When my Canadian husband told his friends that he was moving back to Canada in the middle of the winter, with wife and three kids who had always lived in Peru and who had never experienced temperatures lower than 14 degrees Celsius, they thought he was crazy.
They thought that it was going to be a shock and they felt sorry for us. No doubt, it was the biggest challenge in our lives but we survived! And as they say, anything that doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
The day of our arrival to Ottawa was the toughest. I always remember my 4-year-old daughter crying: “I don’t like this country that is so cold!” https://ottawaisnotboring.com/2020/07/26/how-a-family-of-newcomers-survived-their-first-winter-in-ottawa/
When my three children had to go to school just a few days after our arrival, I felt so sorry for them knowing that the recess outside lasted 40 minutes at – 10 or -15. I expected that the teachers would be merciful and let them stay inside, but it never happened.
Every time my little one complained about the cold, her teacher just told her to run and jump.
As for me, my first winter I didn’t dare to walk on the streets or go to the nearest park. I was afraid of freezing my fingers or toes. Actually, that first winter, we only saw most of Ottawa from the car. It was in the spring that we could finally go sightseeing and discover the city.
Now, after three years in Canada, I’m not afraid of the cold anymore. I don’t hate it or complain about it. I just accept it as part of the country and the city that I love. Winter can be very nice if you look at it with other eyes and a positive attitude.
In this post I’ll tell you what were my strategies to embrace winter in Canada.
I’ve always admired the resistance of Canadians to the cold. I couldn’t believe it when I saw my neighbor’s son going to school wearing short pants at -11. I couldn’t believe it when I saw girls at my daughters’ schools wearing skirts without any leggings or pantyhose, just bare legs, when walking back home at almost -20.
I think that unconsciously at least I’ve been trying to match that resistance to the cold, and to worry less about the cold every time I go out. Just the other day I went outside and spent 40 minutes at -8 without a toque and gloves, and to my surprise, I didn’t die from the cold.
I can’t help compare Canada’s weather with my home town’s weather and as surprising as it may sound, I find the weather in Canada much more interesting and exciting.
Lima, my city, has very boring weather compared to Canada. It doesn’t rain (just mist), it doesn’t snow, there aren’t electrical storms, nor thunder or lightning. There is little wind. It is just a sort of uneventful climate.
On the other hand, in my three years in Canada, I have enjoyed a lot of different weather. I’ve seen majestic electrical storms, copious rains, strong winds that shake your house, and blizzards. And every time one of those happens, I grab my cellphone to record everything. I love these spectacles from Mother Nature!
Enjoying winter activities
Instead of staying home all the time and watching winter from my window, right from the very beginning I went out a lot. Our first months in Ottawa my husband wouldn’t let us stay home and do nothing. He planned every weekend ahead and we did lots of interesting stuff.
First, we skated like crazy. We tried outdoor rinks and indoor rinks. We tried the Rideau Canal, even at -10. It was freezing cold for us but we had lots of fun. I think the fun made us tolerate it better.
We also took our children to go sledding and that added more fun to our first winter. One of our daughters, who had been the least sporty, started snowboarding with the school that winter and she was hooked. She’s still snowboarding and she doesn’t care if it’s -20.
We also never missed the Winterlude in February, one of Ottawa’s renowned festivals, and we participated in many of their events, including going to the Snowflake Kingdom, where we had a blast at the toboggans!
So, I can declare this: the more the fun the less the cold will bother you.
Rejoicing in the magnificent views
I will always say that the winter landscape is spectacular, especially on a sunny day. Many times, I have just observed in awe the gorgeous winter scenes: gleaming white snow, snowy pine trees and a beautiful blue sky.
I hadn’t seen these images before so every time I rejoice in contemplating such beautiful scenery and I can’t help but to take lots of pictures. And walking after a snowfall is one of my greatest pleasures. I love the feeling of walking in the fresh snow.
Putting it in perspective, it’s not that bad
When I told my parents and friends in Lima that we were at -20 during the winter, they would imagine that we were suffering all the time but the reality is that we were cozy at home with our heating working and not feeling the slightest bit cold.
Actually, I would suffer more from the cold in winter in Lima, where the houses don’t have heating and are not insulated and sealed against the cold like the houses in Canada.
Winters in Lima are extremely humid, and that humidity can reach 98%. Even though the temperature doesn’t drop below 14 degrees during the day, the humidity follows you everywhere and you feel it in your bones.
With no heating inside the houses, people usually have to have portable stoves to warm up the rooms. So, I really feel more comfortable and warmer in my Canadian house than I would feel in my house in Lima.
Besides, if you don’t have to work outside or to walk a lot, the only moments where you face the cold in Canada are the couple of minutes you take to leave home and enter your car, or to get out of the car and enter your office building, or the store, the clinic, etc.
And those couple of minutes are really nothing if you have the proper clothing. https://ottawaisnotboring.com/2020/12/15/all-about-winter-gear-to-survive-the-canadian-cold/
I hope I have convinced you that winter in Canada is not an awful and powerful monster that is going to make your life miserable. Besides, humans are very adaptable creatures so the odds are that you will get used to it.
The trick is not to drag out the process. Just don’t hide in your house from the cold. Instead, face it and conquer it!
If you want to know more details about my process of adjusting to my new Canadian life, click on the link below. I was interviewed by Arrivein.com about my whole story as an immigrant in Canada.
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