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Seven (Canadian Winter) Facts

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):

weather-copy.jpg

winter-storm-warning.jpg

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!

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