I’ve been enjoying the hospitality of Canadian winter since November-ish last year and it has been….chilling. lol.
Nevertheless, it is still yet to meet the expectation of what I had in mind before moving here. In my mind, I expected total snowmageddon….
I expected to be buried in snow and fight my way through mile-high snow every single day for months on end.
I also assumed I wouldn’t see the sun again till June. The picture below is what I expected the winter to be like:-
It has not been like that at all. Apart from the first snowfall in November (picture below) where I actually fell over trying to wade my way to the bus stop, the amount of snow since then has been mild.
Additionally, the government is pretty good at clearing snow from the roads and sidewalks before morning and during the day where necessary.
So snow wise, it hasn’t been as catastrophic as I imagined.
First Snowfall in November
How Cold is Canada in Winter?
Now for the cold because snow and cold are two different things. This is specific to the GTA region by the way.
I thought it was freezing in April when I arrived so you know I wasn’t ready for what hit me in November.
The first seriously cold day, I ran all the way to the bus stop because I was so scared my legs would freeze. The lowest temperature I’ve experienced so far is – 12.
It is now February. There have been three cold snap days where I seriously rethought all the life decisions that brought me to Canada. Lol.
So, having lived in warm countries all my life, how am I able to cope with this extreme weather? Layers have been my saviour. Not the coat but layers.
If you wear a sweater and a coat, you are still going to be freezing but if you wear thermal underwear, then a shirt, then a sweater before you put on a coat, you are going to be nice and snug in there even though it’s damn cold.
Of course, the disadvantage here is you have to disrobe ASAP when you get indoors so you don’t pass out from the suffocation of too many layers.
Not to be left out – very thick gloves, a hat and the best winter boots you can afford. Despite all this, I try not to stay outside for longer than 10 – 15 minutes at a time.
I thought I had it all under control until I experienced wind chill. Y’all, I don’t know how to explain this thing that blows on your face.
It feels like someone is sticking ice needles into every spot on your face and your blood is freezing simultaneously. It is horrible.
The first time I experienced it, I screamed and called an Uber. No way in hell was I waiting outside for a bus in that weather.
Afterwards, I added a humongous scarf to my retinue of clothes for wind chill days. I usually wrap it twice around my face and neck.
I don’t even care that I look like I’m off to rob someone every time I wear that scarf.
I imagine the cold in places like Alberta, Manitoba, Winnipeg, etc. is some next-level cold that I can’t even begin to comprehend or pray to experience.
I have now made peace with the weather since I can’t do anything to change it.
Basically, just waiting it out till April now, and hope the cold snap days are not so many before then.
Final word, I will never ever get used to this kind of cold but I can learn to live through it.
Below are my best tips for preparing for and surviving your first Canadian winter.
How to Prepare for Your First Canadian Winter
1. Weather App
A good weather app is your best friend. Always check the weather forecast before going outside and look out for any extreme weather warnings.
You can download many free weather apps on the Android and Apple stores. There are also weather forecasts on TV but you won’t have the TV with you all the time and the app updates are real-time.
Most phones also come with their own weather apps.
2. Layer Like You’re Making a Crepe Cake
The only way to survive this kind of cold is by layering under your winter jacket or coat. Layer 1 is your base layer.
It should be something thin yet warm such as wool leggings, thermal leggings or a long-sleeve top.
I bought something known as HeatTech at Uniqlo. That’s my base layer for top and bottom.
Layer 2 is something a bit thicker like wool or fleece sweaters. Some people also wear a thin fleece jacket for this layer.
The third and final layer is the winter jacket or coat. The quality of this cannot be compromised.
It needs to be thick, long, waterproof and windproof. I have 2 jackets – 1 from Columbia and 1 from Point Zero. These jackets were not cheap but I’d rather be warm.
Plus they will last for a long time before I need new jackets so I felt they were worth the investment.
Were there cheaper jackets at places like Walmart? Yes, but I went and tried them on and was still freezing. Inside the store.
Some people may not experience cold on the same level as I do so they could be okay with that.
Nevertheless, there are many many retailers selling winter coats at various prizes. If you arrive in Canada around December, you should be able to nab incredible deals on quite a lot of winter clothing.
I got my waterproof backpack from Naturalizer for almost 60% off by waiting a few weeks.
By the way, you should wait until you arrive in Canada before buying winter clothes especially a jacket.
3. Cover Up the Rest of Your Body
Apart from layers, I can’t say enough about a good pair of gloves. Get touch screen gloves so you don’t freeze your hands trying to send a text or check the bus schedule outside.
I got this remarkably versatile slouchy hat and gloves pair with free shipping via Amazon Prime HERE.
In addition to the gloves, wool socks, a beanie, and a thick scarf are required. Some people wear a balaclava too but that felt weird to me so I opted for a huge scarf instead.
4. Winter Boots Are Everything
This will be the costliest investment in winter gear. They can be mid or high in length depending on which province you’re in but in all cases, they must be waterproof and have a good weather rating.
They will keep you from slipping and breaking your legs or something else. Do not skimp on this. Before you buy any boots, check reviews online and make sure you check the weather rating.
There are a lot of popular brands here. I invested in a good pair of Sorel boots but there are cheaper brands. I also nabbed an additional pair on sale in December.
As I mentioned earlier, if you arrive in Canada in December, you will get very good deals on winter clothing – as much as 70% off.
In all cases, check online for deals and coupon codes before you buy anything.
I have been able to get some of my stuff over 50% off by waiting a few weeks and shopping online with coupon codes.
My Favourite Stores for Winter Clothing and Shoes
There are many other places you can shop for winter clothing apart from above so feel free to expand your search.
Wish you safe travels to Canada soon :).