Seven (Canadian Winter) Facts

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Snowy Paperboxes

Snowy Paperboxes

Jay at Jay’s World recently tagged me with a “seven facts” meme. I know facts are supposed to be about me, but don’t we know each other quite well by now? I’m not that interesting, really… so I decided to twist the meme a bit and offer you some Canadian wisdom instead: this is how we survive the winter!

Canadians love to brag about how cold it is, and how winters are getting warmer, and how they survived whatever storm ten years ago, and how they went to school even though there were over two meters of the white stuff (white stuff = snow for us — not cocaine). I used to make fun of them. But truth is, weather is Canada is a cultural thing and it’s hard to avoid indulging in the bragging game. This is my forth winter here. So I figured I’m almost a winter authority myself. Let me show you:

  • Canadian winters are hard to describe if you have never experienced truly cold weather (above zero degre is not cold by our standards). The cold isn’t humid: it doesn’t get to your bones little by little. But right when you step out, you feel the cold biting you strong. As I wrote a year ago in Cold Crash Course, your muscles are tense, your breath (or what is left of it) floats into a tiny cloud above you and you feel almost anesthetized. Skin that it’s not covered beg for mercy. But when you go indoor again, you feel warm right away. Weird, I know.
  • Canadians fear nothing but the wind chill. According to Wikipedia, wind chill is “the apparent temperature felt on exposed skin due to the combination of air temperature and wind speed“. Basically, for any given — already cold — temperature, the wind makes it feel colder than it always is. For example, you can see -20C on the thermometer, but it will actually feels like -35C on your skin.
  • Our Gods are the weather channel and Environment Canada‘s weather office. We wait religiously for warnings such as these ones (just got them a minute ago):



Thanks to these warnings, I know I won’t go out tomorrow and I’ll pray that some of the ?%$#$ snow will be cleared by Monday morning. Although, I’m realistic too: I know it won’t. Even for Canada, 40 cm of the white stuff is a lot. Oh well.

  • The salt spread on roads to melt the snow destroys everything, from shoes (holes in your soles) to pants (white strips or dried salt), from your lungs (irritates your throats) to the asphalt (bumpy trips ahead!). But at least, sidewalks and roads aren’t too slippery. Just full of potholes. Oh, and don’t get stuck behind a salt truck. Your usual trip back home can become the trip from hell… your car covered of snow and an average speed of 10 km/ hr is my definition of hell.
  • We have to dress in layers from head to toes to trap the body heat. Typically, that includes wearing: two pairs of socks, snow boots, a warm coat (usually waterproof), gloves, a scarf covering mouth and nose and some kind of hat. We wear underwear too, pervert.
  • We like to celebrate sub-zero temperatures and waist-high snowdrifts by organizing great winter festivals. In Ottawa, we have the Winterlude in February (can’t be before – it wouldn’t be cold enough, ya know!). Festivals includes ice carving and ice sculptures, tobogganing in slides made of snow and eating maple toffees. We’re freezing our butt off, but we are cool with that.
  • When our freezer of fridge is full, we just put the food outside, on the backyard’s deck. It’s usually between 0C and -20C so it’s even colder than our fridge!

About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Yeah, we’re getting a lot of the white stuff right now here in Michigan.

    Today: Periods of snow with areas of blowing snow, mainly before 3pm. High near 29F. Blustery, with a north northwest wind between 22 and 24 mph, with gusts as high as 36 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. Total daytime snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.

    Tonight: Areas of blowing snow and a chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 19F. West northwest wind between 10 and 18 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

    Source: National Weather Service, Grand Rapids

    Larro’s last blog post..Texas biology professors voice support for evolution education

  2. It’s so cool to actually live what you are saying! When there is 1C or 2C outside, we are alreay saying “let’s go, is warm outside” hahaha

    And sometimes when I go out, I start to cough as soon as I breath the cold air, but just for a few seconds, while I get use to breathing it ^-^

    Aiglee’s last blog post..Credit cards and Apartment!!!

  3. Chen: Canadian winters are really tough. Really. Honestly, it’s hard to describe them if you haven’t live them… 😉 We like to brag about it too!

    Larro: reading you weather news made me feel better 😉

    Alexander: it’s beautiful but a bit extreme! Thanks for visiting… I’ll help you choose between a Mac and a PC right away! 😉

    Corrin: thanks for visiting! Hey, we’re all allowed to complain about the weather a bit, that’s fine! 😉

    Jay Cam: the craziest thing is that it’s gonna be like that till May…!

    Aiglee: I know exactly what you mean! And how do you like the snow? You must have had quite a lot in TO too!

    Sir Jorge: can’t blame you, rain is depressing too.

    Ghosty: 4C and you dare to mention it to me? I hope you’re not complaining! 😆

  4. *blog hopping*

    Heyya :mrgreen:

    I’ve been to Canada like 3-4 times already and all my visits were in the winter season. For someone like me who was born on a tropical island, the Canadian winter was a myth until I experience it personally! *lol* I went through wind chills, snow storms, flurries but I still like Canadian winters! Probably ’cause we don’t have snow in my country. 😛

  5. Okay, you win. It’s colder in Canada than in Spain, but we are at -4C right now, which is not so warm. I’m from Southern California, so that is damn cold for me. We used to go hot tubbing in the middle of December over there, so it was a big change for me and I still haven’t gotten used to it. Remind me never to visit Canada in the middle of winter. 🙂

    Theresa’s last blog post..Idea Shopping

  6. Angele: thanks for visiting… er… hoping in! Canada is a lot of fun in the winter if you visit from abroad actually. I had never seen snow before I came here… the first year was amazing. Now I’m just being Canadian and I bitch about the weather!

    Theresa: I know what you mean, despite what people may think, I’m not a big fan of cold myself! That said, it’s not damp as in Europe, so I can take it. And the heating system is good. 😉

    Kyh: I don’t like ice-cream much personally (it’s too cold!!!) but my man does. So yeah, Canadians do eat ice cream… the dairy queen is always busy! 😆

    Gledwood: it is as bad as it sounds, unfortunately!

  7. Zhu,
    You have missed an important 8th fact. -20C on the thermometer, actually feels like -50C on Canadian male genitals. They might be big when the bragging about how cold it is starts, but by February it has a negative impact on the birth rate!

    Beaverboosh’s last blog post..You’ll Be Bored

  8. lol… i lived in boston for a while so i sort of get the idea of cold… and my brother studies in toronto. he laughs when we say its cold, especially here in bahrain.

    question, if you spit, and its really cold, does it shatter when it reaches the ground? (ie freeze?)

  9. pro snow, anti-wind! on

    Good to know that our first ottawa snowfall is supposedly nothing! 40 cm of snow seriously?? Haha, I had like five layers of clothes and I felt like I was going to die. As for the salt destroying our boots do you mean that we need like spare boots?

  10. Never mind what salt does to boots… wait until they see what it does to one’s car. When I travel down south I always notice how nice the cars look compared to home.

    And to prevent the destruction of your car the best way to deal is to get an oil treatment before they start salting. They drill holes in your doors and such and coat all the metals with oil. Makes a terrible mess and voids the warranty, but helps prevent corrosion and rust.

    Some places in Canada are so cold they can’t even use salt… it’s no longer effective at low enough temperatures so they use grit like gravel or sand. More mess!

    • I didn’t know about the oil treatment, that actually make sense. I noticed how all cars seem to lose the tire rims in the winter… and how busy mechanics are.

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