Saturday, January 13, 2007

Northern challenges

When we were home at Christmas I'm sure we must have bored a lot of people with our stories of living in Nunavut, but then again, people kept asking. Not many people get to this part of the world, so naturally they're curious. It just felt like we were saying the same things again and again. I'm sure we probably told some people the same story. So if we bored anyone when we were home, sorry about that.

However, we also got some people curious about moving up here to work, and they had a different set of questions.

I've discussed the challenges of living up this far north before, but it probably doesn't hurt to mention it again. Because Nunavut very clearly isn't for everybody. The sheer turnover rate in the population is proof of enough of that. And as much as we'd like to see more of our friends up here, of all the ones who asked, there was only one couple that I thought could probably handle it. And they might be moving here later this year with a little luck. I'd honestly feel bad if friends came up because we told them to and they hated it.

Still, for people thinking about coming here, please bear the following points in mind.

1. The cold. No kidding, it's cold up here. I appreciate people hear about climate change and the North warming, but this place is still far from being the tropics. And the hard cold lasts at least six months a year. Not everyone can handle it. The fact that people still show up here in February wearing leather jackets is proof enough that people tend to underestimate it.

2. The isolation. There is no driving in and out of Nunavut. And a cheap flight to anywhere down south (Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton) will set you back anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on where you live. So there is no hopping out of here for a break when the isolation starts to drive you a bit buggy. Again, you've got to be able to handle being in a small community (Iqaluit is the largest at around 7,500) for months and months at a time.

3. Lack of amenities. There is no Wal-Mart. No MacDonald's. No Tim Hortons. No Chapters. If those are the kind of creature comforts you enjoy, then you're going to have to get used to not having them. There are coffee shops and other things, but that varies from place to place. But it's certainly nothing like what you would find in many places down south.

4. The expense. Yes, odds are you're going to make very good money. But if the thought of spending $4.50 for a 2L of coke or $10 for a honeydew fries your mind, then you might want to reconsider. Believe it or not, you get used to the prices. And there are ways to minimize expenses. But it's an expensive place to live.

5. Weird Daylight. People think the dark of winter is hard to deal with. And for some it is. But don't forget that during the summer you have all that daylight, which can make it hard to sleep. People are up doing things at 3 a.m., because really, how much of a difference is there in the amount of daylight at 3 a.m. and 3 p.m.? If you're sleep patters are easily messed with, think again.

6. It's the North. Really, things work differently up here. And it's a dozen little things that I don't think about anymore because you get used to it. It's the things that happen and it doesn't even phase us anymore. We just shrug and go "It's the North."

These are all things to consider. I'm not slagging the North. Nunavut has been good to us so far. We were struggling to make ends meet when we were in Newfoundland. Now we find ourselves financial comfortable for the first time in our adult lives. And we manage just find with most of the challenges I just mentioned because we're quite happy being on our own and doing our own thing. But if you come up just for the money and think you can handle all the other things I mentioned, you might just be surprised. Unpleasantly so.

1 comment:

Pat the Wench said...

They had a "cold warning" on OZFM this morning because it's going to get down to -20 with the wind chill on the Port-au-Port Peninsula this evening. I thought of this post ...