The Arctic Circle (that’s the one up North) is one of the harshest environments on the planet, which Mother Nature emphasized by filling it with never-ending snow, polar bears, and occasional raids by feral vampires. And yet, people still choose to live there. I was curious as to how life looks like on the border of People’s Republic of Santa, so I talked to Jaime who used to live up in Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory. She told me that…
4. Arctic Food Is Insanely Expensive
Have you ever seen a polar bear? Mo’fudgers are absolute chonk-machines but I have no idea how that happened seeing as they have no money. And to feed yourself up in the live-action remake of Disney’s Frozen, you’ll need a shit ton of cash. Jaime explains: “A friend who lives in Arctic Bay told me that when the grocery store there was running low on pop, a 24-pack of Coke went for $200.”
You can probably guess why things have gotten so bad. Once you factor in the transportation costs, polar bear insurance, and Santa’s protection money (how do you think he affords all those toys?) everything ends up costing 3 or 4 times more than in the rest of the world. It also severely limits your choices. Jaime elaborates:
“The selection in the grocery store sucks. Much of produce is already rotting by the time you get it home,” and that’s despite the cryogenic temperatures outside. So… why not eat out?
“There was briefly a Subway in Iqaluit [the capital of Nunavut],” Jaime told me. “A footlong sub was approximately $30, so people never went there. Other than that, some communities have a couple restaurants or cafes, where a plate of spaghetti can go for $19, and a 6-pack of chicken nuggets for $10.”
3. It’s Damn Near Impossible To Get A Drink Over There
Nunavut was established as an official Canadian territory in 1999. If it was a person, it wouldn’t be allowed to drink… much like most of the people living there, but for different reasons.
“Most communities have very strict regulation against drinking,” Jaime says. “Some don’t allow alcohol whatsoever. Some require you to go in front of a liquor council board and request a permit for booze. You have to be willing to discuss what you want, how much, and what the purpose is for.” (Fair warning, chances are they are not going to accept “to get as pie-eyed sloshed as possible” as an answer.)
And here you probably thought that Prohibition died with Al Capone, but it was actually being kept alive by the subzero temperatures of Northern Canada.
“In places like Rankin Inlet or Iqaluit,” Jaime continues, “You have to get the form and catalog, fill it out, and bring it to the local warehouse office where you pay. A few days later, it shows up at one of the airline cargo offices, where you then pay the cargo fee for it. It’s expensive as hell.”
Your only other option is finding a liquor store. But good luck with that, because the last time a new store “threatened” to open in Iqaluit, the locals promised that they will burn that mother to the ground because they worried it will promote alcoholism. Or Netflix and chilling, and they DON’T NEED MORE CHILL And even if you do find an open bar, prepare to pay straight through your frostbitten nose.
“When I lived in Iqaluit, it was about $5-6 for a domestic beer, $7.50 for a drink like rum and Coke, and about $8.50 for a Long Island iced tea.”
“Sometimes they enforced a ‘one drink per person’ rule because everything ran out so fast, as in you couldn’t buy yourself two at a time when they were running low … The [local bar] was only open on Saturday and you could only get in if you were a member. It also hit max capacity early every Saturday, so going out to drink was never a guarantee.”
That’s really unfortunate, too, considering that you will need booze to get used to all the animal deaths…
2. The Arctic Circle Is NO Place For Vegetarians Or PETA
Any vegans or vegetarians reading this? Just kidding, I know you’d have already told me if you were. In any case, I’m afraid I have bad news for you: your friends were just being polite and vegan meat actually tastes like ass filtered through soggy cardboard. Also: chances are that a few days interacting with Arctic culture would drive you crazy long before the midnight sun ever could.
“The first time you attend a community feast is an eye-opening experience,” Jaime recalls. “A community feast involves a seal, narwhal, or beluga being laid on cardboard on the floor and one or more people cutting it open right there on the floor, and handing out pieces to anyone who wants any … Another time I ate whale blubber (maktak) which made me so warm that I walked home in [-22F] in just a sweater without feeling cold.” Though to be fair, that might have just been the hypothermia talking.
In Nunavut, vegetables and fruit do have their place in the local cuisine, but the freezing temperatures have forced locals to look for nutrients primarily in things with faces. After a few generations of this, the people of Nunavut have trouble looking at our planet’s fauna as anything but food and pre-clothes.
“In Iqaluit, I was driving home one day and there was a truck towing a boat with 2 or 3 dead seals hanging off the side of it, blood dripping down the side of the boat.”
“Being anti-fur would be a VERY unpopular stance in the north. Most people’s parkas are either down-filled and/or have some type of fur around the hood. Mittens are made of sealskin, polar bear, or some other kind of hide or fur. Inuit people wear kamiks, AKA sealskin boots. PETA would have a very hard time operating in your typical Nunavut community.” For one, their paint for throwing at people wearing fur would freeze over.
1. It’s Like Living In A Giant, Killer Safari Park
So, yes, the Arctic might be an overpriced, carnivore hellscape of snow and sorrow, but it still has some upsides to it. Like, if you live way up North, you’ll essentially be settling down in the middle of a gigantic, FREE safari park. But because Mother Nature cannot stress enough how much she doesn’t want you moving into her attic, the Arctic animals may want to occasionally kill you.
“I once saw a half wolf, half dog roaming around outside my apartment”
“Polar bears are a problem. I never ran into one, though. Generally, they don’t get all the way into town before someone spots it and shoots it,” although please remember that, here, “it” is actually a white ball of fur and teeth running at you through a literally snow-white background so, hey, good luck with that.
“There’s also caribou, arctic hares, siksik (ground squirrels), wolves, foxes, ptarmigans, and muskox. The only thing I ever saw in town were the hares, that rogue half-wolf thing, and the siksiks. Arctic hares are BIG, bigger than cats. I was legitimately afraid of them which felt silly since it’s just a rabbit,” Jaime says, seemingly forgetting that it’s exactly this kind of hubris that almost cost Elmer Fudd his life on numerous occasions.
Still, though, occasionally some good does come from living in a subzero zoo: “I went to another community one time and while I was walking, I turned around and a bunch of stray husky puppies were following me.” In conclusion, the Arctic is a beautiful, wonderful place and I’ve already named my new litter of free huskies.