Nunavut Newbie v.2.0: Iqaluit Newbie

A journal that will hopefully help out anyone who is thinking about moving to Nunavut or anywhere in Northern Canada.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nunavut FAQs

If you have any questions that you would like to see answered, please leave a comment or email the address on our sidebar (at the bottom). I have tried to make these as objective as possible. Remember, I have only lived in Rankin (which is the second largest community in Nunavut), so I can only really vouch for here.

Q: What is the average temperature in the summer/winter/fall/spring?

A: Check out Weather Underground, which has records of just about everything to do with weather. The link will lead to the Rankin Inlet page, but you can just enter the community you are interested in.

Q: Is it really dark/light all the time in the winter/summer?

A: Yes, depending on how far north you live. Again, check out Weather Underground.

Q: What kind of stores are in Nunavut? Are there really no malls?

A: Yes, there are really no malls. Most communities will have a Co-op and Northern store. Both are more than just a grocery store with inventory as varied as bananas, bed sheets, and ATVs. I can't vouch for communities smaller than Rankin, but in Rankin we have a few gift stores, an art gallery, two convenience stores (one with a hardware store inside), and probably a few more businesses I'm not aware of. Iqaluit, being the capital has more "southern" style stores.

Q: If I don't want to cook, what are my options?

A: The larger communities have a KFC/Pizza Hut Express (collectively called the Quickstop) inside the Northern. Rankin Inlet has a few restaurants, and Iqaluit of course has more. There are no Tim Hortons, McDonalds, Wendy's, Taco Bells, Harvey's, etc.

If you live in a smaller community with no restaurants, it would be advisable to make friends with someone who is willing to cook for you, whether for free or for money.

Q: How long does it take to drive to Nunavut from Toronto? (based on popular Google hits)

A: You cannot drive to Nunavut as there are no roads into any or between any of the communities. A road from Rankin Inlet to Churchill is planned but it could be years before it is built.

Q: How long does it take to fly to Nunavut from Toronto (based on popular Google hits)

A: It can be done in a day most (if not all) days of the week. Getting into a smaller community can take a few more.

Q: Do people from the south bring their pets north?

A: You can absolutely bring your pet and I would definitely recommend it, provided your animal is still young and reasonably healthy. The travelling and/or change can be too hard for older or sicker animals. Veterinarians visit communities once or twice a year, but it is possible to fly your pet by itself to the south for vet care, however it is costly, especially if your pet requires frequent vet care.

That said, bringing your pet will help to make you feel more at home and break up some of the boredom that can set in during the winter, but make sure to ask yourself if you think your pet can handle being without immediate vet care.

If you would like to know about my own experience with bringing out cat, you can either read through earlier entries or ask me in an email or comment and I will gladly give you more details.

Q: What kind of winter clothing do you need to wear just to check your mail in the winter?

A: For myself, the post office is only across the street so I would typically put on my parka, my boots, and a toque. For a longer walk (e.g. 5 minutes or more), I would also wear wind pants and mittens.

Q: Which parka is the best?

A: Canada Goose are a favourite for a few reasons: they are downfilled, long, have fitted cuffs, deep hoods, many pockets, and last a number of years. Anything similar to that should work out fine. Do not sacrifice function for fashion.

Q: Where can I buy Inuit made anything (carvings, wall hangings, jewelry, mittens, parkas, kamiks, etc)

A: I don't know. It's really the sort of thing that you either need to come to a community and find out (i.e. who makes what), or have a contact in Nunavut to buy something for you to ship back.

Q: What is there do? Aren't you bored?

A: There is tons to do, you just have to look for it. It's really no different than any other small town in that respect. Those who look for things find them. In Rankin there is baseball (in the summer), volleyball, curling (sometimes), hockey, swimming (in the summer), a few different fitness groups, instructional classes. But enjoying the land and the people is by far the most fun.

Q: What kind of vehicles do people drive there? Are there roads?

A: There are roads within town obviously. In Rankin, many people drive trucks, SUVs, and vans. Cars are less common. Many people also own ATVs for the summer, and some own snowmobiles for the winter. The percentages of who owns what would likely depend on the size of the community, the length of winter, and the cost of flying any type of vehicle into town.

Q: Does wildlife ever wander into the community?

A: Again, I can't vouch for other communities, but in Rankin, caribou do not wander into town and polar bears that get even within 20 kilometres to town are shot. Siksiks (ground squirrels) do live within communities and sometimes hares can be spotted.

Q: So Government of Nunavut employees get subsidized housing whereas federal government employees in Nunavut get staff housing. Do I have that right?

Are there any other differences between the perks in the two levels of government there?

A: No, we both get subsidized housing. True, I did live in a staff house for awhile, but that's a long story and not the norm. Indeterminate federal government employees receive subsidized housing in which rent comes off their paycheque. It works the same for the Government of Nunavut. As for other perks, I believe federal government employees receive more cash benefits on our paycheques. We receive 3 or 4 cash benefits, I think. An environment allowance, a living cost differential, fuel & utilities, and possibly another one I can't remember (but I think I covered them all). The Government of Nunavut just gives one northern allowance, an amount similar to our environment allowance. The amount of our allowances, like the territorial government's, are also based on which community you live in. We in Iqaluit receive the smallest amount, whereas an employee in Grise Fiord would receive more. I'm not 100% sure if every federal department has it, but the agency I work for gives twice-yearly cheques that pay for your flight to the nearest large city (Ottawa for Iqaluit, Winnipeg for Rankin, not sure of the others). Your spouse and dependants also receive this money. We also receive quite a bit of vacation time, but I honestly don't know too much about how it works because it's different for the different groups of employees who work for my federal agency.

Do you find the long dark days depress you? If so, how do you combat the depression?

A: The abnormal levels of sunlight have never consciously bothered me, but I do find I'm much sleepier in the winter. This year I've been taking vitamin D. I noticed a big difference in my moods after being on it for only a day. I didn't realize how much the lack of sunlight affected me, but as soon as I started taking it, I became much less irritable and I didn't feel as tired all the time. When external factors like sunlight affect you, it's easy to dismiss them because you don't realize it's happening, it's not a conscious thing.

To combat the winter blahs, I make sure I get plenty of sleep (read: I give in to the fatigue), I take vitamin D as I mentioned, and I make sure I get out of the house once or twice a week to socialize. Having a social life makes a big difference!

Q: Was it really hard to leave behind your family and friends in London? How often do you get to go back to visit?

A: My friends and family don't live in London, I'm from Sarnia. I only lived in London for a year before I moved to Rankin Inlet. I don't ever go back to London because I truly hated it there, but I go back to Sarnia everytime I'm down south (approximately every 8 months). Very few of my friends still live in Sarnia, and I'm not very close with my family, so leaving them wasn't difficult for me. In fact, I prefer to live far away because it allows me to have my freedom and to stay away from family drama. Not everybody up here is like me, though. I've known people who were incredibly homesick, and it seems they don't last very long here and if they do, they hate it anyway. For me, southwestern Ontario doesn't feel like my home anymore and I would never move back there so I do not get homesick. However, sometimes I miss my favourite parts of growing up there: the big park near my old house, summer bike rides, swimming in Lake Huron, and going on drives to Bright's Grove. I make sure I do these things when I'm in Sarnia, so I only start to miss them when it's time to go on vacation again.

Q: Do you have any idea how many applications on average the government receives per job posting?

A: I have no idea. It would depend on the job, I suppose. Jobs not requiring education or experience would get more applicants, whereas specialized industries would probably have less competition. That's true of anywhere, though.

Q: Is is possible to live close enough to work in Iqaluit that one can get by on foot alone?

A: Yes, of course. The only place you wouldn't want to walk from would be Apex (which is a subdivision good kilometre of out town), or the furthest reaches of Lego Land (getting near Apex). And you probably wouldn't want to walk to the opposite end of Iqaluit (where there are several businesses). All the new houses and apartment buildings are being built are a bit further from things, but you could still walk to work from them. Where I live now is about a 15-20 minute walk downhill to my office, and about 30 minutes back up hill. I didn't own a car until this year, so I'm probably more open to longer walks than people who have never walked anywhere in their lives.

Q: For someone who dislikes Ontario winters like myself, is it ridiculous to think I could have a fun adventure in Iqaluit for a year? Is not being a winter person pretty much a deal breaker for having a good year or two there?

A: In all honesty, I hated winters in Ontario. Hated! But here, I don't mind it so much. I dress better for it, and the cold here is dry, so it doesn't suck the warmth from your bones the way Ontario cold does. Also, because it lasts for about 8 months, you just get used to it. And when the temperature warms up to even something like -10, it feels so warm to you that you feel like dancing in the streets in shorts and a t-shirt. I've done a 180 about weather; I won't go back to Ontario between June and August anymore, because I've found I just can't handle the heat and humidity. I'm grouchy and dizzy and I never stop sweating. I was miserable even in September last year in Ontario. It was just so humid that I didn't want to go outside. As far as adventure goes, it's impossible to not have an adventure here. You get to experience things you never thought you would, and you can partake in cultural activities that will enrich your soul. I sound like a tourism pamphlet, but it's true. The only stipulation for having a good time here is that you honestly have to try. You can't move here, never go outside, never participate in anything, never make friends, and expect to love it here. A good time won't land on your doorstep.

Do you find it's rather easy to save up money there? Because I am thinking I would be able to since they pay for your move, you get subsidized housing, and there are no malls there so I probably wouldn't do much shopping...

A: Oh, Anonymous. I laughed, but only because you sound like me before I moved north. Even though they pay for your move, you still end up spending money on buying new things you'll want to bring with you. Subsidized housing still isn't cheap, and online shopping is so much more addictive than shopping in a mall. Oh, and don't forget that everything you can buy here is way more expensive. For me, an admitted recovering shopaholic, I've saved nothing. I spent all my savings on a vehicle, housewares before I moved here, and an expensive vacation. But that's just me. Some people leave with a lot of money in the bank. I'd like to be one of them, but saving doesn't come naturally to me. The big money-drainer here is vacation and food, so just watch those two areas and you should be okay.

Q: "Do you have a picture of the palteua subdivision that I heard so much about in Iqaluit."

A: I assume you mean the plateau subdivision? No, I don't. I have photos I took looking at town from the plateau, but not photographs of the houses there. They're just new, nice looking houses.

Q: I am originally from Ontario as well and am interested in moving to Iqualuit to be a research analyst (if they will hire me). What is it like being an outsider there?

A: It's about the same as being an outsider anywhere else. Iqaluit isn't very traditional, chances are you will only feel the stress of moving to a new town and figuring things out. English is spoken everywhere and the percentage on non-inuit here is about 40%. So you won't really be an outsider, you'll just be another person living and working here.

Q: If you could sum it up in one sentence or so, what is it that makes you love the north so?

A: One sentence! That's difficult, you know. But okay, you got it. What makes me love the north is that I can go outside and hear absolutely nothing, just complete silence. I love quietness. I'm aware there are many quiet places in Canada, but I wound up here and that's what I choose to love about it.

Q: What is your job?

A: Sorry, but I do not share that information publicly. I work for the federal government, that's all you need to know.

Q: Is there stuff to do for children? activities?

A: In Iqaluit, yes. There are sports teams and if your kids are young enough, there are daytime playgroups. In Rankin Inlet there were some sports teams and gymnastics. There is also Sparks/Brownies/Guides/Rangers/etc in some communities, it would just depend. I don't know about smaller communities.

Q: Can someone eMail/post a typical grocery list cost? Milk, bread, bananas?

A: I had plans to do this before I moved out of my old house. I can't remember if I kept all the receipts. If not, you can still expect a post like this from me in the next 3-5 months or so.

Q: What kind of internet connection is obtainable in Nunavut?

A: Qiniq is available in all communities. Check the site for packages. Northwest Hell Tel also provides Internet in some communities.

Q: Also, I know there are no roads, but is there a chance any ATV trails or the such exist that could get you into the area?

A: Possibly, but I have no idea. You'd have to ask somebody in Thompson or Churchill.

(posted by Jaime)

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