Surviving your first Canadian winter
It’s that time of year again when parts of the UK come to a standstill because of a few centimetres of snow. Schools will close, the news and social networks are abuzz with snow related stories and people begin to panic about ice, sigh. The British aren’t the best when it comes to snow that’s for sure, but just how do citizens and expats living in the snowiest regions of the world survive?
We take a look at how to survive your first winter in Canada #real winters.
As an expat newly arrived in Canada you should be well aware of the country’s reputation for cold hard winters and hopefully you would have packed your bags with some cold weather gear. You’re going to need it after all. If you neglected to bring any with you then your first stop should be a clothes store! The most important thing to be is to be prepared.
Anyone can handle if the cold, IF they are of course dressed properly. You should get your hands on a good coat that is lightweight and well insulated. Leave the leather jackets to the warmer autumn and spring months. In the height of winter you’re going to regret wearing anything but a good coat.
Hats, gloves, and scarves are a must, especially with the temperatures regularly dipping well below freezing and the wind-chill factor making it feel like you’re in the Antarctic. A hat prevents important heat loss from the top of the head. Ears, fingers and toes get cold very quickly and in can become quite painful, so double socks, earmuffs and a good quality pair of gloves will enable you to actually enjoy the outdoors.
Boots with a deep tread, and very small heels if any will enable allow you to walk outside. In most cases, snowy surfaces turn to ice very quickly especially over night so leave the fancy high heeled boots and trainers indoors.
To protect your face you should wear skin and face creams, yes even the men. They will provide your skin an extra layer of protection from the biting cold and will benefit you in the long run with healthier skin. Living through several bitter winters will take its toll on your appearance if you’re not protected.
Unlike in the UK the Canadian authorities are well prepared to handle snowy conditions and roads are very rarely closed as a result. However, this doesn’t mean you can leave your car parked in the street with no protection and expect it to start first time. Once again it pays to be prepared. You should purchase a four wheel drive or reasonably heavy car, not a mini or some clapped out rust bucket. You should ensure the car is well protected from the elements, if you have a garage, use it for the car and not a snooker table. If you don’t have a garage then make sure you cover the car with a thick insulated car cover.
You need to ensure that the car is well maintained, paying particular attention the brakes, heater and tires. The tires are most important as if they are worn then there is a greater chance of a skid and accident. A lot of Canadians have winter tires that are removed in spring and re-installed in late autumn. Going up or down a hill, braking suddenly or turning suddenly will end up in disaster without those tires.
It is also vital to have ample supplies of winter accessories. De-icer and a scraper are a must. You should also ensure that you have an emergency pack containing blankets, food, battery cables and window fluid. It’s also a good idea to sign up with the Canadian Automobile Association. You never know when you might need rescuing.
If using public transport, be prepared for a longer wait, as trains and buses could be having difficulties operating in the snowy conditions.
It is important that you keep well fed and energized as you won’t be as cold. Being hungry is a major contributor to feeling cold. In addition if your blood sugar and your red blood cell count are low, you’re already starting off on the wrong side of being warm. Make sure you eat plenty of protein and be sure to eat breakfast, clearing snow and ice from the driveway and off the car is energy burning stuff after all. Lunch is just as important to keep the calories coming in.
By noon or just afternoon, your body is depleted of calories and you still have a long way to go till dinnertime. Late afternoon is when most people are leaving work or going outdoors and tackling deep snow, difficult driving and winds. There is certainly a reason why sweets and chocolate are sold most in the winter time between 3:00 to 4:00 pm.
Many expats find their first Canadian Winter a shock to the system but if you are prepared and follow these tips then you can survive easily and eventually learn to even have fun in the deepest depths of a Canadian Winter.