I remember going to bed one night, barely two months after moving to Montreal. It was chilly, around 5C or so. In the gathering wind, shadows of bare trees danced on my window.
The next morning, I was woken by the excited voices of newcasters on my alarm-radio. At first I lay there, in that twilight zone between sleep and awakeness, and listened to the morning weather report.
“…looks like Winter has finally arrived. It’s going to be a cold, cold morning, currently -8C outside, -15C with the windchill…”
My eyes suddenly opened wide from surprise when I heard that. Did I mishear, I thought to myself, and for some time I told myself the weatherman must have made a mistake. I clambered out of bed and looked out the window. It was glorious outside, with the sun as bright as a Summer’s day, but the sight of passerbys wrapped in layers of thick clothing made me shiver.
There was no mistake, I later learned, and that was my first experience with the (in)famous Canadian winter which I had been about warned heard so much about even before I set foot here. And that was also the day I was first introduced to the useful phenomenon of having two measures of outside temperature.
The “actual temperature” is what is shown on the thermostat, whereas the temperature of what it “feels like” is exactly that… what it feels like when the harsh, harsh wind scratches the your face and tries to penetrate every gap and cranny in your clothing to steal every last bit of warmth from the very core of your body to leave you wonder what insanity made you move here in the first place— which is usually 10C more (actually, less) than the actual temperature.
But really, winter does not have to be so brutal and if many people have managed to survive, so can you. Obviously, the key is to keep warm whenever you go outside, and to do so the best way is to dress in layers to trap heat and warm air. It’s always better to over-dress than to find yourself suffering unbearable cold. Tight undergarments are good, and on top of that, try to have multiples layers of shirts, vests, jumpers or hoodies of your fancy. Top it all with a decent winter jacket—one that is especially made to withstand the harsh winters in this part of the world (Canada Goose is durable, of good quality and proudly Made in Canada!) For handgear, the best are mittens that don’t have separate finger openings so you can keep your whole hand warm. A tuque can keep your head and ears warm, and a nice long scarf can make sure you don’t lose too much heat from your exposed neck. For shoes, gets boots that are water- and windproof and that have good grip to make sure you do not end up slipping and sliding in icy conditions. And if you don’t know how a penguin walks, you will find out soon enough…
I often find my appetite increases in the Winter months, and it’s important to eat well and keep a balanced diet to maintain your body. A warm, hearty homemade broth now and then can really help build up your resistance, and personally I take homeopathic supplements like propolis to boost my immune system.
Whatsmore, a lot of downtown Montreal is connected by an extensive network of tunnels and passageways that form an “underground city”. Learning to navigate between different metro stations, shopping malls and public buildings that are connected to one another can really help keep you out of the cold. Well, one good thing about Winter (according to my professor) is you’ll probably want to spend a lot of time indoors, so perfect for catching up on work or readings!
Winter really doesn’t have to be faced with dread, and by no means do you have to hibernate until the snow completely melts (you’ll wait a long time if you do…) In fact, there are plenty of outdoor activities to be enjoyed, as well as festivals to give the season that special feeling. And unlike other places I have lived in Winter here is surprisingly sunny, which helps to keep those blues away!