It’s no secret not all Alaskans are born in Alaska. Many find themselves in Alaska for university, work, military assignments, or the call of the wild. In such cases, there’s a process one goes through in becoming Alaskan that largely begins with tenure and proximity to the bred and born “Alaska Grown” tribe. After a year or two, it should be no big surprise when you find yourself exhibiting several (if not all) eleven of these signs that you’ve become Alaskan. In fact, you should feel a surge of pride — few in the world (approximately .0097% of 7.6 billion) can lay claim to 907 Tribe membership.
1. You buy a car or truck based on moose proof-ness.
You’ve seen one too many vehicular collisions with an Alces alces gigas and decided you’d rather not become the next casualty with four skinny, fur-clad legs protruding from your windshield. Aside from the fact that Alaska has the space, rugged landscape, and lifestyle to justify owning the largest non-commercial, consumer-friendly vehicles manufacturers like Ford, GMC, Jeep and Toyota produce, you’ve come to understand the other reason Alaskan drivers go for beast mobiles. Namely, they prefer staying alive. And when it comes to the hazards of driving Alaskan roads, the larger and stouter the set of wheels, the higher the chances of survival when creatures (such as moose) make an ill-timed road crossing.
2. You talk about Alaska bears like a bonafide tour guide.
You’ve developed your own spiel for inquiring minds about Alaska’s bruin population. It goes something like this, “Alaska has polar bears, grizzlies, brown bears, and black bears across the state. Polar bears are white and live in the north up above the Arctic Circle. All grizzlies are brown bears while not all brown bears are grizzlies. Grizzlies are smaller than brown bears and generally live more inland. Black bears are the smallest and can climb trees… Kodiak Brown bears are one of Alaska’s most famous bear species…”
3. You can employ duct tape and zip-ties to fix anything.
In fact, you have a difficult time understanding how you survived as long as you did without them. You have a roll of duct tape and a handful of zip ties tucked into a special place in your car, your garage, your kitchen, and at least one or two other strategic locations. You smile with pride in Alaskan ingenuity when you see someone who’s used the zip ties, duct tape, or both, especially in a creative way. You occasionally find yourself dreaming up broken things just so you can deploy your handy fix-it tools of the Alaskan trade.
4. Your collection of flannel shirts, hoodies, and layering clothing has quadrupled.
And you couldn’t be prouder. You keep them divided in your closet according to season and function: lightweight flannel, heavyweight flannel, “good family outing” flannel, “only for work and grungy stuff” flannel, lightweight hoodies, heavyweight hoodies, pullover hoodies, zip-up hoodies, and finally, down vests, zip-up fleece jackets, pullover fleece jackets, and the “survive anything” assortment of wool sweaters. This doesn’t even touch on the flannel or fleece lined denim or drawers full of long-johns.
5. You talk about driving the Alcan.
As if it’s something you’ve done regularly your whole life. The truth is, one is simply not Alaskan if they cannot talk about how many hours it took them to drive the Alcan and all the mishaps and miscellaneous adventures they had along the way.
6. You defend the existence of ice worms.
And give anyone a serious dressing down if they suggest there’s no such thing. Every Alaskan knows where the ice worms live and which city plays host to the annual Ice Worm Festival. Which, by the way, is well worth checking out if you can get there.
7. You don’t bother washing your car.
And you’ve also begun scoffing at those who still make a regular ritual of washing theirs. You’ve learned the hard way, there’s just no point — at least, not till after breakup. You’ve also learned Alaskans don’t necessarily enjoy driving dirty vehicles all the time. They’ve just learned how to pick their battles and this one is legitimately unwinnable.
8. Your coat closet is larger than your actual closet.
Because in Alaska, having the correct coat for the occasion is as vital as the correct footwear. The coats for fishing, the coats for skiing, the coats for snowboarding, the coats for work, the coats for hunting, the raincoats, the one “good” coat for special occasions, the coats for working outside, etc…etc… Multiply the coat collection by the number of family members and well — there’s a reason Alaskan homes allocate valuable real-estate to the humble coat closet.
9. You become a chief evangelist for a lamp.
Not just any lamp mind you, but a special lamp that’s been designed to simulate the sun and stave off the seasonal blues that come with Alaska’s long dark winters. You tell everyone you know about this miracle product and insist they come try yours and see the mystical, miraculous illumination device for themselves.
10. You use an ulu.
In fact, you’ve begun to reject other sharps edge cutting tools and insist on making all your kitchen and meal preparations with it. You also discover cutting pizza (and grilled cheese sandwiches) with an ulu is far more efficient and easier to clean than an actual pizza cutter. The only thing that annoys you about the legendary half-moon shaped slicer and dicer is that there’s not a serrated edge option for bread.
11. You sneer at people who claim the Iditarod is animal cruelty.
Your neighbors own dogs and a dog sled. You’ve seen the dogs in person, seen how well they are loved and cared for, and taken a turn or two mushing them yourself (a valuable form of healthy exercise for the active breeds). You’ve become firmly convinced by reason of experience that people who make such claims have no idea what they’re talking about. You have no reservations about expressing your ire at the mention of such a preposterous offense to Alaskans past and present, the dogs and the mushers who raise them, love them, and care for them like their own children.