My Faith in Humanity is Lost: A (Sort-Of) Lesson on Alaska

So, I live in Alaska and have all of my life, which gives me a good amount of experience with tourists/people who aren’t familiar with the individuals, customs, and even the location of my home state. People make a lot of assumptions and ask a number of ridiculous questions. And this never fails to draw up a plethora of emotional responses among residents, which usually go in an order that’s something like this (depending on the number of offenses):

  • Polite giggling and hand waving
  • Answering the question (usually with forced benevolence)
  • Correcting the mistaken information or assumption (in a very condescending manner)
  • Sarcastically giving a ‘joke’ response and assuring them that we really do live in igloos and keep bears and whales as pets
  • Rolling eyes and walking away
  • Staring incredulously while daydreaming about running down the inquirer with a large vehicle
  • Sniper rifle on a signal tower

As you can see, it escalates fairly quickly.

We’re usually pretty good about avoiding the last one, though, which, pleasantly, makes us a state of only potential murderous lunatics rather than one of actual murderous lunatics (and only during tourist season, of course). So, I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

But, basically, living in Alaska has given me reason to lose a good deal of my faith in humanity and question the future of our species. Seriously, I have no hope at all for the human race.

usa_mapFirst of all, because of the way Alaska is inset on most maps of the United States, people seem to think that we’re floating in the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of California.

This causes confusion and dumb questions. For example:

Question: “If you’re by California and Hawaii, why is it so cold there?”

  • Answer:  “That’s just an inset on the map. We’re actually up by Canada and Siberia, where it’s colder.”
  • Better answer: “Because we’re not by California or Hawaii …”
  • Best answer: “Are you freaking kidding me?”

These types of questions can be quite infuriating …

It also astounds me that people are actually surprised to discover that Alaskans look and dress like people from wherever they are from. Like, they expect us all to be wondering about on ice drifts in fur boots and parkas or something. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t underdeveloped cavemen; you won’t suddenly go through a time warp into the Cretaceous Period if you take a trip to Alaska (not that there were actually Homo sapiens in the Cretaceous Period, but you get the picture). We do, in fact, exist and thrive in the 21st century.

Ignorance is not becoming, so I thought I’d clear up a few frequent misunderstandings—with my own personal touch (my apologies if I offend anyone; this all seems like common sense to me).

And if you are in need of a key, here’s the basic rundown:

1.) Answer = The short and honest answer

2.) Better answer = What we’re more likely to say

3.) Best answer = What we probably want to say 

All right, let’s get on with this:

Question 1: Do you take American money here? (Alternatively: what currency do you use?)

  • Answer: Yes
  • Better answer: Um. You know that Alaska is part of America, right?
  • Best answer: Are you dumb?

Question 2: What country do you belong to?

  • Answer: The United States
  • Better answer: Please tell me you’re joking …
  • Best answer: Are you dumb?

(Obviously we’re part of the US; it’s not like you had to use your passport to get here.)

Question 3: Do you live in an igloo?

  • Answer: No
  • Better answer: We generally just live in houses.
  • Best answer: Yes, of course. Everyone does. Come visit my ice castle and meet my pet polar bear. Dumbass.

Question 4: Where are the penguins?

  • Answer: In Antarctica.
  • Better answer: There are probably a few at the zoo.
  • Best answer: Are you dumb?

Question 5: Do you not have to buy a freezer?

  • Answer: We use freezers.
  • Better answer: It’s not cold all year round; we still have seasons, ergo we still need freezers.
  • Best answer: No, we have an igloo in our back yard where we store our foodstuffs—like the meat from that moose I harpooned on an iceberg last week.

Question 6: Do you have telephones or T. V. in Alaska?

  • Answer: Yes.
  • Better answer: Why wouldn’t we?
  • Best answer: Are you dumb?

Question 7: Do you have a pet bear?

  • Answer: No.
  • Better answer: Yes, I ride it to work and order it to attack annoying tourists.
  • Best answer: I wish! (Because seriously, that would be the coolest thing ever. Go look up Doug Seuss and Bart the Bear if you don’t know who they are and then tell me you don’t want one. Dogs are overrated.)

Question 8: Do you have sled dogs?

  • Answer: Some people do.
  • Better answer: Not everyone in the state is an Iditarod musher.
  • Best answer: Yeah, they take me to work when my bear’s too tired to give me a ride.

Question 9: When do the Northern Lights come on?

  • Answer:Well, scientifically speaking , they usually happen a couple of days after a solar flare.
  • Better answer: Um. What?
  • Best answer: Are you dumb? 

(Honestly, do they think we have a light switch in the governor’s office or something?)

Question 10: Where do you live in the winter?

  • Answer: Here.
  • Better answer: In the same place I live for the rest of the year. (There are people who leave for either the summer or winter, but I’m sure people in every state do that. But seriously, it’s not like we all just evacuate as soon as the snow falls or the temperatures drop below zero.)

Question 11: How long does it take for a deer (or caribou) to turn into a moose?

  • Only answer: ARE YOU FREAKING DUMB?

(Okay, okay! I’m sorry. I know that was uncalled for, but really? Really? Just because they all have antlers doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. That’s like asking how long it takes a guppy to turn into a salmon because they’re both fish.)

Question 12: What language do you speak here? Do you speak English?

  •  Answer: Yes.
  • Better answer: Obviously.
  • Best answer: You’re dumb.


Now, if you actually learned something, please keep it to yourself if you’re among Alaskans, otherwise they will simply dub you as one of the less-informed tourists and shun you like you have the plague, or else simply laugh at you being your back, and since neither seem particularly pleasant, it’s probably just safest not to say anything about it.

But really. Don’t be a dumbass. Educate yourself a little before you go somewhere so that the locals can dread tourist season a little bit less.



H.D. Hunter


(P.S. Please note that I do not actually mean to offend anyone. This is meant in good humor. You’re not dumb if you learned something, just uninformed. Alaskans are, for the most part, quite pleasant and good-tempered about touristy questions and at most, just think it’s funny. But I do think that it is important to learn a little about a place before you go; you’ll learn plenty more while you’re there!)





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