With three full months under our belts of living in interior Alaska, I think it’s safe to say that the initial culture shock has worn off, and we’re pretty well settled in our new home and life here. That’s not to say that things aren’t still wildly different than they’ve been for the last two years living in South Korea, but life here is a little less surprising now and more just, well, normal to us. Ryan only has five years left in the military, and we’re not sure what the future holds for us, but I never want to forget those first impressions and what we learn each time we move to a new place.
Things That Make Sense Living in Interior Alaska
Did we ever think we’d live in Alaska? No. Absolutely not. However, we’ve lived in dozens of other places, and we’re always game for an adventure. It’s definitely unique seeing the different lifestyles people lead in each of the places we’ve lived, and we thought we’d share a few things that just seem to make more sense living in interior Alaska
1 // Things are expensive (but some things might surprise you)
If you know anything about Alaska, you’ve probably heard about the “Alaska tax.” Things in Alaska are expensive, and we were warned about this when we received orders to Fort Wainwright. Here’s the thing though; we’re used to some of these prices. In Korea, it wasn’t unusual to pay $17 for two heads of broccoli at the commissary. I haven’t found produce to be extraordinarily expensive here though. What is expensive though, are services. Services were cheap in Korea. I got four new tires on my car for $160 here, and a haircut was about $12ish. Here, I’ve yet to find a good haircut for the boys under $20. And tires? They’re thousands once you’ve added installation.
2 // Cracked windshields are just a “thing”
When we started planning our trip on the AlCan Highway this past summer, people warned about breaking windshields. I didn’t know it was a thing here in Alaska though! I’ve never seen so many cracked windshields. We learned it’s because they don’t salt the roads here. It attracts the moose and wildlife so, instead, they gravel. That gravel flies up and cracks many a windshield, and people just grin and bear it until the season passes…then rinse and repeat. And yes, I have three rock chips already.
3 // People don’t stay inside when it’s cold
I mean, this makes sense. Winters here are long and last around six or seven months. If people stayed inside during the colder months, they’d rarely do anything at all. So, people spend good money on great gear, and they make the most of it. It’s honestly refreshing though because when it was cold in South Korea, it brought with it poor AQI, and most people stayed inside. Not here though! The skies are clear, and the activities keep going.
4 // People decorate early for the holiday season
There’s a funny mix of Halloween and Christmas decor happening on Fort Wainwright now, and I was really curious why until someone spelled it out for me. Very few people want to brave the snow and elements to decorate when it’s “seasonally appropriate” to do so, so they tend to tackle it all at once. Have I decorated for either yet though? Shh. No.
5 // Interior Alaska has its own special sort of fashion sense
Fashion is a whole thing in South Korea, and I kind of weirdly loved it. There was a heavy emphasis on brand names in Korea but here, the emphasis on brands is for a different reason. It’s less about form, and it’s far more about function. Who cares if your jacket is three seasons old if it’s warm, insulated, and waterproof? I’ve also learned that jeans aren’t going to be a thing for us much this winter. Even fleece-lined, they’re cold, and they limit movement. Leggings and snow pants are the name of the game here!
6 // Those aren’t clouds…the sun’s just not up yet
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that a couple weeks ago, I was surprised how many cloudy mornings we had after yet another dark morning run. Only after I was done and preparing to wake the boys at 8 AM did I realize that it wasn’t cloudy out; it just wasn’t light yet. Our sunrise was at 8:58 AM this morning, and our sunset is at 6:10 PM. We’ll get down to about three or four hours of daylight during the winter months, but we’re not quite there yet.
7 // Fall is only a few weeks long
We were warned about this one, too, but I don’t think we really believed it until we experienced it ourselves. We went from bright, seemingly endless sunshine when we arrived to crisp fall air in the blink of an eye. Now, just three weeks into October, we’ve had snow on the ground for a few weeks already. It’s wild seeing people’s autumn posts when we seem to already live in a snow globe.
8 // Plugs will hang out of the front of cars
Okay, we know we’d have to winterize our vehicles here in interior Alaska, but I didn’t quite know what that entailed. So, the first time I saw someone driving around with an electrical cord hanging out of the front of their car, I laughed. Loudly. Now I have one, too. We’re taking bets to see whether it’s going to be Ryan or I who drives off still plugged in first. Any guesses?!
This transition to living CONUS hasn’t been without its own unique challenges, but we’re getting there. It’s been so nice to have a home, neighbors, so much open space, and things like Costco right in town. Does it make us miss Korea less? No, but it definitely makes being here sweeter!
Tell me – which of these things surprised you the most?