Ad­vice from Your Res­i­dent Cana­dian Po­lar Bear: Sur­viv­ing a Proper Win­ter

Indonesia Expat - - CONTENTS - BY KATE PAR­ADIS

Vis­it­ing some­where cold? Mov­ing to a coun­try with a proper win­ter? Ja­pan? Nor­way? South­ern Chile? Here are some tips for those of you that are not used to ex­treme cli­mates from your res­i­dent po­lar bear. I am planted firmly in front of an air con­di­tioner as I write this from my home in Jakarta – to which I have not yet com­pletely ac­cli­ma­tised!

WIN­TER CONUNDRUMS

Canada is one of the few places in the world where it is re­mark­ably com­mon to ex­pe­ri­ence two dif­fer­ent types of burns si­mul­ta­ne­ously: Frost bite on the out­side or your hand, whilst suf­fer­ing sec­ond-de­gree burns from your

Tim Hor­ton’s cof­fee on the in­side of your hand. It’s a se­ri­ous (first world) prob­lem. That short walk from the car to the of­fice with a cof­fee in hand can be dan­ger­ous! Add dress shoes and a thin layer of ice on the side­walk to the equa­tion and it’s a disas­ter wait­ing to hap­pen. Think bro­ken hips, cut lips and sprained wrists.

We also bat­tle frozen beards, crys­talised eye­lashes, 16 hours of dark­ness and get aer­o­bic work­outs from shov­el­ling snow off our drive­ways. But 38 mil­lion peo­ple know it’s worth it and sum­mer is al­ways wel­comed and fully em­braced with im­mense ela­tion.

FROSTBITE: WAS SANTA’S HOT CO­COA SPIKED OR DID HE JUST HAVE FROSTBITE?

Frostbite is sim­i­lar to a sun­burn. At first skin is red, cold and feels “prickly”. Next, the ex­posed skin can get hard and ap­pear waxy (cue visual of Santa’s jolly red cheeks). Even­tu­ally, if the skin is not grad­u­ally warmed back to room tem­per­a­ture, it can blis­ter and in ex­treme cases, turn black, caus­ing skin, mus­cle and even bone dam­age. It’s com­mon to get it on toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin – all those ar­eas with lim­ited blood flow and max­i­mum ex­po­sure to the icy cold air. It’s im­por­tant to in­vest in good warm gloves or mit­tens, wool socks, a face mask or bal­a­clava, and of c ourse a toque (Canada coined this term and we firmly be­lieve it is the cor­rect and only term for what oth­ers call a “beanie” or a “hat”).

In all se­ri­ous­ness, watch the weather re­ports for warn­ings be­cause wind chill can dras­ti­cally im­pact the like­li­hood of frostbite. Mi­nus 15°C can ac­tu­ally feel like mi­nus 25°C. It only takes ten min­utes to get frostbite in tem­per­a­tures rang­ing from -28°C to -39°C. Cana­dian cities such as Ed­mon­ton and Toronto, both with pop­u­la­tions over one mil­lion, ex­pe­ri­ence these tem­per­a­tures reg­u­larly over win­ter ( yes, you read that, mil­lions of peo­ple choose to live in cities where the cold air lit­er­ally burns their face in min­utes).

WHAT TO WEAR (AND HOW TO WIN A GAME OF STRIP POKER):

Some say there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. Thus, LAY­ERS LAY­ERS LAY­ERS. You need to stay cov­ered to keep your body warm and also to avoid frostbite. How­ever, that enor­mous Rus­sian-style fur coat you pur­chased be­cause it looked so stun­ningly gor­geous on that tall blonde model, is not the most prac­ti­cal. The best ap­proach to harsh cold weather is lay­er­ing that you can re­move as needed to reg­u­late tem­per­a­ture and mois­ture. Think of it as a game of strip poker… the more lay­ers you start off with, likely the bet­ter off you will be! Here’s the skinny, in proper or­der of op­er­a­tions:

· Base Layer: Clos­est to your skin. A long sleeve shirt that fits fairly snug is best. The ma­te­rial must be warm but also thin and mois­ture-wick­ing to keep you dry. Out­door shops sell shirts and pants de­signed specif­i­cally for base layer use.

It is a good idea to in­vest in a few. Merino wool is an ideal ma­te­rial, but cloth­ing com­pa­nies such as Patag­o­nia and Moun­tain Equip­ment Co-op are ex­per­i­ment­ing with new syn­thetic fi­bres that work just as well.

· Mid-Layer: In­su­la­tion. This is solely for warmth and should be mod­i­fied/added-to de­pend­ing on the tem­per­a­ture and your ac­tiv­ity. A great op­tion is a “puffy”, which is a down-filled (or syn­thetic-fill) jacket that pro­vides warmth only, and is gen­er­ally not wa­ter­proof. Puffies vary in thick­ness and tem­per­a­ture rat­ings. De­pend­ing on the qual­ity, they are quite breath­able, which is de­sired. If you are snow­board­ing or do­ing other sports that keep your tem­per­a­ture el­e­vated, a thin puffy may be enough. You can ex­per­i­ment with mid-lay­ers and re­move as nec­es­sary. Puffies are more con­ve­nient than cot­ton or fleece sweaters, as they can be com­pacted down to a very small size.

· Outer Layer: Wa­ter and wind proof­ing. This layer pro­tects you from rain, snow and bone-chill­ing wind. This layer is sim­ply a shell to be placed over your other lay­ers, and is not in­tended to pro­vide warmth. Gore-tex® is a good op­tion for ma­te­rial as it is 100 per­cent wa­ter­proof. Check that zip­pers and seams are coated with wa­ter­proof­ing. Make sure you buy a shell big enough to fit your other lay­ers un­der­neath.

All-in- One coats are an op­tion, but less ver­sa­tile. Other good in­vest­ments are win­ter boots, wool socks, base layer pants and snow pants if do­ing any out­door sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, or spend­ing more than a few hours out­doors. It is im­por­tant to stay warm, but also dry. Re­move lay­ers as re­quired to avoid the vi­cious cy­cle of too hot, sweat­ing, then too cold.

GET­TING AROUND

We def­i­nitely DO NOT ride mo­tor­bikes or scoot­ers for most months of the year as win­ter roads are treach­er­ous. Rock salt and sand com­monly get poured all over streets to melt the ice and pro­vide trac­tion for cars and pedes­tri­ans. Salt­ing the roads tends to rust mo­tor ve­hi­cles and is bad for the aquatic sys­tems, so some cities have started us­ing al­ter­na­tives such as beet juice, which has proven to be ef­fec­tive in melt­ing snow and ice. In coun­tries with abun­dant geo­ther­mal re­sources and re­lated in­fra­struc­ture, such as Ice­land, they run their hot wa­ter pipes be­low the pave­ment, which melts the snow and ice as it forms. This re­duces the amount of salt, gravel and snow clear­ing dur­ing the win­ter months.

Car won’t start? Of­ten for­eign­ers vis­it­ing Canada and other (proper) cold coun­tries do not think of car main­te­nance and emer­gency pre­pared­ness. At deep sub-zero tem­per­a­tures car bat­ter­ies no longer func­tion ad­e­quately, so cars man­u­fac­tured for these coun­tries are out­fit­ted with elec­tric block heaters. In older cars es­pe­cially, the block heaters need to be plugged in overnight and while parked for longer than a few hours. Emer­gency kits for cars, in some ar­eas, are re­quired by law, which in­clude warm blan­kets, a food ra­tion, flash­light, matches, etc. Plan­ning ahead for emer­gen­cies is im­per­a­tive in such a harsh cli­mate. Be­ing stranded with a car that will not start could be fa­tal if you are not ad­e­quately dressed to pre­vent hy­pother­mia. Cars are also out­fit­ted with heavy-tread win­ter tires, which need to be changed out for sum­mer or “all-sea­son” tires dur­ing sum­mer months.

THERE IS AN UP­SIDE!

Dif­fer­ent from the sit­u­a­tion in the comfy, con­sis­tent and hu­mid cli­mate in the trop­ics of In­done­sia, Canada has very small crit­ters! Cock­roaches, rats, mice, and in­sects are all very small. The win­ter acts as nat­u­ral pop­u­la­tion con­trol for these crit­ters which is a re­lief to those who are dis­turbed by the creepy crawlers. Some prov­inces are even de­clared “rat free” (I don’t fully be­lieve this claim), and cock­roaches are ac­tu­ally quite rare, es­pe­cially in the non-coastal and less-hu­mid ar­eas of Canada.

There are other won­der­ful as­pects of win­ter such as ice hockey, ice skat­ing, to­bog­gan­ing/sled­ding, win­ter hay rides (a win­ter sleigh drawn by horses through snow­fields), ski­ing, snow­board­ing, luge, bob-sled­ding, ice fishing, igloo-con­struc­tion and pump­kin-spiced latte’s in front of a warm cozy fire­place. Many north­ern cities have win­ter fes­ti­vals that fea­ture snow-cone snacks ( balls of snow/ice flavoured with sugar or maple syrup) and ice sculp­tures big enough to walk through. And some­times cock­tails just taste bet­ter when stirred with a fresh ici­cle!

If you have a visit to Canada planned, or if you are headed to any cold cli­mate for an up­com­ing ex­pat post­ing, don’t shy away from the win­ter. In Canada the white snow that dec­o­rates the moun­tain ranges and cov­ers the prairie fields is pic­turesque, pol­lu­tion is very low and the win­ters are of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by bright blue skies ( blue-bird days). The North­ern Lights (Aurora Bo­re­alis) can be spot­ted from cities even as far south as Cal­gary.

So be pre­pared with warm-wear and re­mem­ber the most im­por­tant rule (don’t eat the yel­low snow), then you will en­joy your trip to any win­ter won­der­land.

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