A Guide to Surviving Winter (For those of us who aren’t from Winter Countries)
For those of you who were born in this wintery wonderland, please ignore this post. For those of you who, like me, hail from a warmer climate and were brought up believing Canadian winters are a picturesque “christmas card” kind of thing, read on:
1. Onions have layers, so should you
In Melbourne, for example, winter isn’t a huge deal. Yeah, it gets a bit nippy, and the rain is a bummer, but for the most part it’s bearable. Melbourne winters are akin to mild Canadian Autumns. It’s easy to look stylish, because a reasonable coat and a decent brolly is all you need. In Canada- this is not the case. When the weather drops below zero (and I mean way way below zero) you’re going to need more than a nice coat. In Halifax, add the fact that you’re most likely going to face chilly weather with bits of ice and rain and snow all swirling about, and you need to think about waterproofing your layers too. Fashion goes out the window, with most people resembling Russian peasants crossed with arctic explorers. Thermal vests, jumpers, cardigans, infinity scarves tucked into your jacket, a warm jacket and then a toasty raincoat or coat, thick mittens, a full beanie (or Toque, as the locals call it), ear muffs, and sunglasses if the snow glare is really bad. And that’s just a normal chilly day. You might look like a puffy school kid, but the alternative is having your ears freeze off, so choice is yours.
2. Snow is pretty, sleet is not
Before I moved to Canada, I had the same idea about snow as pretty much everyone else from the Southern Hemisphere: it’s pretty and white and soft and heavenly. I was wrong.
When snow is falling, it’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong. Downtown, for a brief little while it’s like the whole city becomes this sleepy town covered in a blanket of white. But then pedestrians trudge it into the ground, plows push it into mounds which grey with dirt and polution, and it goes from being a white blanket to a grey and miserable mess.
In Halifax, which has milder weather than most of inland Canada, barring maybe Toronto which is quite south, snow doesn’t last long. After maybe a few days of snow, the weather goes up, the snow turns to slush, and next thing you’re sloshing your way to work through puddles of what I can only describe as grey coloured Slurpee.
3. Black Ice is terrifying. The invisible enemy, if you will.
Here’s the thing about Halifax, and maybe other parts of Canada, maybe? It snows, it’s pretty, then it gets trudged into compact snow on the pavement by pedestrians, the weather warms up, it rains a bit, covering the snow in rain, maybe even melting some of it, forming puddles; then the weather drops again, sometimes by 15 degrees in the span of a few hours, and suddenly all of the rain and puddles freeze, and turn into solid, slippery ice. So basically one minute you’re walking through a snowy winter wonderland, the next you’re slipping on ice and cracking you head open on the road/pavement. I’m not even kidding, it’s terrifying. If you’re here long enough, you will definitely hear stories, or even slip once or twice yourself. Be careful. Buy those thingamabobs you put on your shoes if you want, but don’t slip- because I’m almost certain basic travel insurance won’t cover it.
4. Do as the locals do, but with a pinch of salt
My friends are Canadian, and from even colder cities than Halifax (which isn’t saying much because pretty much everywhere in Canada, except maybe Vancouver, is colder than Halifax) they are used to winter, in fact, you could say they thrive in it. There is a lot you can learn from friends and canuck locals- from how to dress appropriately, where to buy winter goods at a better price, how to salt your driveway and pavement properly, the best soup recipe’s, etc. But one thing you need to remember is that you aren’t Canadian. Whilst your Canuck friends might be able to wear a tshirt and flip flops when it’s -1 outside, you probably can’t do the same without catching a nasty cold and cursing profusely into your third cup of Lemsip. Another thing to bare in mind is that your winterized friends mean no harm when they tease you for constantly saying “My god, it is so cold,” or when you are the one wearing several more layers than anyone else. They’re used to the extreme cold, but you aren’t, and that’s okay. Enjoy the novelty of a snowy winter before it wears off, and just remember, when they visit you in Australia one day, it will be you having the last laugh as they melt in the scorching Southern Hemisphere heatwaves. ;)