...If you’re living in Svalbard
Although at 64° N Reykjavík is the world’s northernmost capital city, the most northerly permanently populated site on Earth is Svalbard. Located at 78° N, this Norwegian archipelago is about halfway between the edge of continental Europe and the North Pole. Winter there is a three-month-long period of constant night, in which a transient 2,600-strong immigrant population live, many of whom are drawn to the earning potential of the 15% tax rate and strong Norwegian currency. We asked Erla Jóhannsdóttir, an Icelander who’s living on Svalbard this winter, how the Svalbard blackness compares to Icelandic winter.
“Locals in Svalbard talk just as much about the light as Icelanders do about the weather, so there’s a lot to say,” she writes, communicating via Facebook Messenger. “When my boyfriend was preparing me for the ‘dark season’ last fall I was all like, ‘Yeah yeah, I’m an Icelander, I know all about it!’ But little did I know as I was boarding the plane in Tromsö, I was having a precious moment with the sun. I haven’t seen daylight since, and won’t see it again until the middle of February.
“It’s a huge difference, even from the three-hour days of peak winter in Iceland, and mentally challenging for sure. The darkness messes with the tempo in your life, and you have to make an effort to create a routine. For the first two weeks it seems a bit funny and exotic, but soon enough you feel how it affects your system.
“The most common practices for dealing with it are overdosing on Vitamin D, and going to the solarium. I haven’t been to the solarium since I was sixteen! And, well, for many many locals, consuming alcohol is a popular way of surviving the neverending night. I would say that people don’t talk much about depression here… more like just get drunk and deal with it. It’s very much a cowboy way of living up here. There are a lot of coal miners.
“Luckily I’m very good at sleeping in after years of training in Iceland! My best advice for anyone living in a place with a short window of daylight in the winter is to go outside and absorb all the light you can, while you have the chance, and then enjoy the dark for the rest of the day.”
If you’re interested in finding out more, check out Svalbard’s website.
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