Canadian winters are notorious for sub zero conditions. It is the Great North after all. The past week has been typical of what most would picture when they think of Canada in the winter. We started the week off with 8 cms of snow on Monday. This was followed by another 5 cms on Tuesday morning. And just when we thought we could sit back and enjoy the snow… temperatures plummeted down to the -20s with the windchill.
Despite these inhumane temperatures, Canada is home to 36.29 million people, who manage to survive the great Canadian Winter. And more are set to arrive through the border gates each year, as Canada still remains a popular choice for immigration. And so the cold can’t be that bad right?
In all honesty, it’s not (she says as she sits bundled up on the sofa with a blanket, a scarf and hot water bottle with -15 degree winds howling outside). I’ve certainly been colder in the UK than I have in Canada. Yes that’s right! A high of 5 degrees in London is worse than -16 degrees in Canada. How can that be? Well Canadian winters are dry. Which means the worst part is the initial hit to the face. However, after that you a) get used to it and b) warm up the second you are inside. In the UK…. it took hugging a radiator and a hot bath to get over any cold experienced outdoors.
That being said, the initial cold slap to the face can be painful. And worse, a little depressing when it lasts well into March and April, when the rest of the world is welcoming in sprouts of daffodils and tulips. So how do you survive a Canadian winter?
1. Layer up
Everyone knows that to keep warm it is best to layer your clothing to trap heat between the layers. And so when you pick out your winter wardrobe, make sure it has vest tops and long sleeves to layer under jumpers. Layering could also be applied to coats, by wearing a fleece under layer. I’ve recently bought a pair of fleece-lined leggings (although I’m not sure it can go under anything other than waterproof trousers). And some people swear by layering their socks. I’ve yet to try this one though….
2. Invest in wool socks
Instead I choose to wear wool socks. Or socks that have as much natural fibre as possible. This is because it makes my feet sweat less and keeps moisture away from my feet. You don’t want moisture on your feet when it’s -20 degrees outside. It is key to stay as dry as possible.
3. Get some good hand cream and take it everywhere with you!
I cannot tell you how many times a day I put on moisturiser for my hands. This isn’t because I’m precious about my hands but rather that my hands have turned ashy and are losing mobility. You will your fingers in the winter and chapped, cracked hands can be painful. My favourite so far is Kiel’s ultimate hand cream and The Body Shop’s hemp hand cream. I’ve even bought the hand moisturising gloves to give my hands that extra recuperation it needs at the moment.
4. Get a hair mask for all the dry static that will be thrown on your hair
You’re probably starting to get an idea of just how dry the Canadian Winter is. Static will take over, drying out your hair fast. Your hair will feel dry and limp and lacking that healthy, shiny look. While I actually love how my hair behaves in Canada, it was starting to look tired as soon as winter hit. And so I have been using my Macadamia healing oil, especially on the ends. I have also used a few deep conditioning Argan oil hair masks that worked wonders for my hair.
5. Puffy coats
So I’ve decided that puffy coats are definitely the way forward in Canada to prevent that windchill getting in. That’s not to say you need to go out and by a ridiculously expensive but oh so trendy Canada Goose down jacket. I would say any down and feather jacket will do. And the key part being that it is also waterproof. I found that my wool coats just don’t cut it with the windchill. And after all, the ducks were here before us and they seem to survive with their plummage. So it’s probably best to follow in nature’s footsteps.
6. Warm drinks
Warm drinks are a lifesaver! Nestle up in a coffee shop and watch winter happen through a window pane! My favourite way to enjoy winter. While they don’t do my favourite winter warmer (mulled wine) out here, there are plenty of coffee shops offering a range of festive flavours for tea and coffee. I have also started a habit of taking a tea to go in the morning. Just to warm up on the drive to work when the car is still frigid.
7. Get outdoors and enjoy it
Despite what I said above about enjoying winter the most through a window pane, I have been enjoying my lunch break walks. The day after the snow I went back to ‘my pond’ and just loved seeing how it had changed. It was beautiful. The geese were gone and the reflection I often captured on the pond was now tucked away under a white sheet. My favourite part about snowfall is walking on fresh snow. There’s an odd silence that fills the air after it snows and as you walk all you can hear is that crisp crunch beneath your feet. Had I been better equipped for the weather (I’m talking better footwear and a hat at this point), I would have stayed out for longer.
8. Get cosy inside, practice hygge
I’ve been reading a lot about hygge lately and it sounds fabulous. And Canada has all the best shops to equip yourself with the things you need for hygge. Wait a sec- what is hygge? and how do you pronounce it? Well I have no idea if I pronounce it correctly so I’ll leave that one up in the air. But basically, it is the Danish practice of getting cosy and comfy during winter time which contributes to happiness. The cosiness and comfiness is created with candles (Bath and body works!), comfy lounge wear (Gap and Aerie!), blankets and entertaining at home. So coupled with number 6, the consensus to stay indoors and enjoy winter seems to be popular!
9. Proper footwear
OK so this one is an on-going battle for me. There are three things you need to consider when shopping for appropriate footwear for a Canadian Winter. 1) warmth 2) good grips and 3) waterproof. There are plenty of choices now for snow boots which is good as when I was younger, all that was on offer were the real ugly kinds. Again I have yet to invest in a pair of snow boots, but ones I have been looking at recently are Bogs, recommended by KathrynRelocated on her insta account. Trust me it is worth the investment in a pair of proper winter snow boots because the salt will just ruin any of your other shoes. And I have had waay too many nice boots ruined with salt stains that start to ooze on rainy days (no seriously, they start to froth and bubble- its gross and creepy). Buy some boots!
Some might argue that this should take the place of numbers 1 through 10 and there are days I feel that to be true. However, following the above advice will help you hold out a little longer. Nevertheless I do think it is important to book that sunny holiday. Although the day to day of the winters could be bearable following the above advice, the winters in Canada are LONG. And that is the part that may chip away at your will to go on. Having a sunny holiday booked can certainly help keep spirits high. And with Canada’s proximity to the Caribbean and South America you are spoiled for choice for warmer climates.
So there you have it! 10 ways to survive the Great Canadian Winter! If there are any tips I’ve missed out do let me know in the comments below.