Living above the arctic circle involves living in just one of seven countries. The northern reaches of Russia, Canada, Alaska, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Greenland (which belongs to Denmark) are the only countries in the world with land above the arctic circle.
Living in the arctic is not an easy thing but it seems to be pretty addictive. Many a person who has visited the arctic circle has immediately fallen in love with it and within a month or two has bought a one-way ticket to live there permanently.
But, what is living in the arctic really like? What do you need to plan for, expect, and how is daily life going to be? That’s what we are here to find out.
One of the hardest things about living above the arctic circle is getting to grips with the amount of sunshine you’ll experience and when. During the winter months, mainly between November and March, you will never see the sun. But, during the summer months, the complete opposite happens and you’ll have to live in 24-hour daylight from June to August.
Living in perpetual darkness or constant sunlight for a few months has a major effect on your body. We, humans, are designed to be energized when the sun is up and sleepy when it’s dark, but you’ll have to fight these natural rhythms if you’re going to survive living in the arctic.
The people currently living in the arctic say that the dark winters are a lot easier to manage in terms of sleep than the bright summers. This is because it’s far easier to sleep when it’s always dark and the winters have a slower pace which revolves around dinners at home with friends.
Finding a good sleep rhythm in the summer months can be extremely difficult. Your body simply doesn’t want to switch off and having blackout blinds are a must. The best advice I’ve found is to make sure you have an evening every day. This means shutting all the blinds, thus creating nighttime in your house, and then reading or watching movies so your brain starts to think it’s actually gone dark and it’s time for sleep.
Living in the arctic is quite obviously a cold experience. If we take Svalbard as an example, an island in the Arctic ocean that belongs to Norway, the coldest yearly average temperatures reach around -17 degrees celsius in February and March while the warmest yearly average temperatures reach around 9 degrees celsius in July.
If you’re used to experiencing winters to around freezing point then your outdoor gear and clothing will only be useful when living in the arctic for the months of May to October. In order to survive the harsh winters between October to April, you’re going to have to invest in some serious gear, especially if you want to enjoy the outside world in any way.
Don’t underestimate how much good arctic clothing costs, it’s extremely expensive and it’s not optional if you’re living above the arctic circle. One of the main reasons to live in the arctic is being able to explore all the incredible landscapes and see the wildlife it has to offer. Plus, not leaving your house for 6 months in the darkest winter is a guaranteed way to lose your mind.
As I just mentioned, living in the arctic is going to require some serious clothing if you want to go outside, and here are the things you’ll need to take with you.
As you can see the list is long and you can’t scrimp on the items either. You’ll need to buy the best so you are safe when exploring in the winter. You’ll also need to add any equipment you need to the list like snowshoes, skis, sleds, etc so you can explore in the winter.
It’s quite easy to see what the living conditions might be like simply based on the seasons, and as I said, the hardest challenge is to adjust to the different amounts of sunlight. Outside of the daylight hours, the living conditions are pretty great. The houses are built for the arctic, are warm and comfortable, and there is also a great sense of community.
The lifestyle is what draws so many people to live in the arctic in the first place, it’s all about the outdoors. If you’re the kind of person who loves to hike, be amongst nature, fish, take some risks, and is always wondering what’s around the next corner, then living in the arctic might suit you.
But it’s certainly not a place for the faint-hearted. If you live in Svalbard for example every time you leave your house or town, you will have to carry a gun with you. This is not because the arctic is like the wild west but due to the huge numbers of polar bears that, when you bump into them (not if, when!) are likely to try and kill you.
So carrying a gun and being prepared to use it is a must! You don’t have to kill the polar bears, usually, a warning shot is all it takes, but not every time!
Depending on where you’re living in the arctic, your food may be very different from what you’re used to. Eating fish is a staple as they are in abundance in the arctic and on a good winter’s day, you can easily go ice fishing for arctic char. Other delicacies include seal, reindeer, polar bear – the things you can hunt around you.
But if you’re living somewhere like the town of Tromso in Norway, access to fresh vegetables and normal foods is possible.
Again, depending on where in the arctic you’re living, the most common jobs available are either in the tourism or mining sector.
The world’s largest iron ore mine is in Kiruna, Sweden, in the arctic circle and there is a huge coal mine in the town of Barentsburg in Svalbard, and the entire communities around them are made up of miners and their families.
The other major industry is tourism. People travel from all over the world to the arctic circle to see the northern lights or enjoy 24 hr daylight meaning there are a lot of jobs going for guides and people working at hotels, restaurants, and guest houses.
If you know how to ski, dog sled, snowmobile, hunt, fish, are a chef, or are good with people, chances are you can find a job in tourism in the arctic. Some tourism jobs will run all year round but if they are season dependent you might find yourself with nothing to do for half the year.
Being able to travel is important to surviving living in the arctic. By travel I mean abroad and around where you live.
In the dead of winter, the only transportation options are usually snowmobiles or dog sleds as there is too much snow for anything else. During the summer, you can use cars and boats to get around. If you plan on living in the arctic, you had better learn or brush up on your sledding and snowmobiling before winter arrives.
In terms of being able to travel abroad, most communities in the artic are connected to an airport with a weekly flight. And the best advice I’ve heard is to book a vacation to somewhere warm during the wintertime as it makes surviving it a lot easier.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!