Sunday, December 5, 2010

How To Survive The Winter: A Guide For Europeans.

Coping with winter is serious business, so I've discovered these past five years. When I moved to the Arctic Canada, I really had no idea how to deal with it. I spent my first winter attempting to stay warm, drive safely and basically, survive, while fellow Calgarians pointed and laughed at me as I fell face-flat in the white slush, the poor, unsuspecting Brit. Okay not really, but they weren't much help so they might as well have been pointing and laughing.

Unless you've been living in an igloo for the past week, you'll have seen on the news that unusual weather conditions have hit parts of Europe. My brother, who lives in Surrey, England, was snowed into his apartment. My Mum sent me photographs of her garden in Eastbourne covered in eight inches of snow. A friend in West Sussex posted pictures well over a foot of snow outside her house, her kids happily rolling around in it.

Seeing how the weather has affected England - schools have shut, public transport stopped running temporarily, businesses closed - it puts into perspective how manageable it is here, where the snow ploughs are out clearing the roads before we even wake up for work, our snow shovels are kept within reach, our winter clothes at the ready.

So, being now a little better equipped to dealing with this weather, I thought I'd share a few tips with those folks losing their minds and their nose hairs in these unexpected weather conditions across the pond.

1. Drive safely. 
Obviously it doesn't help if the roads haven't been ploughed before you leave in your car. In some instances, if it's really bad, I'd say don't bother going out at all. But if you dohave to drive:
- keep your distance from other cars. Very important because if you do start to slide, or need to break quickly, you want to avoid the car in front.
- drive slower than usual. It's harder to control the car and come to a stop if you're driving too fast.
- if you loose control of the steering, take your foot off the break, off the accelerator, and continue steering toward the direction you want to go, then ease back onto the break slowly.

- always keep at least half a tank of gas (petrol) in your car, in case you break down and need to keep the car running for warmth.
- keep a charged phone with you at all times. 

2. Keep an emergency kit in your car, including:

- snack bars
- water
- gravel (to put behind your wheels if you get stuck in deep snow)
- several heavy blankets
- a large candle
- matches
- emergency phone numbers
- a flashlight
- a shovel

3. Get proper cold weather clothes.  
Get thee some long johns. Oh yes I did say it. They'll keep your legs warm if you have to walk anywhere in the cold. And thermal socks. And I always find keeping your head and hands covered is very important - a good hat and gloves.A down coat. Snow boots with deep tread. And throw in a completely unnecessary fur vest for good measure.

Image from

4. Look after your skin.
I notice changes in my skin almost immediately when the weather turns cold here. My hands are very dry and begin to crack and even break out in rashes during winter. Invest in a good hand cream, or, if it's very bad, smear your hands in Vaseline before bedtime, and wear gloves overnight. The same goes for the skin all over your body - over the winter it's bound to be drier and itchier. I usually switch to a cocoa or shea butter and a heavier face moisturiser.

5. Remember the GOOD NEWS. 
Whatever activity you do in cold weather burns more calories than in regular weather, because your body is having to work harder to stay warm. Yay! See? There is an up side to the cold and the snow. It means you can indulge in an extra ten Christmas cookies and an extra glass of wine.

Other people living in cold climates: what would be your tips for people dealing with harsh winter weather conditions for the first time?
Stumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To Reddit Bookmark Twitter


James (SeattleDad) said...

Well, if they have a little one, keep a fully charged video Ipod handy. Saved me the other day.

Angela said...

Chapstick, or Blistex, or Labello...or plain old Vaseline. But whatever brand you chose, something for your lips. Preferably a tube in the pocket of every coat you wear!

WhisperingWriter said...

For some reason the picture of the pants made me giggle.

This all applies for living in Wyoming too. We get nasty snow storms.

Midwest Mommy said...

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate winter? Well, I do.

LisaDay said...

Good tips. Keep an extra week of vacation so when it's completely awful outside you can just stay home and laugh at those who do have to go to work.

I know it's bad for the environment and according to the car manufacturers, not necessary but I say warm the car up for a good 15 minutes. And don't forget to wipe of the snow from all parts of the car, including the roof.


Mwa said...

"For some reason," Whipering Writer? Twas the package. NOT your long-johns, I presume LADY Mama!

Thanks for the tips. They sound atrociously tiring. I'm so glad not to live in the Arctic.