talking about what people think about most often when they hear about Alaska.  The stunning scenery, the amazing adventures to be had, and all the weird cool quirks about living up north on the globe!  The summers here are definitely worth the long dark winters- if you can stand the mosquitoes that is.  Don’t worry, they’re HUGE!  So they are easier to spot and swat! 😉
 If you have any questions you’d like answered, leave me a note in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them for you!

3 Comments

  1. Oh my! Your comments on produce had me falling out of my chair laughing. Then, your comment about Alaskans and cats made think that Alaskans sound like really good folks!!! I love reading about your adventure.

    1. Good, I’m glad you got a good laugh out of it! It certainly took some time before we were able to do that! 😉 Now that you know that Alaska has few cats, you should come up for a visit!

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