Life in the Arctic Circle

In my 24 years, I have lived in an odd collection of places- from Zimbabwe to the USA, Australia to Sweden, but the thing people always seem most interested in is the few years I spent in a remote Innuit (aka Eskimo, but that’s now very un-PC) village in the Canadian arctic. I learned a thing or two in that time…

…so if you should happen to find yourself living north of sixty degrees, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Learn to love snow

Trees? Nope. Beaches? Nope. Mall, cinemas, bowling alleys, cafes, clubs, gyms, McDonalds? Nope. But there is a lot of snow… Your new recreational activities include dog-sledding, ice skating and ice-floe fishing. Learn to love the snow! The Northern Lights (Aurora borealis) also make an amazing distraction- you’ll instantly stop caring that you are hundreds of miles from civilization- snow and sky as far as the eye can see.

Get your shopping list right

All your groceries (minus wilted, exorbitantly expensive fresh fruit and vegetables) are delivered once a year on a huge barge, when the sea melts briefly in the summer. If you don’t want to find yourself without shampoo, or powdered milk, or Mars Bars in several months time, plan ahead. On the upside, toilet paper becomes the new currency and is a great bargaining tool when you need something from your neighbours!

Be aware that you can’t bury deceased pets

Most of the year, the ground is frozen completely solid. So if your daughter’s hamster dies and you think it will be a good idea to put it in a tin outside and wait for spring, be aware that she will probably secretly sneak outside, take it out and happily play with it for months. (OK… so that might actually have been me. But it was such a hit with my friends!)

Fishing on ice floes seems like fun… until you fall in.

Now is not the time for flashy parkour-type leaps from ice-chunk to ice-chunk across the frigid water. Icy death, anyone?

Beware the mystery meat

If someone offers you a nondescript chunk of greasy-looking grey meat, politely decline. It might be seal blubber. Don’t know about you, but I found that taking the ‘cultural experience’ a little too far…

Last of all rug up!

You know when it’s zero degrees in London and you complain bitterly that ‘you have frostbite’? Well now, you might actually get frostbite. No one looks good missing a finger! Parkas, balaclavas, giant mittens, snow boots are essential attire- prepare to spend 20 minutes getting dressed every time you step outside.

But is it all worth it? I might not want to spend the rest of my life somewhere like that, but it was an amazing life experience. How many people know how to drive a dog sled, can speak (a little) Inuinnaqtun and get to give withering looks every time someone asks whether you lived with penguins? (For the record, penguins live in Antarctica)!

This article was written by GYE contributor Fiona Soper. Currently, Fiona is trying to find creative ways to balance travel with a PhD, brushing up on her Arabic and dreaming of Oman.

2 Comments

  • Flora the Explorer

    May 23, 2014

    This is so awesome!! I’d love to live in the Artic Circle – although I get frozen feet in London’s “summers” due to really awful circulation so don’t know if my toes would be as keen. Why were you living there for so long, Fiona?

  • Fiona

    May 25, 2014

    Flora: I moved there when I was still in school, because my family had decided to leave Zimbabwe and my mother got a job there doing remote area nursing! The town where I lived has grown a little since then but is still in the middle of nowhere. The far north can be a really beautiful place to visit, both from canada or from Northern Europe. I can vouch for Sweden as being a great place to visit!

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