“Why did you come to Canada?!”
This question was the most common reply I got from people when I told them I’d moved here from St. Maarten. I’d assume that in every 5 people I’ve met, at least 3 of them have asked me. My answer? Always the same:
“I have noooo idea…”
Thinking about it now, I guess I could have gone on to tell them that I went to a Canadian high school on the island so it was easier to come here vs. going to America, or that I didn’t want to take the S.A.T’s… but, I think that no matter what I told them, their response would have been the same:
“You’re going to DIE during the winter.”
I can name 7 people off the top of my head that said those EXACT words to me. I understand that winters can get extreme here, but instead of telling someone who has never experienced a real winter that they’re going to die… maybe try to ease them into it with some helpful tips.
Thankfully, I had experienced some snow and cold temperatures before I made the big move, but we’re talking like 2 weeks maximum… not 1 month minimum. I arrived in Canada at the end of August in 2013, and was already feeling cold. I was the girl who wore jeans and long sleeved shirts while everyone else was wearing shorts and t-shirts claiming that they were “enjoying the last days of summer”. The fact that they were calling 18 degrees summer weather was something I just couldn’t agree with.
St. Maarten summers are usually the hottest time of the year and our temperatures, although we normally just go by a measurement of “how hot is it?” range from about 25 to 36 degrees Celsius. In fact, I believe that the coldest St. Maarten has ever been is 17 degrees… that’s one degree away from this so-called “Canadian summer” weather.
If you feel the same way about cold weather, and think that it might be too much to handle, don’t freak out, I have some honest and helpful advice for surviving it! If you grew up watching a lot of movies like I did, then you’ll know that Hollywood does an amazing job of making winter seem happy and cheerful when in reality it’s grey and gloomy.
Here are some of my biggest “expectation vs. reality” moments involving the weather and winters.
I expected rain here to be the same as rain back home. It rains differently depending on the weather, and there can be hard or soft rainfalls, and long or short rainfalls.
No matter what kind of rain it is, if you’re outside for 5 minutes or more you’ll be soaked.
There must be something about the way the rain falls here that makes it so that no matter how long you’re out in it you somehow always end up being drenched. 5 minutes in a drizzle back home meant damp clothes, but here, it means hold-on-let-me-wring-the-water-out-of-my-shirt. Umbrellas are essential and cost around $2.00 CAD at Dollarama. Feel free to thank me later.
I didn’t expect to ever experience hail, but that was because nobody told me that hail was real and that it actually happened on a regular basis.
HAIL IS REAL. I am here to tell you that little ice balls actually fall from the sky, and can actually hurt you! If they’re smaller, they’re pretty harmless, but they can get quite large and become painful. I suggest staying indoors while it hails… just to avoid any risk of getting taken out by a giant hail.
I was expecting snow to be a magical experience while it was falling as well as while it was on the ground.
It had always been a dream of mine to build a snowman, as I’m sure it is for many of you that haven’t experienced snow.
Did you know that there are different kinds of snow? And that movie’s have been lying by making you think that you can make a snowman whenever there’s snow on the ground? I didn’t. Wet snow is the annoying snow that gets in your eyes and makes the ground slushy. Powder snow also gets in your eyes, but is less annoying because it melts fairly quickly, and even when it doesn’t melt, it’s harmless. Packing snow, is the best snow because it’s snowman snow!
I think that one of the biggest misconceptions about snow is that it’s always white and pretty. Brace yourselves for this… but snow gets gross after about three weeks. I’m talkin’ wet, brown slush all over the ground. Also, the whole “lets play outside for hours without going inside because snow is so fun” shit that you see in movies, that does NOT happen. It is WAY too cold for people to stay outside for hours in the snow… unless you’re dedicated… or drunk…
Other than these false expectations, I must admit that the tips I was given regarding dressing for the winter paid off for me. I’m going to pay it forward and tell you my top two “life-saving” tips.
- Wearing two pairs of pants, and a set of shirts and sweaters did not sound very appealing to me when I first got here, but that went away as soon as I experienced what -5 degrees felt like. Doubling up on socks, pants and shirts will make a HUGE difference, and keep you much warmer!
A Good Winter Coat
- Buying a coat can be expensive, but if it’s going to keep you warm, it’s better to make the investment and guarantee you won’t freeze rather than buying a cheaper coat and always being cold. Plus, if it’s a good coat it’ll last for a few years and you won’t have to buy another one for a while.
Winter can be great, and it can also be shitty. It all depends on if you do your best to be properly prepared for it or not. I hope that these tips give you an idea of what to expect when moving to a country with seasons! If you have any tips for me that you think will help me out, then let me know in the comments below. If I’m going to make it through another 2 years of winters, I’m going to need all the tips, and layers that I can get! Maybe not this many though:
Thanks for reading!