What It’s Like Living In The Arctic


I got the lucky chance to go visiting Svalbard high up in the Arctic Circle in the middle of winter. It was -25 degrees and dark 23 hours of the day.

I was only there for 10 days and was curious to know what it was like living in the Arctic for an extended period of time.

I asked some of my friends who had been living in Svalbard for a few years if they could answer some questions about life in the Arctic and this is what four of them had to say.

life in the Arctic
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Snow mobile in Svalbard
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Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Yana, I’m 25 and I’m Ukrainian. I am an illustrator and character designer but as far as there is not much to do for an artist here I’m working as a bartender.

Why did you move to the Arctic?

Last winter I came to visit my friend who’s been living here for four years already. And I really fell in love with the place. So I decided to come back. Just bought a one-way ticket and here I am.

How does it feel living in the Arctic Circle?

It feels like living on the Discovery channel! My friend says that after four years she still doesn’t realise she lives here. This is how unreal it is!

I don’t have problems with cold because we also have severe winters back in Ukraine. But polar nights and days are a real challenge. The way your brain and body reacts to these conditions is hard to explain if you don’t experience it yourself. 

Also, the fact that you have reindeer walking on the streets of the town and polar bears hunting nearby I find it pretty fascinating.

Have you got used to the conditions? Such as needing a gun to leave town for protection.

It definitely took me some time to get used to leaving the apartment door open or the freedom of going anywhere you want without any restrictions or police watching you. I haven’t experienced such freedom before. 

I’m cool with guns though I don’t have my own. But it always feels safer to have a friend with a big ass revolver while going out of town 🙂

snowmobiles Svalbard living in the Arctic
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How does it feel living in such a small community?

I come from a big city so it’s a new experience for me. Sometimes it drives me crazy, especially in the wintertime when everyone stays home and you don’t see a single person on the street.

On the other hand, people here are very nice to each other because everyone is in the same conditions as you are. Everyone is open to help. So it’s ok as long as you have friends.

But I miss busy city life from time to time, to be honest.

Would you recommend living in the Arctic Circle?

I can say that it’s a challenge for sure. But if you are looking for adventures and ready to test your boundaries — there is no better place.

As my friend said, this is a place to grow some balls!


Man in Svalbard
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Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Eivind Trondsen, I’m 42 years old and work as a pilot and an operations engineer on Svalbard. My background is originally software engineering, and after spending some years in that industry, I decided to go ahead and get my pilots licence.

I then worked for 7 years as a pilot flying Dornier 228 short field aircraft, doing both local transport and fishery patrols for the Norwegian Coast Guard.

This year I wanted to try my hands at technology again and got a job at Svalsat, the northernmost Satellite Ground Station in the world, located on a mountain just above the airport in Longyearbyen.

Why did you move to the Arctic Circle?

Originally, I moved here for the job. This was the first pilot job I got. After a while, though I fell in love with the place, and right now the most important thing for me is to live here. The average time people live here is 3-4 years, now I’m starting my 8th.

What’s it like living in the Arctic?

It is wonderful, full of contrast. The polar night is balanced with the midnight sun. Up here it is very different from the Norwegian mainland, where they boast their dark season.

Here the year is much like a day. The winter is night. In the morning there is ice, snow and then spring. Then there is the eternal day of summer, and finally, the town settles in with the twilight of autumn.

Everything here is powerful and uncompromising, from the few species of wildlife to the warm and caring people. You have to love a special kind of nature to be here.

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Huskies in Svalbard

What would you say to people thinking of moving to the Arctic? Specifically Svalbard in this case.

If you consider yourself a pretty normal person – don’t.

How do you cope with 24 hours light in summer and 24 hours darkness in winter?

The summer is the most difficult. It is harder to create darkness than light. You have to have good blinds on your bedroom windows. A good trick is to create your own evening.

I like to close the blinds and sit down in relative darkness with a good book or a movie before I go to bed.

The dark season is the favourite of many people living here. There are fewer tourists, and people have a chance to get together and be social after the hectic summer. You have to be disciplined though, and not start dimming the lights or lighting candles in the middle of the day.

You can easily get caught in the trap of messing up your day and night, and many people who work in the restaurant industry do.

Anything else you would like to add?

Don’t underestimate the cost of living here. You need an insane amount of equipment to experience Svalbard to the fullest. 


Longyearbyen Svalbard
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Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Susanna. I’m 30 years old and have a background in ecology/land management, and am currently working as a receptionist at the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen.

 Why did you move to the Arctic?

I fell in love with Svalbard when I came here as a tourist in July 2014, and knew immediately when I stepped out of the plane that I had to move here. It was just a feeling. 

How does it feel living in the Arctic for the first several weeks?

I’ve only been here since December, so I’m experiencing my first weeks now. It’s exciting! I’m amazed by the beauty of my surroundings every single day.

It really depends on what season it is when you move up here. I came during the winter darkness and had to adjust to that. Not seeing the sun for weeks didn’t really bother me, except the fact I’m sleeping more than normal.

And I learned quickly that -42 degrees with the wind chill effect don’t kill you 😉 

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Housing in Longyearbyen

What would you say to people thinking of moving to the Arctic?

Prepare yourself for a life-changing experience! 

Have you got used to the conditions yet, such as needing a gun when leaving town for polar bear protection, living in a small community etc?

It didn’t really take me long to get used to the new conditions, but I know from experience that I adjust easily. Before I moved here I read everything I could find about Svalbard, and I watched every documentary or film, It was like an obsession.

I was lucky and met some great people here early on, that helped me ( and still do) with everything I wasn’t prepared for.

For example how to dress properly for the freezing temperatures. I thought I knew, but it didn’t take me long to realise that I knew nothing about proper clothing in the arctic. 🙂 

Longyearbyen is a small community, but it is a very social and fun community to live in. I grew up in a small town in Norway and believe me, Longyearbyen is far more exciting than the place where I’m from.

I love the fact that we have people living here that come from all parts of the world. 


living in the arctic
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Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Cecilie Hem Klausen and I work as a receptionist at Svalbard Hotel.

What’s it like living in the Arctic?

Living in the arctic is nice. Nature here is beautiful, the ever-changing light is amazing, and the people are very open and friendly. I really love living here! Also, it does not feel like the Arctic most of the time because of the gulf stream that makes this place habitable.

Why did you move to the Arctic?

I moved to Svalbard because when I visited this place the first time I really fell in love with the scenery. I felt like painting and taking photos and I got a surge of creativity that I have rarely experienced before.

When I left I just knew that I had to move here and explore and figure this place out.

living in Svalbard
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Would you recommend living in the Arctic?

I recommend everyone to live here for at least a short period of time. It is very peaceful and you get this calm lifestyle with no stress and lots of beauty every day.

The dark season is very long though, and next winter I will definitely go somewhere warm for a few weeks. Just to get some vit.D and warmth.

This winter was very tough, and my energy level very low. The summer with 24-hour sunlight can also be a bit difficult because the light is pretty much always the same when the sun is up.

This makes the body naturally more awake, and I found it difficult to get a good sleeping rhythm.

However, it is such an amazing place to be, that if you are curious about living in the Arctic, just do it! I do not think you will regret it.

Some Facts About The Arctic Circle

Arctic population: Roughly 4 million people.

Svalbard Population: Roughly 2700 people.

Does anyone live in the North Pole?  Yes, they do…

North Pole population: Roughly 2000 people.

The population of Greenland: Roughly 57,000 people.

Arctic climate: Long cold winters and short summers that are cool but outdoor activities much easier.

Animals living in the Arctic: Polar bear, reindeer, moose, walrus, narwhal, pinniped, killer whale (orca), snowy owl, Arctic fox, seal, and more.

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Arctic Circle map:

arctic circle map
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The Arctic Circle

For some good reading on these Arctic environments, these are 20 books set in the Arctic and Antartica.

One of the best experiences I had in Svalbard was doing some ice caving near Longyearbyen.

For the best guide for Svalbard get the Bradt Svalbard guide.

Planning to do some Arctic travel? Be sure to take travel insurance just in case as medical expenses will be pricey there! I use World Nomads.

If you liked this article about living in the Arctic a share would be appreciated.


15 thoughts on “What It’s Like Living In The Arctic”

  1. Katie Featherstone @featherytravels

    What an amazing way of life to experience. I don’t think I could live in the Arctic for very long- being that cold would drive me crazy, but I would love to experience it in the summer for a month or two. Seeing that kind of wildlife as a normal part of life would be incredible.

  2. Yes the winter is very cold, and I also want to go and visit in the summer to see the difference. You get used to the cold quickly enough, it was the darkness that got too me more.

  3. Hi Jonny, if you’re still in Norway then let me know if you’re heading south 🙂 I could show you around the towns and villages, and the harbours.


  4. Really interesting! I would love to go to the Arctic and spend some time to feel the environment. I think that it is magical and adventurous experience. After that I would move to a warmer climate for sure! 😛 Lovely post! Thanks!

  5. I am planning on staying in longyearby for 4-5 weeks (maybe longer) in June 2017. More like a work experience at a hotel with free apartment to stay at. Any advise ? Hoping to meet people to hang out with on my days I’m not working.

  6. It’s easy to meet people as it’s a small community. I’m sure just meeting your fellow workers at the hotel and go out with them drinking. There are a few bars there and it’s the best places to meet others. There’s also a few people on Couchsurfing there (how I first met people). The summer activities will be different than the winter ones i did so can’t advise you on that.Enjoy!

  7. This was so incredibly interesting to read and kind of makes me want to visit and potentially live there. I did find this really funny “If you consider yourself a pretty normal person – don’t”. I’m now not sure what I think of myself!

  8. You asked about needing a gun and there was never really a solid answer. My question is do people need guns because of the wildlife or because of the “wild life”?
    So curious! Hoping there is an answer three yrs after the fact!! Thanks, Nicole

  9. Pingback: Why My Disdain for Winter Might Be Misguided | Laurel Home

  10. Pingback: Ice Caving Svalbard In Extreme Winter Conditions

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