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Alaska Girl in the South

By: Renee Wilson

For those of you who don’t know me, I moved from Anchorage, Alaska to Georgia in 2018. As a travel nurse I wasn’t expecting to be here long, but I found this sweet, handsome guy from Swainsboro who stole my heart! We got married in 2021 and I became a resident of this adorable little town in a state that I only knew for peaches and peanuts.

I had always said “I’ll never move to the south”, and lo and behold here I am.

Being from the other side of the country has made me aware of some of the differences between Alaska and Georgia, other than the obvious weather. In my mind all Southerners were just like Paula Deen and Reba McEntyre with a thick syrupy accent and they all ate things like pig feet and okra. I envisioned people sitting on porches drinking sweet tea and fanning themselves while rocking in a rocking chair on a gorgeous wrap around porch. Since the south is the “Bible belt” I thought there should be Sunday services with sweaty preachers and ladies in their best clothes singing old hymns and having pot-lucks after services. While this is often true, it is not always the case, the South has so much more to see!

So what do people think about when they envision Alaska? Some of the common questions I get asked are:

  • Does everyone ride dog-sleds? (no, we have cars with 4-wheel drive)

  • Is it cold all year around? (no, the summers are gorgeous, usually in the 70’s with no humidity, in fact no one has air conditioners)

  • Is it dark all the time? (well, only in the winter but the summer gives us daylight for 20 hours a day)

  • Are there snakes? (no, there are no snakes, no ants, no roaches, and hardly any other types of bugs to worry about other than mosquitoes the size of birds)

  • Do you see polar bears? (only in the most extreme places up north, but we see grizzly bears and black bears all over, usually getting in the dumpsters on trash day, trying to get into cars, tents, or anywhere there is food)

  • Are there moose? (yes! Everywhere! Crossing roads, in the woods, on walking trails, once a moose was even in my Emergency Room lobby! They will eat your pumpkins at Halloween too!)

Now…being from a completely different part of the country I had some lessons to learn about the South.

  • Snapping turtles are NOT cute and you should not pick them up off the road and put them in the back of your truck to take home and show the kids and take selfies with them.

  • When you find a rattlesnake on the road and you stop to pick it up (because it looks dead) there are very nice men in big trucks who carry golf clubs and use them to beat the snake to actual death. So if you meet a nice guy with a friend named “Bobo” you can rest assured they will keep you safe! LOL

  • YouTube has some great resources to learn how to skin a snake and preserve the snake skin and so your daughter can take it to school for show and tell

  • Armadillos are common and it is unnecessary to take a selfie with roadkill because you have never seen one before

  • When people come to the ER with abdominal pain, they get an x-ray and you might find lead pellets in their appendix. When you ask them how they got there they might tell you “I guess I have been eating more squirrel than usual”

  • You can catch a catfish with a cheeseburger

  • When you get a hard rain it’s called a “frog strangler”

  • Sometimes you can’t catch a fish because “you’re holdin’ your mouth wrong”

I am learning to love this hot, humid, bug infested part of the U.S. for all the uniqueness and contrasts to what I am familiar with. The people are wonderful and friendly, family ties are strong and the food is without comparison. Bring on the fried okra and the dumplings and don’t forget the sweet tea!

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