Whoever said “there is no such a thing as a stupid question” may need to think again. Over the years, I’ve been asked an assortment of ridiculous things about Alaska from both tourists visiting the state and curious people when I’m back in the lower 48. Let us examine a few of them, and if you ever travel to Alaska or meet someone from there, you can avoid posing these embarrassing questions.
Frequently Asked Questions About Alaska
What elevation are we at?
The answer is sea level.
People getting off the cruise ship in Southeast Alaska or visiting us in Glacier Bay ask this with an alarming amount of frequency. In all fairness, the coast looks like this:
so it can be a bit confusing. But sea level in Alaska is the same as sea level in Florida.
Last summer, I even had a travel writer ask me this. Taken aback, I said, “About 5 feet I guess?” Embarrassed, she tried to play it off and say she meant latitude. She did not mean latitude.
When is it like always dark/always light up there?
This one really annoys me, and is one of the most common questions I get.
If the days are long in summer in the lower 48, wouldn’t it make sense that because Alaska is also in the northern hemisphere, that we have the same summer as you do? Yes, that would make sense. Summers have nearly 24-hours of sunlight, winters are dark and cold, just like everywhere else.
What time do the northern lights come out?
This question is often asked in June or July, when there is 24/7 sunlight and the lights are not visible. The answer: late August to early September. You are here at the wrong time.
Is it covered in snow all the time?
There is a common misconception that Alaska is always cold. Surprisingly, Alaska is a very colorful, green and temperate state half the year.
What type of money do you use?
I once had a lady ask if we use American money. “No,” I replied. “You have to exchange it for Alaskan currency. I can get you a great rate if you give me your cash.”
When do you feed the animals?
We’ve had more than a few tourists ask what time we feed the animals at the national park. When they find out that we don’t, some people get a little upset and suggest that we should feed the bears and animals so they can see them!
Do you live in an igloo? Do you see people in igloos up there?
I’ve been asked this a lot over the years. I guess igloos are the iconic housing of the great state, but no, I don’t live in an igloo and I don’t think anybody does anymore.
Do you like Sarah Palin? I bet she is really popular up there.
No and no. After all, she quit 2.5 years into her first term, took a hard right turn and became a reality TV star. And now she has endorsed Trump. These are things that aren’t respected by the people in Alaska.
Do you work on a fishing boat?
For whatever reason, when I tell people I work in Alaska in the summer they naturally assume I work on a fishing boat. I work in tourism, which is much more dangerous.
Do you know Jimmy? He is my neighbor’s nephew. Or maybe grandson. He moved up there a few years back. He works in some place like Fairbanks, or maybe Ketchikan, I can’t remember.
Alaska is a really small community, despite the size of the state, but I don’t know your neighbor’s nephew Jimmy.
Update: I have to include this from a former co-worker.
Okay, let’s get it out. If you have a question about Alaska you are too afraid to ask, pose it in the comments section. I’ll answer it and won’t make (too much) fun of you.
Do they speak English in Alaska? Nah, just kidding! LOL…
We do have a few peculiar terms though. For example, we say “outside” to mean anywhere outside of Alaska. ex. I am thinking about going outside for the winter.
Omg! I love Alaska❤❤ I hope I can go to Alaska.And do you work in Tourism Industrial? That’s cool! btw I’m student of hospitality in Tourism High School in Indonesia.
Have you looked at getting a J-1 Visa? You may be able to come work for 4 months. A lot of people come from the Philippines, Europe and Latin America to do it.
Not yet.I will check it out! Thanks for information.
Given the upswing in Alaskan reality TV shows, I’m surprised you don’t get asked if you know this family or that family. Stupid questions aren’t limited to Alaska. Once, when I told someone I was from NH, they asked me what state was it in. Here’s your sign!
Wow, that is bad. What state is New Hampshire in though? Vermont? Massachusetts?
Funny thing, we have a been watching tv and seen friends on reality TV shows. For a state that is 2 times the size of Texas, it is a small community and we do know a lot of people, just not your neighbors cousin’s friend who works in the oil patch.
To expand on Touring NH, in regards to reality shows – expect more questions like “How do you live with out electricity?” and “Does everyone think smoking pot in Alaska is legal?”
True, true, those will follow I am sure. Pot is sort of technically legal but they aren’t really selling it in the open yet like Colorado or WA.
Great post! I liked the elevation question the best. Are you going to follow up with a good questions post?
I think the elevation question is the best. It is so cute when they ask it.
Follow up with a positive post? It was really fun being slightly negative for a change. Let me rack my brain and think of smart questions I get.
So funny jeff😀
That’s pretty hilarious. Love the question about the money. But that’s not funny. That’s just sad.
Yes, yes, that is just sad.
These are pretty damn close to dumb questions Canadians get. I once had a school teacher from a northern state ask me what it was like to live with snow 12 months of the year. I was living in Vancouver, BC. Arrrrrrrrg! A school teacher!!!
I have a new affection for Alaskans seeing as we have to listen to the same BS 🙂
12 months of snow in Vancouver. That is sad – especially from someone who is molding the minds of our youth 😦
Yikes! It’s a wonder how the people who ask some of those questions managed to get themselves all the way to Alaska in the first place!
The answer: tour groups. Some people are just totally lost without a group leader.
More than once when placing a telephone order (pre internet days), I was told that my items could only be delivered in the United States. The ugly geography teacher reared her head and a lesson ensued including the fact that we are the 49th State! (Yes, I know they meant contiguous but that’s not what they said) 😆
I can see that being very appalling to a geography teacher! There are still a lot of companies that don’t deliver to AK though, or at least to PO boxes, which makes it a challenge to get stuff.
My favorite during the hiring season was employees who asked if they would need a passport to come to Alaska. Sometimes I wanted to respond yes, and that they would also need to go through an extensive visa application process.
That is bad! I never had anyone ask me that, I don’t think anyway.
I volunteer for Alaska State Parks in the summer. The most frequent question I get is, “Where are the bears?” Typically, I’ll look around and respond, “Maybe in the woods?”
In all fairness, though, Alaska almost feels like a different country for us from the lower forty-eight.
It does feel like another country, and that is probably why I like it so much. We have those questions about the animals often. People also ask when we feed the animals. I need to update the post with that question!
OMG Jeff this is priceless! Laughing out loud! Most of the questions are breathtaking in their stupidity, but we shouldn’t mock the afflicted. Well only a little maybe.
It reminds me of questions that have been asked about Australia and some of the answers that were given.
Thanks for sharing that list. Those are even worse than the Alaska questions! I love the responses by the moderator – priceless.
I do agree that Alaska does feel like a different country from the lower 48… so cut us simple folks some slack! 😛 Btw, do you see bears everywhere?
On another note but still related to questions that make you go “duh”… when a patient/family asks me how come I speak good English (when they learn I am originally from the Philippines), to which I just say with a shrug, because English is being taught in our schools. Come on people, we are not living in the dark ages here or living under a rock. That annoys me, sometimes.
I can see that being annoying. They are probably just trying to be nice but I am sure it can come off wrong.
Yes, Alaska is like another country, and as I said in the other comment, that is probably why I like it so much!
Most of them are nice don’t get me wrong. Some just have this condescending attitude and look. But hey, I’m there to take care of the patient and his needs. 🙂
It’s odd, but people can be so…human at times. I only have two questions:
1. What language do they speak in Alaska?
2. Why don’t Alaska penguins bend their knees?
2. They evolved that way to they could run from Polar Bears easier.
Haha this made me laugh. I loved the sarcasm.
I do have to admit that I did not know the answer to one of them. I did think that there were days were it was dark all day. Isn’t it true that the higher you are in the hemisphere the days (as in daylight) are shorter in the winter? That’s what I thought. Maybe they just don’t get to that point there.
Yes, in the winter it is dark all day. Maybe I should clarify. Some people think it is dark in the summer and maybe light in the winter. 🙂
Oh! Ok.. my thoughts were correct then, I don’t feel stupid haha.
We tend to get a lot of this type of question in Canada. Praise be to the heavens we don’t have to answer about Palin or Trump. Now where is my igloo?
I suppose that everywhere gets questions that are strange and perhaps stupid. I guess we form stereotypes or preconceptions about places, but you’d think in the age of Google we’d be getting past that!
You would think…
“Slightly” is a pretty big understatement, Jeff – especially if those questions come from a travel writer! I remember reading a similar blog post once from a tour guide in Hawaii: the worst questions (and the funniest for me) were these two:
– “Does the water go ALL the way around the island?”
– “What time do you turn on the waterfalls?”
I once had a housemate who used to work in retail on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. It was the middle of summer and she met an American customer who promptly looked around and asked her, “So where’s the snow?”
Those are really bad questions. “Where is the snow?” That kills me. The question about waterfalls illustrates that some people just don’t know how nature works. We get the same thing in Alaska with questions about feeding animals and stuff. Thanks for sharing.
-“Does the whitewater rafting tour end in the same spot it starts?”
-“Can you actually see Russia from here?”
-“What types of beer do you have on tap?” All the beers are brewed in Alaska “No, do you have any American beer?”
These are a few of my other favorites I have answered. I have also had lately everyone assuming I watch every show having to do with Alaska and that I know all the people.
Amy – those are great questions! Thanks for sharing. The whitewater tour question is priceless. So is the American beer question. The Russia question was probably asked by a Palin supporter.
OMG!! I had such a great laugh out of this post. I’m sure it’s not as funny to you on the front lines, but I thought it was HILARIOUS!!
I’m going to give some people the benefit of the doubt because we all say stupid things before we’ve engaged our brain, but really …. what type of money do you use?!!
Your photos are stunningly beautiful!
Thanks Joanna. We usually give them the benefit of the doubt, but some are just too bad to forgive 🙂
These are great, they are true, and it’s fun to experience the naivety of tourists and those curious about Alaska. But really, why judge them? Why call any of these questions stupid, and why allow yourself to be annoyed? All of these inquiries are endearing, like small children learning their world, the tourists have curiosity, and even if it’s a bit naive or uneducated, the point is that they ask!
Sometimes they area annoying when we’ve heard the same ones over and over for 10 years! Normally we do have fun with these types of questions, and we have fun making fun of them too. It is part of the joy of working with tourists. Thanks for the comments.
strange questions will fade if one sets to explore the place 😉 beautiful pictures 🙂
Very true and wise statement.
Funny stuff and great photos as always Jeff. Speaking of igloos, just the other day I watched a Youtube video about how to build one. It was vintage 1950s in B&W, and was fascinating. These two guys built an overnight shelter in about 1 1/2 hours, and I was impressed. It was a bit smaller than the one in your photo, but it looked pretty damned cozy to me. ~James
The igloo can be a lifesaving shelter in a jam. I guess people make housed of what they have nearby, so the early pioneers saw a lot of ice and made that into a home.
The igloo photo is from a defunct hotel on the Parks Highway that never met safety codes and never opened. I think it only had one exit. It is a funny eyesore on the highway.
What type of money do you use?
Our B&B owner in Colombo told me when he was in Australia (I don’t remember which city) a young lad, already looking ready to go to the beach, wanted to exchange some Australian dollars he had to Balinese dollars. 🙂
About the Balinese dollars – that is bad. Really, really bad. Maybe he ended up in the wrong country by mistake? It has happened before.
This is brilliant, really made me laugh! I don’t ask stupid questions, so I don’t have one for you (now). Thanks for sharing!
I am glad you enjoyed. When you come up with a question about Alaska you can post it then. This is a safe zone.
Thank you for lighting up my evening, those questions and answers were hilarious!
I am glad you enjoyed. Thank you for commenting.
Awesome:) Being from the north myself I recognise some of these questions.
Others I have received:
– Do you have polar bears? (I wish….)
– Do you have roads? (Whaaat?)
– Do you use have reindeer in your garden (This might sound as a stupid question but it is actually not…some people have reindeer in their garden….)
HAHAHAHA, yes sometimes we have moose in our yard and caribou migrate through, so those questions are surprisingly valid.
No roads? Do you just get around by dog sled since it is snowy 11 months a year?
I was living in Vancouver, BC. Arrrrrrrrg! A school teacher!!!
The poor children. What will they do with teachers like this?
Haha, ‘slightly’ IS rather an understatement!! My favourite part is your response to the elevation question 😀 Thanks for sharing these gems with us Jeff.
And the fabulous gallery!
You are welcome. The elevation question caught me by surprise and it was very hard not to laugh!
These are great and it’s fun to experience