Alaska is America’s Last Great Frontier. Unfortunately, parts of Alaska have also picked up the nickname The Lost Frontier. Between isolation, cold weather, and an incredibly high cost of living due to the difficulty of delivering goods, moving to Alaska is daunting for a lot of people.
Many people have written to talk about the great aspects of moving to Juneau, Alaska, and they should! It’s a beautiful city and the people are fantastic. However, there are some downsides that everyone should be aware of before they make the flight to check out new apartments. Don’t commit to the city before you’ve considered these 17 reasons not to move to Juneau, Alaska!
1. Alaskan Winters are Intense
This is probably the most obvious item on this list. Yes, Alaska is really, really cold. Pictures of the snow and ice aren’t exaggerations.
Juneau residents will happily report that their city only goes down to 22 degrees Fahrenheit on a typical cold day and that the temperature rarely drops below 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Compared to the rest of Alaska, this is balmy. The rainforest climate keeps the temperature moderate through most of the year.
Don’t break out the suntan lotion yet, though! Juneau’s coldest day on record was -22 degrees Fahrenheit in 1972. It is capable of going into the negatives. If you can’t handle that, try another city.
2. It’s Rarely Over 60 Degrees Fahrenheit
Juneau likes to keep things chill. Even after the cold winter months have passed, the rest of the year tends to stay very cool and damp. Temperatures won’t reliably hit the 50s until May, and then they like to stay in the 50s and 60s until July. You’ll probably never put away your jackets and sweaters.
Besides the potential for discomfort, this is a real problem for home gardeners. The cold, humid climate and hungry critters present unique challenges for home gardening if you’re not open to getting creative.
One solution is to set up a greenhouse, but keep in mind that materials can be extra expensive in Juneau and even Amazon charges extra to deliver to Alaska. Another idea is to cover grow boxes with plastic, but you’ll need to beware of rot.
- Potatoes and other root vegetables
- Blueberries and Lingonberries
- Kale, especially Russian Red
If you want anything you’ve grown in warmer states, you’ll have to work harder or lower your expectations. It’s just too cold.
3. Costs of Living are High
Since Juneau is so isolated from everything else, costs of living can easily end up sky-high. Rent, groceries, medical care, clothing, and school supplies are painful to pay for. Wages are higher on average, but that ends up barely balancing out the cost of day-to-day life.
If we put the US average cost of living at 100, Juneau sits at 121. This can be a struggle for many people as they learn how to budget, and people are often drawn in by the attractive high salaries only to be shocked when they realize they’re still barely making rent.
Unless you’re in a particularly valuable field, like medical, psychology, or certain STEM careers, you need to check your potential new salary against your new cost of living. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
4. It’s a Rainforest, So It’s Dark and Wet
Juneau, Alaska, as well as other parts of the Alaskan panhandle, are in a rainforest zone! While this is incredibly beautiful, providing lush forests and greenery, it also means that you might forget what bright sunlight is supposed to look like. It rains almost every day. Everything you own will be slightly damp.
You will need to invest in some houseplants, a sunlight lamp, and Vitamin D supplements if you plan to stay in Alaska long-term. Otherwise, you’re at a real risk for severe depression or other health issues. This is especially true if you come from a warm and sunny climate.
5. During the Winter, Daylight Can Be Just Six Hours Long
Can you imagine watching the sunrise at 9:00 AM and the sunset at 3:00 PM? It can be brutal if you’re already suffering from seasonal depression or anxiety. Kids in school and adults at work can miss the entirety of daylight if they aren’t able to take a break outside.
Seriously, the seasonal depression and lack of sun are no joke. You must get your Vitamin D levels tested and take a supplement regularly unless you want some major health issues to come up. Temp workers who didn’t know better have ended up on prescription levels of the vitamin to compensate for what their bodies stopped producing during Alaskan winters. Unless you want to take 50,000 milligrams of Vitamin D, don’t underestimate the lack of sunlight.
6. In the Summer, Daylight Can Be Eighteen Hours Long
Long days present a very different problem from long nights. Our bodies need darkness to sleep, and a 10:00 PM sunset makes that complicated.
Adults can cope by getting blackout curtains, taking melatonin supplements, and wearing a mask to sleep. Late-night daylight might throw off your circadian rhythm, but you can take advantage of that by sleeping in a little later and enjoying the nightlife opportunities in Juneau.
Children make things much, much more difficult. Until you’ve looked a toddler in the eyes and tried to convince them that it is bedtime while the sun is blazing high in the sky, you probably can’t fully understand the impact of the midnight sun. Tantrums will happen. Nothing can stop them. You’ll just have to learn to adapt and get really good blackout curtains.
7. You Can’t Drive Straight To Juneau. You Fly or Ferry.
Juneau, like many other islands or coastal cities in Alaska, is profoundly isolated. You might not realize just how much you can feel the isolation until you arrive and see mountain ranges or ocean on all sides, but you need to know about it before you move.
Juneau is cut off from roads by the mountains and ocean. If you want to bring a car, you need to take a ferry. Otherwise, you arrive in Juneau by boat or plane. Small planes are a fairly normal form of transport for nearby islands like Sitka or Gustavus, but they’ll feel strange to new transplants.
8. Rent is Painfully High
This is a complaint across the US right now, but the problem has existed in Juneau for a long time. Rent is painful to pay alongside the other high costs of living.
A single-bedroom apartment in the city of Juneau is often $1,200/month, not including utilities. Rent for a two-bedroom is $1,500. It isn’t dropping any time soon.
Buying a home isn’t any better, with a median home cost of $415,800. You’ll want to shop around before you move.
9. The Job You Want Might Not Exist There
One thing that Juneau has going for it is the number of jobs available. Unfortunately, your chosen career might not be one of them.
Since the city is isolated, job variety is limited. Things like graphic design jobs, retail jobs, or specialty restaurant jobs can be hard to find. You’ll need to create a niche for yourself or open your own business if a job doesn’t exist, or change career paths altogether.
10. Violent Crime Rates are High
Violent crime rates are high in Juneau. It received a D+ rating from crimegrade.org, and that’s no surprise.
Many of the crimes are substance-related, many are vandalism, and a large part of the crimes are property-related. Theft, vehicle theft, and burglary are common.
Keep in mind that this is connected to the sheer volume of tourists in the city, too. Tourists getting pickpocketed will skew the crime rate. Still, stay safe and check out your neighborhood before buying a home.
11. Substance Abuse is Even Higher
The substance abuse statistics for Juneau, and Alaska as a whole, are brutal. Juneau alone is responsible for 15% of Alaska’s heroin overdose deaths. Opioid painkillers overprescription, isolated populations, and lack of rehab facilities are all part of the problem.
These rates are closely connected to the high crime rates. Drug and alcohol-related theft, property damage, assault, and domestic violence are common. Check on the safety rating of neighborhoods before you buy a home!
12. Grade School Education is Mediocre
If you have children, this is something to keep in mind. Juneau, Alaska, ranks below the 50th percentile in education through almost every grade. It isn’t the worst, but it’s also nothing to write to Harvard about. If this is a concern for you as a parent, you might want to look into tutoring services.
A lack of achievement in STEM is notable because of how many STEM jobs Alaska boasts. When so many occupants of Juneau are engineers, scientists, and other STEM employees, it seems like the sciences would get more focus in school.
13. A Bachelor’s Degree Won’t Stand Out
74.8% of Juneau’s residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. A full 48% of people have degrees in a STEM field. While this is fantastic news in many ways, particularly if you want to convince your children of the importance of college, your bachelor’s degree isn’t going to stand out to many employers.
If you really want to impress a potential employer, you’re going to need a master’s degree or some kind of experience in your field.
14. Tourists are Everywhere in the Summer
If you want to move to Alaska to escape your local tourists, think again. People love taking cruises through Alaska, and those cruises love to stop in Juneau so people can get off the boat and explore.
While this is good news for some industries, like artists or craftsmen, this is annoying for people trying to get to a dentist’s office in the wrong part of the city. Plan ahead when you take day trips to the glaciers and other attractions or risk getting hedged in by a ship’s worth of curious tourists.
15. You Need to Fly Anywhere You Visit
We mentioned this already in regards to isolation, but this is also an issue when it comes to vacation, exploration, or visiting friends and family back home. You’re most likely going to have to fly.
For people living in the main body of the US, options exist. It might be a long trip, but driving from Idaho to Nevada is possible within a day or two. This is much more complicated when you live in Juneau. You’d have to take the ferry, drive through Canada, and cross borders repeatedly just to visit, resulting in a 37-hour drive from Seattle if you make no stops.
When compared with a 2.5hr flight to Seattle, that isn’t going to appeal to anyone but the most adventurous.
16. Bears are Common, and Wildlife Isn’t Friendly
It should be common sense to say that wildlife isn’t friendly, but people keep trying to test the idea. Bears aren’t friendly. Bears are wonderful, fascinating, valuable wild animals, and they will absolutely kill you if you get too close. You don’t want to go down in history as the guy that annoyed the mama bear.
Juneau offers breathtaking nature walks, trails, and parks, but take the bear threat seriously. Moose are even worse. Look up safety protocol, be aware of sightings in the area, talk to and respect park rangers, and stay alert. You can have incredible experiences if you know how to stay safe.
17. Healthcare Costs are Through the Roof
If you’re accident-prone and you don’t have fantastic insurance, Juneau might not be the city for you. Alaska has the highest healthcare costs in the US, and Juneau is not the exception to the rule.
Healthcare can also be hard to find even if you can afford it. Providers are in short supply, particularly for specialties. Lack of competition between hospitals and providers means they can charge whatever they want and nobody can fight it. Insurance rates are just as bad for the same reason.
This is great news if you’re a medical worker looking for a job. People are desperate for new healthcare workers to move in, and pay is high. Just don’t be shocked if your neighbors are a little bitter.
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