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.
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.