Anchorage, AK, United States of America Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Anchorage, AK, United States of America

Anchorage, AK, United States of America 10/10/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is my first experience in Alaska, I am from Delaware.

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2. How long have you lived here?

I have lived here for 2+ years, since June of 2007.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Any flight to or from Alaska is long. Unfortunately, there are few, if any, flights available through Russia. One must go through Asia or across Europe. The shortest flights are from the West Coast of the "lower 48."

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am an International Student Advisor for a public university.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are LOTS of condos here, and they are generally a pretty good deal. Apartments can be relatively expensive ($1000 - $1500 per month) in decent areas. There are cheaper options, but I wouldn't recommend them. When I first moved her, I unwittingly took an apartment in an area well known for prostitution and other nefarious doings -- avoid Spenard and Mountain View.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are expensive here, especially fresh fruits and vegetables that are brought in from other places. You can't get a fresh New Jersey tomato here! However, it is tolerable - just a bit more pricey.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing - you can get everything you need here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Nearly everything...McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Popyeye's, Arby's - you can find it all here.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None to speak of.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Regular mail is okay, but it takes a long time. If possible, it is better to use set-price boxes from USPS for priority mailing.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Expensive- plan on cleaning your own house unless you are a Big Wig.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Many choices.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No problem anywhere.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Everything is available.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Everything is available.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is necessary. Most people from or living in Alaska don't speak a second language fluently.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Most places are accomodating to folks with physical disabilities - at least up to American standards.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. Trains are VERY limited, mostly available for tourists. The bus system isn't great but it is adequate. Taxis are great, but it can be tough to get one when weather is bad or during rush hour. Your best bet is to buy or rent a car with studded tires during the winter. The studs make a huge difference...they make driving in the snow practically easy!

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Here, an SUV is your best bet. Most vehicles you buy will come with a set of studded tires for winter, and you will need them. Don't try to drive in winter without studded tires.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Not difficult to find and not overly expensive.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Do NOT get a phone from Alaska Digitel! They are awful. Look at the various deals available and choose what is best for you - and make sure you factor in roaming minutes for when you travel!

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I don't think so.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Lots. My husband is the manager of the Dog Wash Resort, which boards dogs, does grooming, and has a doggie daycamp.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

YES - there are lots of opportunities here.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual at work. In public, anything goes! People wear pajamas to the grocery store.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

None that I am aware of.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Anchorage is an American city with typical concerns, but the crime rate is generally lower than in most large U.S. cities. Take standard precautions and you should be fine.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The quality available is excellent, but you must have health insurance.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The weather isn't nearly as extreme as people imagine. Winters are long, November to April, but Summers can be stunning. The lowest temperatures are -10 Fahrenheit, but that doesn't happen often or for very long. Average winter temperatures are 15 Fahrenheit to 25 Fahrenheit. During the Summer we enjoy a beautiful 65 - 80 degrees most days.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Many schools in the Anchorage School District have language immersion programs, and my friends with children highly recommend them. I know of programs with Chinese, German, and Spanish.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

As far as I know, accomodations can be made.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Friends of mine have had difficulty finding affordable daycare, but it isn't impossible.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

I'm sure they are.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

In the U.S. - although sometimes it feels like another country

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally good - there are frustrations with the "Alaskan" mentality, but most people are excited to be here for a limited time.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots to do - but you must seek it out.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I would say yes for all, depending on the level of excitement you expect. This isn't Chicago or New York, but there are many opportunities if one seeks them out.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes and no. This is a red state. A recent squabble over a city ordinance in Anchorage adding LGBT folks to protected groups sparked avery lively debate and ultimately was vetoed by the mayor. There are a lot of very conservative people here - but I don't know that LGBT folks would feel it in everday living.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not really. Anchorage is the 3rd most diverse city in the U.S., and I have experienced a "live and let live" philosophy here.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

TONS! Within a few hours drive are several amazing vistas with activities to do. You name it, Alaska has it - wildlife viewing, snow sports, kayaking, hiking, biking - the list is endless. Within Anchorage there are lots of things to do and see - and the amazing thing is that even though lots of people visit Alaska, it never seems crowded.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Groceries, folk art.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't want to experience all that Alaska has to offer

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. Alaska has been an adventure.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

bikinis.

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3. But don't forget your:

snow boots and winter clothes

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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