company wants me to relocate … to Alaska!

A reader writes:

I work as a consultant for a firm in Southern California and my main client is based in Alaska. I’ve been at this job for just about a year and recently had some issues with my salary (the firm lost some big clients and couldn’t afford to give me a raise). My client is our firm’s biggest source of revenue and now they have asked my boss if they could relocate me to Alaska. I know my boss is concerned about losing more accounts, so he’s really pressuring me (and making me quite uncomfortable, if I might add) to consider the move, but he has not offered me more money or any kind of deal.

He has been rather vague about how long it would be for, but when he saw my hesitation he said, “Well, if I were you, I would jump at the chance to live in Alaska for a year.” Also, considering I would be relocating to support my client, not my actual firm, I’m going to assume it’s for as long as the client continues to require our services, which in my client’s business — natural gas pipelines — could be a few months or a few decades.

I was wondering if there is some kind of standard deal when relocating someone or if it’s something I’m supposed to negotiate. If so, is it my firm or my client that I’m supposed to negotiate this with? Also, I’m unmarried, but in a relationship. Is it reasonable to request that my boyfriend be allowed to come with me and either be given a job or have the company pay joint expenses?

Well, first, do not be pressured into doing this if you don’t want to! Relocating is a pretty big deal generally, but relocating to Alaska is a really big deal. You’ll be far away from friends and family, and Alaska — from what I understand — is pretty damn different from southern California. Do you want to do this? Because you certainly don’t have to, and your letter sounds like you don’t feel you have much of a choice.

It would be entirely reasonable for you to say, “Sorry, but I’ve thought about it and moving to Alaska isn’t an option for me.” In fact, I’m pretty sure that that’s what most people in your shoes would do (with the exception of an adventurous few). Now, it’s certainly possible that your boss could make moving a condition of your job (unlikely, but not impossible), and it’s also possible that if the firm loses the client over this, that could result in you losing your job, so you want to be prepared for both of those possibilities — but I can’t get behind anyone moving to Alaska because they feel forced into it. (And frankly, your job could be in jeopardy anyway, if the firm is losing big clients.)

However, if you do want to go — and only if you actually do, not just because you feel pressured into it — you should absolutely negotiate more money in order to go. You’d be uprooting your life after all, and moving to a very, very different place, one that you presumably wouldn’t have chosen on your own. It’s reasonable to expect compensation for that. (No slam intended against Alaska here — just acknowledging that it’s not like moving to, say, Seattle.) As for your boyfriend, there are some industries that pay for spouses or spouse equivalents to relocate along with an employee, although I don’t know if you’re in one. Spouses aren’t generally given jobs (again, with a few exceptions, like academia) although, hell, if that’s one of your conditions, say so. You should also insist on a clear timeline for return. And get this all in writing.

Of course, making all of these things conditions for being willing to move could be useful in getting your boss to drop the plan, so if you’re willing to go but not super invested in it, laying all these out as conditions could be interesting. (And you’d negotiate this with your boss, since he’s the one who employs you, not the client.)

But really, this is not something you should do simply because you feel you have to.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 141 comments… read them below }

  1. Marie*

    Off-topic, but I’m so curious about your statement that in academia, spouses are sometimes given positions along with the relocating academic. How common is this practice? And would it apply to temporary jobs like postdoctoral research?

    I ask because I plan to relocate temporarily to America while my academic spouse does a postdoc, and had just assumed that I would not get a working visa at all (as happens in my country). My plan had been to volunteer somewhere or study for the year, but if I could get a proper job at the university, he won’t have to be the “Sweet-‘n-Low Daddy” postdoc dad who features in this Phd Comics episode:

      1. Marie*

        You’re right – it looks like something mostly for tenured professors. Fascinating article, though!

        1. businesslady*

          yeah, it’s highly unlikely that you’d be brought in as a “spousal hire” for a postdoc–but in a perfect world ALL spousal hires have some actual tangible benefit to the university (beyond “they’ll allow us to hire Professor Bigname”). in practice, there are certainly some hires that are just vanity appointments, & which only serve as recruiting tools. but ideally the way it happens is more akin to networking–“oh, your husband teaches philosophy? he would fit in great in our department here!”

          I don’t know anything about the process for getting a work visa, so it may not be worth it, but if you’re someone with a skill set that could be useful in an academic environment, you might want to consider what professional opportunities might be available to you when you relocate.

          1. LJL*

            Precisely. If there is a match between an opening and a spouse’s career and talents, the spouse will usually at least be given an interview. Many colleges and universities have started spousal (or partner) career services that will connect “trailing spouses” to openings in his/her field. I think it’s absolutely merited in academe as academe often involves moves to different geographic areas. You don’t often have people teaching at a university close to where they grew up. It happens, but it’s far from the norm.

      2. PEBCAK*

        It’s typically highly sought-after professors who are moving to a less-than-desirable location, i.e. the university is the only gig in town.

      3. Dr. Speakeasy*

        It is getting to be a tough sell even at the tenured professor level – I see it more for high level administrator. When you do see it for profs it tends to be the school really wants prof one but they can’t move without bringing prof two. And because departments generally would want to pick up an extra line they’ll argue hard for prof two. Inter-department hires are less likely because a department essentially has to give up a line for a hire instead of getting to do a full search and bringing in a person they really want.

        Given the very large applicant pool (might be a bit smaller for a school in Alaska) and high level of competition for post docs I’m not sure a school would set you up with a spousal hire. However, my guess is most departments would be happy to keep an eye out for any staff positions that might be available and help you with the application process.

        1. fposte*

          It depends on what the spouse does, too. As noted above, a spousal professor in another department is the toughest sell, because they have the cost but not the original candidate gain. But a lot of spouses aren’t professors and have capabilities that universities are always on the lookout for–project management, IT, etc. Those cases are much easier to make package deals with.

    1. fposte*

      At my university, tenure-track hires are eligible for this as well as tenured hires (and I think that’s pretty common, actually, as a talent attractor), and higher-level staff/admin jobs can often negotiate this as well.

      Occasionally there might be a little inside boost for a spouse in other situations, but it wouldn’t be a hire commitment, just a passing a name along thing; unfortunately, the visa complication is something that’s likely to be prohibitive at that level, at least around here. So you probably assessed it right. It wouldn’t hurt for your husband to ask them if there are any suggestions or possibilities, though; you never know what’s there.

      1. books*

        Could you ask the university for support in terms of a work visa to work at the university? In an assistant or library or some other type of position?

        1. fposte*

          At least at my university, it’s highly unlikely that they’d put themselves on the hook for a work visa for a spouse of a post-doc.

          1. fposte*

            Uchh, I knew this was going to be more complicated than that. If you’re coming on an F-1 visa, your spouse is ineligible for employment. If you’re coming on an J-1 visa (giving your spouse a J-2 visa), apparently your spouse is eligible for employment.

            None of this relates to the university’s willingness to get a work visa for a trailing spouse; as I said, if you haven’t come in with the ability to work as a post-doc partner, my university isn’t likely to try to change that for you.

            1. Marie*

              Interesting. That looks like something I’d better look into before DH applies for the visa, then. Based on Yale’s website (not the right one, but best resources for visa info) he’d probably be eligible for a J-1. So, yay – thanks!

        2. Zed*

          The library job market (at all levels, not just degreed librarians – although a lot of degreed librarians are competing for library jobs that don’t require the degree) is so saturated right now that I can’t imagine prioritizing someone with no library experience, especially one who needed a work visa.

          Don’t get me wrong–the suggestion is a good one, and a fixed-term administrative position may be doable for a large university. It’s just that libraries would not be a good choice.

          1. Cassie*

            Probably the same with office-type jobs at my university (we’re a public univ, if that makes a difference). I can’t see them giving preferential treatment to a spouse of a recruited faculty member, especially given the numbers of people applying for jobs and also with laid-off preferential re-hires.

            If the spouse is in a STEM field, then maybe they could also get some kind of limited research/visiting scholar type position (possibly w/ some kind of monetary compensation). But otherwise, it would be really rare.

    2. Cathy*

      What kind of visa will you have? Typically a student is on an F-1 visa and the spouse is on an F-2 and not allowed to work. I once hired a woman whose husband was doing post-doc research and he had negotiated a J-1 visa as part of his package and she was able to get work authorization on her J-2.

      It’s been a while and things might have changed, so you should consult an attorney who specializes in U.S. immigration visas for more info.

      1. yen*

        I’m in grad school on a J1 visa. My husband has a J2 visa, which authorizes him to work in the US. (You have to apply for work authorization separately, but it’s not hard.) He’s looking for a job now and not finding it easy, but that’s probably a function of the bad job market.

        1. Marie*

          Yep, FINDING the work will be the next problem – I have a feeling the US is not short of lawyers:p But it’s definitely worth a try.

          1. yen*

            Good luck! We got the employment authorization form from the university international office, and I think it took a a month or so to process.

      2. Cassie*

        I think most postdocs are on J-1 visas, unless they were a grad student on an F-1 visa and are now on OPT. Looks like J-2 employment authorization could take like 3-5 months to process (I haven’t had any postdoc spouses ask about this yet, so I’m not positive).

    3. J*

      Definitely not for postdocs — postdocs (at least in the sciences) are a dime a dozen — you’re lucky if you can find a postdoc in a good place/lab, let alone negotiating for spousal jobs.

      Spousal hires are usually for tenured faculty (usually for people the university really really wants) and nowadays with so many dual career couples, the spousal hire has to be pretty attractive to the university on his/her own.

    4. Rana*

      It’s not that common to grant a spouse a full faculty position, in my experience, since most places are required to do full, national searches for anything in the way of a real faculty job. That said, there may be lesser forms of assistance available:

      I have been the “trailing spouse” for the last five years, and so can speak directly to the sort of hiring aid you might find as such. At one place, they were pretty nasty to spousal hires among the faculty (basically they treated them as pity hires rather than real colleagues), but I ended up working in the library and didn’t see much of the unpleasantness (unlike one couple where the trailing spouse ended up quitting because they couldn’t take the sniping in their department).

      At another, they hired me as a part-time adjunct and treated me as a normal member of the department. And the last place offered no assistance at all, though I was able to find work at the neighboring community college.

      My husband was a “visiting assistant professor” (that is, full-time contract hire with benefits) at all three, so spousal employment assistance is not only for the high-powered tenured folks.

      1. fposte*

        Adjuncts are another category that many colleges are happy to add to. Were you in the same department as your husband? That always seems somewhat easier, too.

  2. Jayne L. Wells*

    My daughter graduated from Rutgers (New Brunswick, NJ) in May and had the offer to move to Homer, Alaska for the summer.

    She ended up staying over the winter (shock)! But she loves it up there. Born in NH, she has also lived in IN, MA, NJ and now AK.
    Alaska is one of the most beautiful states in the US, especially on the coast (of which Alaska has quite a bit of).

    Alaska actually pays people to live up there, check out the State Of Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (note, you have to live there the complete calendar year).

    Alaska is a beautiful state; an adventure worth looking into!

    1. Selene*

      Former Alaskan here – you have to live in the state for over a year to qualify for the Permanent Fund Dividend. The amount also varies each year depending on how to fund is doing.

      The amount of the dividend does not offset the increased cost of living. (I also lived in socal for 5 years)

  3. Katherine*

    I relocated from the Seattle to Alaska a few years ago (voluntarily for a promotion), and I would recommend negotiating a trip to check it out before you commit. While I am one of the “adventurous few” noted above, it was certainly an adjustment. And, larger cities like Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau are vastly different from rural cities. Where I live (rural), gas is $6.20/galon, and milk is more than $10/galon. The cities aren’t as expensive – in fact, probably comparable to Southern California prices – but each place is unique, so be sure to visit the town where you would live/work. January and February are the coldest months, so now is a good time to see the state at its worst; then you should be able to tell if you could handle living here. (I moved in the summer and had no idea what I was in for when it comes to cold, dark winters.)

    The culture across the state is pretty outdoorsy. If you like to hike, fish, camp, boat, hunt, ski, snowshoe, or bicycle, it’s an amazing place for all of those things. And, Anchorage has a symphony, a playhouse (often with the broadway tours), lots of nightlife, and all sorts of local events (like the start of the Iditarod Dog Sled race). And, wildlife sightings are very common both in the cities and in more rural locations. Moose are commonly seen throughout the state, and where I live, I see fox and snowy owls and the occasional polar bear.

    I never thought I’d end up where I live, but it has been a great adventure. I encourage you to consider it (and maybe even get a free trip to Alaska while you’re considering), but Alison’s right. Only make the decision if you want to; you’ll likely be miserable if you feel like you were forced. Good luck!

    1. Victoria HR*

      I would have been all over it when I was single/no kids. I live in Iowa so the winters probably wouldn’t be that much different :P

      Also, yikes to those gas/food prices!!

    2. Katie*

      That is such an important point about how expensive things can be in Alaska. If OP accepted that job at the same pay rate, for all intents and purposes, it could end up being a pay cut.

      1. yasmara*

        If the OP is in Anchorage, I highly doubt cost of living is more than in SoCal (says the former Alaskan). No income tax! PFD checks! You might pay more for fresh veggies in the dead of winter, but much of the rest has evened out. That is, of course, NOT true if you live in a village.

  4. Lily*

    Alaska isn’t overseas, but it might be useful to compare moving there with the expat university contracts I am familiar with. The university paid:

    the flights of the entire family there (and back, if you finish your 2-3 year contract)
    for moving a certain allowance of furniture there (and back, if you finish your 2-3 year contract)
    a subsidy for housing
    private school tuition for children under 18

    1. G.*

      My family has moved 2 times with 2 different companies (these were moves to a different country):
      – moving costs were covered (some furniture, as mentioned before, but also some boxes for clothes, books, other household items)
      – plane tickets were covered -> includes the move + 1x ticket to go to your home country per year
      – personal tax advisor costs were covered
      – assistance was provided for: opening bank accounts, getting a phone subscription
      – assistance was provided for finding a home (the company paid for us to live in a serviced apartment/hotel for 1 month before we found something suitable)

      1. Lisa*

        It doesn’t sound like OP company’s does relocations ever so most of what you are talking about prob isn’t a consideration. She should take the perceived cost and multiply it a couple times just in case. I have a feeling this boss is looking at costs according to him moving there. I can see the boss assuming that since HE found a $200 a month studio in AK on craigslist in the middle of nowhere, that that is all it costs to live up there. I don’t OP to get caught with less money, because the boss could be a cheapskate and think it is reasonable to have a 1 hour commute in a shack that may have an impassible road to the job during extreme winter conditions.

    2. Chinook*

      Good point. Remember that Alaska isn’t actually touching other parts of the US (you have to travel through Canada), so you will be having to ship things quite a ways. If it is only for a year, consider putting a lot of your belongings in storage and only take what you need.

      Also, I don’t know what it is like in the US, but in Canada, many companies will pay you to fly “south” (usually to Edmonton or Winnipeg) once a year when you are working up in the territories. I remember seeing a lot of families at the end of August at West Edmonton Mall doing some serious shopping for school and Christmas.

      I know in the Canadian government, spouses aren’t paid to move when someone is transferred, but they will sometimes cover the cost of shipping a second vehicle and the extra cost of food during the trip. Then again, we also can use those expenses as tax credits against what we earn in the new place.

      Lastly, take a look at what the job market is like up there for your BF. If it is booming from the resource industries like parts of Canada, he may even be able to find a “minimum wage” job that pays decently.

      1. Chinook*

        Oh, and insist they have some one pack, load, unload and pack your stuff at both ends of your transfer. There is something truly wonderful and stress free about having someone else put everything into boxes and then put the items away AND take away the boxes. It was the BEST perk of any government move I have ever had.

        1. Jamie*

          They put stuff away in your house? Like stacking towels in your linen closet and organizing your kitchen cabinets?

          I’d spontaneously combust in a fit of control freak stress – I would hate that. Unpacking is the best part of moving!

          Well – that and organizing and throwing stuff out when you’re packing. It’s so cathartic getting rid of crap.

          I need to move – either that or just clean out my storage totes and have a good clear out.

          1. The IT Manager*

            Sort of. In reality, they’ll pack everything for you. You have to sort through and get rid of stuff/crap before they arrive. Seriously, there are cautionary tales of the movers packing a garage can with dirty garbage in it. The smell on the other end was bad so I’ve heard. Or pets, so you have to keep an eye on the cats too (although that’s probably the cat’s fault). So if you don’t want them to pack something best that you have it out of the house or a pile or closet well marked marked as do not pack.

            I’ve never had them really unpack everything. They’ll reassemble furniture, pull clothes of the garment boxes onto rods, but most unpacking requires too much owner intervention to make it work when there are three guys unpacking very quickly and only one owner (or even two) to direct them.

          2. Chinook*

            IT Manager is right. My FIL moved across Canada in his slippers because he forgot to put his shoes in the car before the movers arrived. I kept that in mind when preparing for each of those moves and had my stuff packed into my car before they came.

            I do agree with moving being a good reason to go through your stuff but I always had a month or three warning so I would take that time to cull. But the unpacking, for me, was the best part. They were always efficient and done within 1 day and it is always the last thing I wanted to do after driving for days and living out of a hotel for 2 weeks. There is something quite relaxing of going into your “new” home of 1 day and not seeing any boxes or paper or tape.

            Plus, it is always fun to see how old some of your furniture is by the number/colour of moving stickers discreetly stuck in the bottom. We had one item that still had a sticker from a move from DH’s childhood.

      2. yasmara*

        To give you a picture of what it costs, my parents lived in Alaska for almost 40 years. When they moved south (to the upper midwest), it was easily over $20,000, and that’s just for *movers* NOT packing/unpacking.

  5. Claire*

    This is amazing! OP, I would have your exact hesitations, but I also have always dreamed of being offered this kind of opportunity. Please keep us updated on your decision and progress!

  6. Jamie*

    I actually think this would be kind of cool …for people who aren’t me…but there’s something exciting about being offered a transfer (and to a place with penguins? Bonus!)

    But here comes my wet blanket. I’d be nervous transferring like this for a company in trouble, losing clients, because I’d be afraid of getting up there and the company reneging on commitments to pay for my relocation home.

    Which brings me to point 2 – I wouldn’t do a thing without full relocation expenses and a commitment (in writing – signed in blood, but maybe that’s me) about how long this is for and that you can move home at the end of said term with full relocation expenses even if the client still wants you there.

    I don’t know how it works asking about a job for a partner, but I do know that if this were me and my husband had to leave his job the raise I’d need to do this would need to compensate me for the fact that he’d probably lose his income.

    Clearly I’d be much too expensive to transfer.

    Also, if you own your house this is a bigger deal. Are they handling the sale and paying for closing costs etc.? If you keep it and want to rent it out, you have to know when you’re coming back. The worst thing would be to get transferred home and have to rent because you have tenants in your home.

    Just me, but I wouldn’t sign any contract without running it by a lawyer who specializes in this kind of thing. I’d be too afraid there would be some huge expense I’m just not considering and I’d want to make sure I was covered.

    Oh – I would make very sure I got enough of an upfront bonus to cover clothing. Southern California to Alaska will require a whole new wardrobe.

        1. FormerManager*

          I dunno, I read a NatGeo article from the early ’90s on arctic foxes and they seemed kind of neat…

      1. Laura L*

        ha, I was going to say that too.

        Penguins are in the southern hemisphere. There might be polar bears in Alaska. Also, moose.

    1. Lisa*

      I totally agree, I would love to be given a cushion fund to try out a new place.

      (in writing – signed in blood, but maybe that’s me)

      I am so worried OP will get taken and not realize the true cost of things up there. If what others say about the cost of milk and gas in rural areas, that is a big daily expense to consider. The wardrobe alone will require several winter coats, snow pants as opposed to jeans in winter. Multiple boots, hats, etc. Ever been to LLBean? that stuff is expensive. You will most likely need a better car. A mini cooper in CA is great, but won’t work in extreme AK conditions. Prob want to get a pickup or at least something with 4 wheel drive.

    2. EM*

      My husbands company paid for our move when he transferred. It was great. They paid closing costs and the brokers fee!! They also paid to pack up and move our belongings, plane tickets, and a month in a corporate apartment. And when our flight was cancelled because of a blizzard that closed the airport for days, they found us a hotel and paid for it. I’ve heard that the moving assistance package is worth at least $60k, and I believe it.

      OP, if your company won’t pay for your move, they aren’t really serious about keeping your client or keeping you employed.

  7. snuck*

    Things I’ve included in relocation requests/negotiated… (I’ve relocated interstate three times with a large corporate, which while it had a standard policy that covered a lot of these things, didn’t cover them all.)

    Full cost of packing, moving and any quarantine requirements for all my household possessions. Including insurance and door to door pick up and delivery. Using professional removalists.
    A cash amount to cover ‘utility costs’ (connection fees for new locations – power, phone, internet and gas. No ‘disconnection fees’ ever applied to me – if you have break contract fees etc consider these too) (Few hundred dollars each time in my case)
    A cash amount to cover a reasonable replacement of all manner of cleaning products, sundries blah blah. (Couple of hundred dollars in my case)
    One return flight/year to my home city. (Corporate credit card)
    A written promise that if my role was terminated (except for gross misconduct on my part) within 12mths the company would return me to my home city at their cost including all these benefits.
    Additional ‘moving days’ of paid leave – about four.
    Cost of flights for me to go to new city. (Corporate credit card)
    Cost of hotel for gaps in between leaving one house and moving into the next (up to two weeks) (Paid on a corporate credit card usually)
    Mail redirection for six months.
    Cost of replacing items that cannot be transferred interstate (plants etc in Australia) – a few particular items, once.
    Rental housing expert to find me appropriate accommodation at other end.
    Transport of my car fully insured on a truck/train

    I’ve negotiated into other people’s packages:
    Return flights for spouses & children (must be living with person already, not done ‘girlfriend who lived elsewhere’ but would treat ‘girlfriend who lived with you in same house already’ similarly to wife, but wouldn’t cover that person’s children’s costs if not your children’s costs etc)
    School transfer costs (uniforms, books, fees)
    Some costs to change over houses (eg % of real estate list fees)
    % Child care fees (and/or nanny/housekeeper etc)
    Meals while in transit
    I’ve NOT negotiated in the ‘return home if your job disappears’ clause – I got lucky with that one.

    I’m in Australia – it’s probably fairly different here. And I worked for a big company that really wanted me where it wanted me. Negotiation was with my 2up manager usually (because 1up manager was usually still in the air – I was a project manager in large corporates).

    My initial move was a ‘we want to promote you to do this because we think you are great, oh and by the way if you don’t your job will be gone because this new role’s job is to eliminate all of your X positions now anyway’ so it was ‘take or leave the company’ offer.

    1. Jamie*

      If I ever get a relocation offer I would beg to pay you to fly here and negotiate for me – this is such excellent advice – tons of stuff I never would have thought of.

      1. snuck*

        I was lucky. I was fairly inexperienced and young and naive in my first move – and I worked from the corporate policy (which was generous) and learnt from there. I was in the process of buying a property when the sudden corporate shift happened and it meant that I had to back out of mortgages etc – so suddenly I had to negotiate, and they wanted me badly enough. If not I was going to stay in my home state but I had the choice – it meant I’d lose my job eventually but I knew I’d still afford my new mortgage.

        I moved for the promotion more than because it was going to leave me out of a job. I agree with Alison Green – don’t move if you don’t feel up to it – nothing worse than being homesick a long way from home.

        And if they really want you, they’ll make it possible for you, attractive, worthwhile. Otherwise why are they bothering? Why not get a local with all sorts of local contacts. At some levels this is almost like fighting for a promotion and applying for your job again – you need to remind them you are worth the spend and worth the effort – they are about to drop a quarter to half a years salary on moving you (hopefully) so what’s in it for them? Making the client happy is nice, make sure the client wants YOU and not ‘a hot body in a seat’.

        (And you negotiate with the entity that pays your wages – not the client. This might be handled by HR, your manager, their manager or a combination.)

        1. Lisa*

          It also might help to causally mention to the client, well boss didn’t really calculate the true cost of moving and financially it doesn’t make sense to me yet. We are still negotiating, but boss def didn’t convince me with his first offer.

          1. Esra*

            I don’t see how you could even casually do that without it biting you in the butt. This doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you should reach out to the client about.

            1. Lisa*

              i would only do this if the client asked, remember OP has the upper hand if the client wants HER not just anyone.

                1. snuck*

                  I agree with you Esra, unless there’s a close and genuine relationship between the OP and the client, I’d be cautious about trying to include the client in any way – especially as it could be construed as an inappropriate comment that ‘leaves the company at risk of it’s reputation’.

                  If really pushed by the client you could say “We’re trying to work through a relocation package at the moment, I’m sure that we’ll have it sorted soon” is probably as heavy handed as I’d get. If the client can’t read between those lines then ….

            2. Jamie*

              I agree with Esra – I wouldn’t mention one word of this to the client.

              It will make the OP and her company look unprofessional.

              1. Lisa*

                It’s not playing them, its saying honestly, that right now I am not convinced to uproot my life. I am of course assuming that OP doesn’t live in a silo, and actually speaks to these people daily without a project management intermediary.

                1. Jamie*

                  Right – but in many companies airing your issues (whatever they are) with your employer to a client could cost you your job.

                  Especially if it’s about coming to terms with the finances. IMO that should all be kept in house.

                2. Esra*

                  What Jamie’s said here, airing any internal issues with clients is not good for your reputation or job security.

                  In my experience, the expectation is that I present a united front with my employer and resolve internal conflicts or issues without involving clients/vendors/sponsors/etc.

            3. Chinook*

              I wouldn’t do it for the reason of leverage but, if I was potentially moving somewhere near the client, I would definitely asking my contacts up there about all sorts of things (i.e. how far are they from a major city, how is housing availability, etc.).

              Also, the client may be footing part of the bill if they specifically requested to have someone near them. It is to their benefit, after all, to have someone who understands that it can be too darn cold to go to work, the satellite is slightly out of position and there is momma moose and calf currently sleeping next to the generator, so the internet is not reliable so the deadline has to be moved tomorrow.

    2. snuck*


      It’s not unheard of here to have special allowances paid for living in remote areas, in the far north etc – extra power allowance to cover cooling in our tropics. (You’d be asking for heating)
      If you are a government or large industry employee you will probably be eligible for subsidised housing (so negotiating a rent rebate might be in order if you can’t get a salary rise).
      Return flights for your family to visit you (or partner) may be an option.
      Milage costs if a person drives their own car to the new location. (And you might be able to request the cost of things like snow chains?)
      Alternatively ask for storage costs to be covered if you feel it’s only a year/temporary. Or ask for this for one year and then for it to be sent on if the position runs for longer. This will cost the company less possibly than sending it all to you, and means if things don’t pan out it’s easy enough for you to move back.
      Ask for a ‘no fault exit’ clause somewhere – if it really isn’t working out for you then you want to be able to come back with a reasonable chance of a) a job, and b) not having to pay it all back. Check CAREFULLY for this in any paperwork.

      Basically sit and make a huge wish list, then work out an approximate cost next to each one – and then work out a ‘cheap’ and ‘expensive’ version (packing your own stuff and moving it in your car vs getting packers in and removalists) and then sit down and start the negotiation with your boss. If you ask them to give you something they’ll keep it to what they think is best, or what they want to pay – which will be much less than what you need yourself.

      Be prepared to meet a bunch of costs yourself, and if you find that the company is completely unwilling to meet your costs at all, on virtually any reasonable front, then you have to ask yourself how secure this role is going to be in Alaska, what happens if the company decides to hang you out to dry out there, and so on. Especially with American employment law appearing to be so wholly on the side of the employer. (At Will employment is a scary scary thing to me as an Aussie!)

      1. Cathy*

        Good list! It’s actually pretty similar to what I got from IBM (as their standard plan) many years ago when they moved me from Northern California to Southern California.

        1. snuck*

          And it might be a big enough shock to the boss to see the real cost outlined that they pony up some cash. The boss might have never relocated, or have relocated differently.

          A short term move of only about six months would normally have meant that my company would have put your stuff in storage, put you in a serviced apartment and might have given you a company car depending on your role (or access to a pool vehicle, or transported your own vehicle). The OP’s comment that the boss says something about it being ‘only for a year’ makes me wonder if it’s worth taking every book, photograph and ex-lovers play ticket with them. Just take what you need.

          And the boss might realise that it’s a lot more than he’d thought, he probably hasn’t thought it through – just doing the ‘PANIC MUST NOT LOSE THIS NEXT BIG CLIENT’ dance.

  8. Anonymous*

    Once you make your decision and start planning either way, you might also want to start looking for a new job, considering that your current company is in trouble. Plus, if you decide not to go to Alaska, they might end up finding someone else who is willing to go…which may leave you without a job.

    1. Jennifer*

      I think one way or the other the OP is going to be out of a job, since the company is doing terribly. Moving to Alaska–especially if they don’t have the funds to help– is only going to cost her more money and hassle for a job that sounds like it’s going down the tubes anyway.

      Plus, ALASKA. From SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. Good god.

  9. The Editor*

    So in response to some comments, the military actually does consider Alaska to be overseas. If businesses do, I don’t know.

    I grew up in Fairbanks (just south of the artic circle) and married my sweetheart from Juneau. I will be the first to say that Alaska is NOT for everyone, but… It is God’s country. :-)

    We would go back in a heart beat!

    I should also point out, though, that Alaska is pretty standard in terms of how cold most places I’ve lived go. Before Alaska, it was North Dakota.

    1. KellyK*

      But…but…Northwest PA is God’s Country! (I joke, being from there, that that’s only because no one else wants it, but it is gorgeous.)

        1. KellyK*

          :) Yep. Though I’m actually from McKean County, which gets called “God’s Country” less than Potter. (I’ve definitely heard it used for both, but only Potter has it on signs.)

      1. The Editor*

        Yeah, it’s really not fair I guess to declare any one area God’s Country. Alaska has a very special place in my heart (even the long dark winters… NORTHERN LIGHTS!!!).

        I could buy off on north west PA. And south east Idaho. And red rock Utah. And Badlands Dakota. And the Chesapeake Bay… And… and… and….

        Everyone should go to Alaska at least once! May is typically best (not too cold, outside of the rainy season, and just in time to see the world coming back to life).

        1. Jamie*

          Sure it’s fair – it’s home.

          Like for me God’s Country is a beautiful tree-lined suburban neighborhood where kids ride their bikes in the summer and retired people spend way too much time on their lawns.

          And where you’re never more than a couple miles from a little mom and pop joint with awesome Italian beef and a shopping mall. Granted the Chicago burbs might not be God’s Country to anyone else …but I’ve lived a lot of other places and I will remember the feeling of moving home and sitting on the floor of the new house with a Rosati’s pizza, delivered by a guy in a Sox cap, sitting on a pile of boxes for the rest of my life.

          God’s Country is anywhere that’s home.

    2. RG*

      And different parts of Alaska experience cold differently. Anchorage is going to be the milder than Fairbanks, for instance. Although that means your average Jan temp is 15 F, instead of -10 F.

      And there are times when Eastern Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota are colder than the populated areas of Alaska…just to put things in perspective.

    3. Cathy*

      As far as the cold … she’s coming from Southern California! We whine when it gets down to 40 at night here.

      Also, in the winter it’s really the dark as much as the cold, and Alaska is very dark for many hours.

      1. Chinook*

        But then, in the summer, when it is warm and you can enjoy it, it is light for many, many hours. Overall, same amount of dark and light, just in larger clumps!

  10. Patty*

    In academia they call it a “trailing spouse”. In your case, if your partner has skills that the client could use, I’d make a job for your partner part of the negotiation.

    I’d also look at the specific cost of living calculators available to see the difference between your area and the area you’re going to in Alaska.. You need to end up with about the same income, AFTER a reasonable allowance for visits “home”. If they’re unwilling to employ your partner, you need to consider the costs of, in essence, two households — you made a set of financial commitments based on your Southern CA responsibilities and situation. If they want you to change that, it may cost them.

    This can’t be the first time the company or client has asked someone to move, so see if you can get some history on what the other packages were — in general terms — so you can see what’s reasonable. At a minimum, they need to pay for every moving related expense — from packing and utilites to transportation etc..Think about it as if, financially, you were changing offices in the same city — any expenses after that would be their responsibility, not yours..

  11. KellyK*

    Lots of good advice here. I especially like the suggestion of a paid trip out to see what you think of it and get an idea of cost of living. Ideally, if your boyfriend is open to moving out there with you, the trip would be for both of you. And if he’s *not* open to moving, I would factor the emotional hardship of a long-distance relationship into your personal decision-making and the cost of visits home into what you ask for.

  12. Jen*

    I just relocated from Canada to the UK for my spouse’s job, so the whole “relocation negotiation” is still pretty fresh.

    There are already lots of good things to consider/ask for here. I’ve got a couple more for you to think about:

    Rental car or company car. I’m not sure what you drive in SoCal, but it may not be optimal for Alaskan terrain. And if it’s not newer or reliable, it might not handle the road-trip. Not to mention, after a few winters of salt & sand chewing up the underside, it might be on its last legs anyhow. You may want to have your car shipped (and a rental until it arrives), or sell your car before moving and purchase one when you arrive there (with a rental in the meantime), or just ask for a company car for the duration of your stay.

    When we moved, despite having our things sent over, we still needed to re-kit our house with appliances, since the power-supply is totally different here. We were able to negotiate expensing a certain value of those kind of things as part of our package. Your equivalent would be winter gear. Don’t underestimate the expense of proper snow boots, parka, thermals, snow pants, etc. Do some research on what those type of things cost and ask for a one-time expense/payment to purchase them to start off.

    As for whether to go at all? Only you can answer that. Relocating is an amazing adventure, but there are parts that are hard, and parts that are very lonely. If you’re not really sold on making a go of building a new life in a new place (even temporarily), don’t go. But if you’re up for it, the leap is worth it!

  13. Your Mileage May Vary*

    This is not so much about the economic factors of the move, but a mental one.

    If you’ve always lived in the southern part of the U.S., you may have no idea if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or not. Going from sunny California to a place where it hardly gets light part of the year can really throw you for a loop.

    Some of the symptoms are: hopelessness, increased appetite and weight gain, increased sleep, less energy and ability to concentrate, loss of interest in work or other activities, sluggishness, social withdrawal, unhappiness, irritability. If you have depression already, it can exacerbate it. Suicides have been attributed to SAD.

    They make special lamps to help combat SAD and if decide to go, get a really good one and use it as recommended. You may also want to have written in your contract if you or your boyfriend are diagnosed with SAD while you are in Alaska, you will be relocated back to California without losing your relocation benefits or anything else you’ve negotiated.

    1. the gold digger*

      You couldn’t pay me enough to live in Alaska. I already hate the weather where I am in the upper midwest. Nothing against Alaska and her people – but I hate snow and ice and cold and dark and fantasize about moving back south, where I was living before I got tricked into moving here. Alas, that will happen only when my husband drops dead.

      1. Kristen*

        Just wondering, how were you tricked into moving here? Or was that said in jest, because it made me giggle a little. I would hate my life if I lived in the South…summers in the upper Midwest are already too hot for me. It’s funny how it can be hard to get used to a different environment than the one you grew up in. I have a friend from the South who has been living here for years and he still pulls out a parka when everyone else is in light jackets, which cracks me up.

          1. the gold digger*

            Kristen, some day, I hope to be rich enough to live in the upper midwest in the summer (because there really is no place more gorgeous that time of year) and in Texas in the winter. I will visit my friends in Tennessee in the spring (which starts there on March 1 and doesn’t start here until the middle of May).

            1. Laura L*

              Where in the Midwest do you live? I’m from the Chicago area (I’m assuming you’re from further north), but I think Chicago is the best place in the world to be in the summer! Not because it’s gorgeous, but because it’s fun and awesome and the weather is reasonable.

        1. FreeThinkerTX*

          I was born and raised in Texas, but I *hate* the heat! It’s winter here now, and when someone in my house turns the thermostat up to 60F, I have a hissy fit. :-) I’m looking at the thermometer in my bedroom right now and it’s a lovely 54F. When I go to sleep, I’ll have four fans blowing on me. Ahhhhh….. heaven. :-)

          I lived in Pocatello, ID for half of a winter once, and I absolutely loved it. The early, long, dark nights. The snow. The snow tires and chains. Putting several 100 lb sacks of grain in the back of my pickup truck over the axle, just to get enough traction… :-) I wasn’t thrilled with the economy or the small-town-ness, though. I think I would love to live in Minnesota. I’ve worked for companies and had clients there, and visited at all times of the year. Winter was the best. (And the people rocked, too!)

      2. bo bessi*

        I’m in the Southeast, and we’ve had solid rain for a week. You can really tell a difference in everyone’s moods the last few days – we’re getting cranky without our sun!

      1. RG*

        Except those same places where the sun doesn’t set in the summer (pretty far north) also don’t see the sun in the winter. In more populated areas, you’ll have about 4-6 hours of sunlight during the winter, and 4-6 hours of dark during the summer. No, it won’t be endless night year round, but Nov to Feb are going to be pretty dark, especially if you aren’t used it (like SoCal wouldn’t be).

        Heck, I live in MN and get excited when the sun start setting after 5 instead of before.

      2. Sam*

        “In some places the sun doesn’t ever set during that time.”

        In my opinion, this is almost worse. I studied abroad in Sweden and it was very, very difficult to get used to the midnight sun. For about 2 weeks in June, I started feeling a bit crazy. I felt strangely hyped up, but also prone to bitchy spells. One of my fellow students had it so bad that she was prescribed some sort of antipsychotic.

        1. Jamie*

          I felt strangely hyped up, but also prone to bitchy spells.

          I must secretly live in Alaska – because I’m kind of like this all the time.

      3. Your Mileage May Vary*

        Ash, I was speaking about a specific mental disorder. Unfortunately, if you have SAD, it doesn’t matter how much sun there is in the summer. You can’t really save that up in your brain to use in the winter when the dark days are long.

        If OP is going to be in Alaska for only the summers, it’s probably a nonissue. But if the contract extends over the winter, it’s worth considering.

  14. The IT Manager*

    LW, I think you need to say “no.” You never say “I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska” or “it sounds like an exciting adventure.” You say your boss is pressuring you, and southern CA is nothing like Alaska. Unless you want this complete lifestyle change, you need to say “no” for your own quality of life. Also is your boyfriend actually willing to follow you to Alaska with or without a job? Because a lot of people would not move to Alaska for a job or for a boyfriend. I think a lot of spouses would hesitate too.

    You probably need to start looking for a new job and tell your boss that you won’t be relocating. It is likely that your boss will replace you on this client since the client wants someone on site, it’s perfectly reasonable for your company to hire someone willing to relocate. But it sounds like the business is in trouble already.

    If you do relocate, however, like others have mentioned your company should probably increase your salary so that you at least have the same buying power as you do in southern CA. You actually could/should get a raise probably. And they should also pay all of your relocation expenses to include professional movers, airfare or car travel, shipping your car if you fly, storage of things you don’t move, hotels, etc, etc, etc. This is because you’re not interviewing for a job in another location. You got the job already and are being asked to move after the fact. If all of this is a deal breaker for your boss, you shouldn’t move because even with all of money there are still a lot of unexpected, “minor” expenses that will pop up. And get it in a contract that your company will pay all these same expenses to move you back later. You don’t want to get stranded in Alaska without a job if your company loses the contract with the Alaska client or goes out of business.

    YMMV. I might well do this because I have always thought Alaska would be a fun adventure, but your letter conveys no enthusiasm for it.

    1. the gold digger*

      lot of unexpected, “minor” expenses that will pop up

      Like snow shovels. Plural. You need more than one kind of shovel. You need an entire suite of snow-removal equipment.

      You also need more than one winter coat. And more than one pair of winter boots.

      Living in the cold and snow is expensive.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Yes. And you know what I think of for this. Trash cans. Last move I had an extra bathroom (two and half baths because its a two story house) and my old kitchen garbage can didn’t fit in my pantry. Houses and rooms are shaped differntly, furniture doesn’t fit, and rooms need lamps, etc, etc. Replacing perishables and liquids that the movers won’t move. Even if you think you covered all moving expenses, you’ll be running to the store for all kinds of things those first months.

        And yes, in this example the climate will require large outlay; although, I might stop short of trying to get winter clothing covered by relocation expenses, if the LW moves she needs to budget for it.

        1. Anonymous*

          Ditto. My company lured me into moving from the south to the midwest as well. I have been trying to get out for two years now.

      2. Natalie*

        I have never lived in Alaska but a friend went to college there (Fairbanks) and had to buy a block heater for her flipping car so she could drive it in the winter. Those are not cheap!

        1. Chinook*

          They don’t automatically come in cars? I thought everyone’s care came with plugs (says the one from Canada).

          I would definitely consider selling your car and buying a new one in Alaska. I am guessing that what ever worked well in the big city and hot climate would not work at all up north, especially if you are not used to driving on snow and ice. What most of us Canadians can do in a Smart Car on an icy road probably shouldn’t be attempted by a southerner even in a 4×4!

          1. LJL*

            I bought my first car because the former owner was going to be stationed in Alaska and the cost of the block heater was more than the cost of the car.

          2. Natalie*


            I actually live in Minnesota, which is apparently colder than some parts of Alaska (who knew?) and almost no one I know here uses a block heater. Everyone with an old car just accepts that they will have one or two days each winter when it won’t start and they’ll have to take the bus to work.

            Of course, I’m sure living in the city skews my data a lot.

          3. Al Lo*

            I was once talking about plugging in a car to a friend in Texas, and she just couldn’t wrap her head around the idea that there’s a plug coming out from under the hood. And you plug it into the wall. And it’s not an electric car. But it’s just a plug — nothing fancy; just your average, everyday grounded electrical plug. To her, it seemed like the weirdest thing ever.

          4. Elizabeth*

            My grandparents had a diesel station wagon with a block heater. They kept an extension cord in the back in case they were some place where they would need to plug in.

            When we borrowed it my senior year of high school while they went to Europe for 2 months, we plugged it in every morning in the outlet just outside my mom’s classroom (she was the English teacher in a very small school; I had her for 2 of my 8 classes).

  15. Frances*

    My sister-in-law is from Alaska and met my brother when they were both in college in North Dakota. She claims North Dakota was much more miserable in the winter because the wind is so much worse.

    I’d also say that one other thing for the OP to consider is whether they can handle a location with 20 hours of daylight in mid-summer and 4 or 5 in the winter. My aunt’s second husband relocated there (from Oklahoma) for work in the mid ’90s and they only lasted a few years because they just could not deal with the overwhelming darkness in the winter months.

    1. MT*

      I guarantee you that MT/ND/MN will have more rotten winter weather than Anchorage – the wind and cold has a straight shot from the Artic Circle/Hudson Bay.

  16. Brett*

    There is a lot to like about Alaska, I’d be happy to live there for a year.

    Of course I know lots of Southern Californians that would hate it!

    In addition to some other suggestions I’d see if you can get a few flights home covered by the company, and maybe a little bit of extra time off since the distances are so far. (assuming you have any interest at all).

  17. AnotherAlison*

    Working in the energy engineering industry, I caution you about this whole situation. Caution!

    Friends of mine moved to China for 4-6 months. . .and ended up there for 4 years. They might tell you “a year” but will pressure you to stay when no one else is available to take your place. Unless it is for a very specific project, with a clear timeline (i.e. the commissioning date of the project is X, and it doesn’t role into Phase II), I would be reluctant to sign up based on the idea that it’s a temporary move.

    You might also need to look for a new job. At the firm that sent people to China, it wasn’t really optional to turn down a field assignment if you were approached. Lucky for you, it’s a great time to find a job in the gas industry.

  18. yasmara*

    As someone who grew up in Alaska (birth ’til I went to college), if you’re living in Anchorage it’s not THAT much different from living elsewhere in the upper midwest or pacific northwest. In fact, it’s a lot LESS isolated than being, say, in the middle of Montana (or Wyoming or North Dakota). However, as someone else pointed out above, it’s a LOT different if you’re in a small town or village. The cost of living is astronomically higher, many villages are dry (no alcohol allowed, sometimes a small amount is allowed for personal consumption in your own home), and it’s a very isolated experience. It’s not for everyone, for sure.

    I would definitely ask for the company to pay for a trip up there, perhaps for you and your boyfriend. Alaska is awesome! Don’t discount it just because it seems far away and cold. Gorgeous mountains, Anchorage is on the coast so there’s incredible coastal views and drives, glaciers, world class skiing and fishing, unbelievable seafood, and Anchorage even has a Gap, Nordstrom, and (I think) Target now. No state income taxes! Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) checks! 20 hours of daylight in the summer (and, ok, 20 hours of night in the winter, ha).

    Snuck’s relocation advice is fabulous – she should go into relocation negotiation as a career! I’m bookmarking it for a possible move my family might be making.

    1. Lisa*

      Don’t forget that Alaska oil money. Establish residency OP and get like $2000. Alas its past January 1st, so it doesn’t count until unless you go before Jan 1. Doh! I did have a friend from Alaska that went to school in Boston but his permanent address was still listed in AK even though his parents moved to RI when he was a freshman and got checks based on his original address.

      1. SJ*

        You have to live in AK for I think three years (might be two) until you’re eligible for the PFD. And I think last year it was less than $900. It varies from year to year.

        1. Selene*

          When I lived there you only needed a year of residency… but the money is, as you mentioned, inconsistent.

  19. Wilton Businessman*

    I would jump at a chance to live in Alaska for a year or two (assuming the $$$ worked out to the same or better).

  20. Lisa*

    I would love to go to Alaska! It sounds like a great opportunity, but you really need to be realistic about expenses. It isn’t just relocation expenses, it also should include relocation BACK TO CA.

    So when your boss offers you the expense package and its agreed upon, times it by TWO. If you really are only going for a year, calculate a storage room for your stuff, and attempt to rent a furnished apartment up there, and hell make him pay for it as well as give you a bump in salary. Make sure you get that relocation money back to CA upfront to, you have to assume that since he is losing clients that the business may not be on good footing financially now, and what happens if you have a promise in writing for $10k to come back to CA with, but then this place goes out of business, you are stuck in Alaska. Also go on and choose CA to Alaska for each month. Write down the plane cost for each month in 2013. You cannot assume that you will be back in January 2014, so learn the highest average cost for a plane ticket there for every month. You can’t assume a future plane ticket price based on discounts or luck that you achieve now. Whatever the highest number is for any of these months, that should be your calculation for plane cost. You might come home in January, but the May price may suddenly be the price you have to pay based on weird airline pricing atructure. Note it can be anywhere from $300 – $1600 just to fly your butt there. You can also negotiate cash flights home for xmas too! Let the man use his business miles to fly you there first, but get cash for future flights!

    1. Lisa*

      I don’t trust corporate credit cards for these expenses, you always end up signing something that says you are responsible for the cost if the card holder doesn’t pay. GET CASH, not credit card promises. You have no idea if this boss will pay on time for your rent, storage costs, etc, and you could come home to having no furniture because he didn’t pay the bill or evicted cause he didn’t pay the rent. You could have the car repossessed too, etc. you get the idea.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes — given the possibly precarious state of the firm, I totally agree about getting the money for your return up-front, not waiting until you’re ready to return. It might not be there if you wait.

  21. KayDay*

    Alaska has bears. Bears are big and hungry and will eat you. Don’t let their cute and cuddly appearance fool you!!

    But aside from the big mean bears, Alaska sounds totally awesome for a short stint. Not that I’ve ever been there. But for such a big move, I would definitely need to see the place before I agreed to relocate, even temporarily. Considering that you are already working with the company up there, I would see if they could send you up there for a one-two week long assignment that includes an extra day off so that you can get a better feel for the place. But only do this if you are seriously considering the opportunity. If you definitely won’t go, I wouldn’t lead them on in this way.

  22. SJ*

    I was born and raised in Alaska and lived there for over 20 years. There are some important things to consider. Yeah, it’s beautiful and very different from lots of other places in the US (so many mountains), but that may not make up for other things you might find disagreeable, such as:

    1) The dark. Even in Anchorage, which is pretty far south, you get maybe 6 hours of daylight in the winter. Usually those hours will be while you’re at work. Imagine waking up when it’s pitch black, going to work when it’s pitch black, and then leaving work and it’s pitch black. It SUCKS. If you decide to do it, invest in a light-box. People expect it to be cold as shit so I won’t go into that. Further north, the dark is even worse. However, the summers are amazing. To me, they don’t make up for the winters.
    2) The political climate. There are a lot of very conservative people in Alaska and it’s unarguably a red state. Maybe that’s a plus for you. But FYI, there are libertarians there too, eek!!
    3) The religious climate. Lots of religious people in Alaska, including many fundamentalists – usually more in rural areas – and a ton of Mormons. As an atheist, I found it hard to be around a population whose majority’s thought processes were so different from mine. But, again, maybe that’s a plus for you. If 2 & 3 are at odds with you, though, give it some serious consideration.

    Those are the three biggest things to think about, in my opinion. Alaska has its merits and I like going back to see my family, but I won’t live there permanently, were I ever to move back.

    1. SJ*

      I should add, to numbers two and three – my point is that Alaska is isolating enough without ALSO not fitting into two areas about which you might feel very passionately.

      1. BCranston*

        Another former Alaskan here ( 10 years to 1991), but I second what was said above. I grew up in Anchorage, which I thought was a great place to grow up. There is are any number of recreational amenities in town, but at the same time you have to be a person willing to incorporate the elements into your life. That means not being afraid to drive drive in snow, learn winter activities and get out and do them even if it is 8 am and dark on a Saturday when you have time, learn new outdoor pursuits for the summer, etc. Work around the limitations and try to enjoy it.

        I would also say that if you have never lived in a geographically isolated place, it can come as a shock up there. Seattle is 3 hours away, and there are only seasonal routes to other locations in the lower 48. You can’t just take a Sunday drive somewhere or take an overnight trip to the next town over. That can be a shock to some people.

        When we moved up my mom lost a ridiculous amount of weight due to stress and loneliness, and we were initially from WI! One concern I would have would be about the likely stress you may get from your job, especially if the company is shaky, or you have to deal with your boss from thousands of miles away if the company starts going downhill. I wouldn’t want to put additional stress on top of what you already have environmentally.

        Is your company expecting you to go up on the slope at all?

        Finally, as was mentioned before, be prepared to be surrounded by people who may be a bit hardier than you are used to, or have more extreme views. Alaska attracts a lot of folks looking to drop off the radar. Theres the saying ( for the ladies) regarding men: the odds are good but the goods are odd. I knew a lot of people who went just a bit nuts after a while, and these were seemingly normal people who had good jobs and friends etc.

        This is definitely a move you need to go into with enthusiasm or it could all go poorly very quick.

    2. Natalie*

      I’ve known a few people who have moved to Alaska and Hawaii and have commented on the insularity of those two states, I guess since they’re geographically isolated from the rest of the country. Born-Alaskans, I’m curious to hear your perspective on that.

      1. Jamie*

        I wonder if that’s part of the appeal for some people.

        I know I’m one of those silly people who gets information from TV – but when my husband used to watch Ice Road Truckers there was something really appealing about where they were season two – Inuviak, I think, near the arctic circle. They have these little tiny cabins out in the middle of nowhere with just a tiny bed and heater – and it just seems to silent and peaceful (as long as my phone didn’t get signal).

        There is just something about being in such an insular community that looks so safe and comforting…but I’d probably be miserable in real life.

        1. yasmara*

          Watch Alaska State Troopers to get a more accurate picture of the downsides to living in Alaska. They cover both urban & rural settings – my husband mocks me for being addicted to the show, but it rings so true to me as a transplanted Alaskan.

      2. SJ*

        I can’t speak for Hawaii, but Alaska definitely has an insular element. There seems to be an underlying belief that people ‘outside,’ as they say, just don’t understand our way of life (I don’t live there anymore but for simplicity’s sake I’m going to use pronouns like I do). When I was in high school a popular question was, ‘Are you Alaskan first, US citizen second? Or US citizen first, Alaskan second?’, as though a statehood identity was so major you had to choose (if you were inclined to identify strongly as either in the first place, that is). And as BCranston said – AK attracts a certain type of people (not exclusively, obviously) – people seeking isolation, to live off the grid, to live with minimal government interference. An understandable sentiment, but also one that lots of unstable people identify with – hence the sometimes extreme and very vocal political scene, not to mention the number of nutbar crimes for AK’s comparatively small population. Papa Pilgrim, Robert Hansen, Israel Keyes, etc.

        Incidentally, I once met a Libertarian Mormon, no joke. He lived off the grid in Homer with his family and took people sailing (including us!).

        As to the romanticism of rural living – I personally have never done it, but things are very, very different when you live a subsistence lifestyle. There will be a culture shock. Tensions can run high between white people and the native Alaskans – which is why my parents moved from Kotzebue after my brother was born; they didn’t want to raise him there.

        In any case, if your client is in the natural gas business, there’s a good chance you’d be in Anchorage, or possibly Juneau, depending on what part of that industry your client is involved in. You might actually end up working with my dad! I agree with someone else’s comment that people in AK are typically very warm, friendly, and welcoming. When people love living in AK, they REALLY love it.

        1. SJ*

          Um…I realize I was not replying to the OP, but some of my advice in that post is obviously intended for the OP, sorry to be unclear!

  23. Sunday's Child*

    As someone who is originally from the South, now living in one of the midwestern plains states, it’s impossible to overestimate the difference from living in a climate that almost never gets snow to living in a climate where snow is a regular albeit winter occurence. You’ll need much warmer and longer length coats, snow boots, long underwear, hats, thicker gloves, ear muffs, etc. I had to learn to deal with slush and mud and with wet and/or icy sidewalks and streets, even when the weather looked sunny, even in “spring” which really doesn’t start here till mid-May. One of the surprises while house-hunting was tile flooring at all the entryways in every house we visited. Winter came and I understood why, snow and mud and slush would ruin carpet or wood at any entryway! It’s also more difficult to handle commuting, even short distances, when the weather is so much colder than you might be used to. All that said, if you are adventurous and love the idea of exploring new environments, then by all means negotiate the most generous relo package you can, including the interim living expenses, storage for things that are too difficult to move, and relo back to your current city. Otherwise, this is probably not where you want to go. I have to remind myself regularly during the winter, that although the weather is often harsher than where I’m from, the people here are very kind and warm. It makes up for some of the aggravation caused by the weather. Good luck with your decision!

    1. Job seeker*

      People can be nice and kind and warm everywhere. But, also coming from the south pretty hardwood floors in entryways and dining rooms and kitchens are common there. That isn’t as often in the other parts of the United States although I have them in my home now. The early springs I miss with all the pretty parts. I am not a cold weather girl.

  24. Job seeker*

    No, No, No. I could never live in Alaska. I am sure some people love it there but the weather would be too hard for me. My cousin is a minister and had a church in Alaska at one time. But, I could never cope with the weather.

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