I am a warm weather person.
My favourite season? Definitely summer. Beach or mountain holiday? Definitely beach. Optimum temperature, around 28-32 degrees celsius. What can I say, I’m a fair weather gal at heart. I like to be warm. My toes prefer to be free and exposed rather than shoved into boots and sunshine is ultimately the epicentre of my universe. Then 2014 comes along and I move to Oslo and begin my tutorial on winter survival.
I have learnt lots since moving here. For all you cold weather experts out there this may feel like common sense- but not to us from the South. In warmer climates we just do not think about these things. Ever! They are not common sense.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS
There is a Norwegian expression, which says there is no such thing as bad weather only bad choice of clothing (it rhymes in Norwegian) and like all good expressions it is generally true. Only amateurs and fashion worshipping teenagers forsake this advice.
For me dressing properly is all about the accessories. Scarves, hats, mittens (not gloves) and my latest addition, leg warmers, to cover my knees – which mysteriously enough are particularly vulnerable to the cold. My aim with these accessories is to cover up any points of exposure and potential heat loss. No gaps in clothing. Cover everything.
Footwear is equally crucial. Thick soles. None of those thin delicate looking shoes as the cold from the ground comes straight through thin soles no matter how thick your socks are. Think chunky, thick rubber soles.
Also something I heard a lot my first winter here was, you need wool. It is true, tried and tested. Real wool is about the only thing that keeps you warm. Thankfully I have discovered non-itchy wool products. Real wool is pricey but without exaggeration makes all the difference in the cold. Also wool insoles for your shoes – absolute genius. Keeps those tootsies nice and toasty.
SPEND TIME OUTDOORS
Winters here are long and dark and this for me is a recipe for hibernation but seeing as I plan on living in this part of the world for a while, finding something to do outside has been an important part of the “enjoy winter” process. Norway is a skiing mecca so cross-country and downhill skiing are two big checks for me. There are other things too like sledding, ice-skating, even going for walks can be enjoyable as long as the snow is not too deep and I am properly bundled up. I have learnt that cold and snow is no excuse for not getting outdoors no matter what. I remember the first time I saw a baby bundled up in a pram sleeping outside in the cold (not extreme cold). I couldn’t understand why– but it is a thing that is done here and the babies sleep peacefully. All that fresh, cold air works wonders I guess.
SNOW AND ICE
Snow is amazing. I think even the biggest winter hater out there would succumb to the snowy charms of proper white powdery snowflakes. I, for one, love it. Especially here where snow does not mean that the whole country comes to a stand still. Norway is prepared for snowfall and everything is set up to deal with it. After a night of heavy snowfall armies of snow ploughs hit the streets and clear the roads and pavements. It is beautiful efficiency. A small warning though snow ploughs are ruthless. They do their job and show no mercy. If your car happens to be parked on the side of the road and gets buried in a snow mound, well too bad! You better have a spade to dig it out.
When moving here I was mentally prepared for cold and snow but no one explained about the ice. Ice is not as fun as snow and last winter was an icy one. Oscillating temperatures from minus to plus and back to minus again meant going outdoors was like heading to the ice skating rink. So I now own special spikes you can slip on and off your shoes to give proper grip. I did not manage to avoid falling of course but I have learnt a thing or two about walking on ice. Yes, there is a technique to it, I saw the diagram.
Also the first time I scraped ice off the inside of a car window screen was memorable. I really felt like I learnt something about living in the minuses that day.
So yes, the winters are long and cold on this side of the globe, and most of my family and friends in Cyprus cannot comprehend how one can exist in -17 degrees celsius let alone go to work and school and function as normal.
However, I am proud to say I can function. I have stretched my horizon and expanded my seasonal appreciation beyond blue cloudless skies and strappy sandals. Loving winter is not easy. It takes compromise and I have managed to get there, or at least I am well on the way to getting there.