Surviving winter in Winnipeg

Winter in Winnipeg, by Packing my Suitcase

As soon as I arrived in Toronto’s international airport, I headed to the immigration section together with other students. My English was not good back then, but it was enough to understand that the immigration officer made fun of me after I told him I was going to live in Winnipeg for 1 year. That was the first time I heard the famous joke: ohhh you mean WINTERpeg! Little I knew what was behind this joke that didn’t seem so funny that day.

On my first week in Winnipeg, the school division responsible for the exchange students gathered everyone new in that semester for an orientation meeting. We discussed about important details of how our year would be… and winter was among the topics. I will never forget that day, when I received a brochure with a freezing guy on the cover, and a series of tips of how to deal with the hash winter of Winnipeg. I kid you not!

Wind chill

Of course that the first thing I learned is that wind chill is what really matters when one needs to know the real outside temperature. It didn’t matter if the thermometer showed -10C when outside could be -30C with wind chill.

Winter in Winnipeg, by Packing my Suitcase

It was cold! Very cold…

First snow

I still remember how happy I was when I saw snow for the first time… it was mid October. After that day, the snow only went away in April! If only I knew how much I would hate that white thing after 6 months!

Winter in Winnipeg, by Packing my Suitcase

“You haven’t seen anything yet”

That is the phrase I heard for 2 months from my English teacher every morning, when the temperature was somewhere around -36C. I guess the way I dressed intrigued him, and somehow he knew I “haven’t seen anything yet”. I just couldn’t believe him. Until one day, sometime in the first weeks of January, the temperature with wind chill reached -51C.

And my homestay mom said: “oh, last winter we had -56C”. Did that mean lucky me?!

During 6 months that is how I used to go out of the house…

Winter in Winnipeg, by Packing my Suitcase

Β But in reality this is how I truly felt like…

Winter in Winnipeg, by Packing my Suitcase

Dealing with the consequences

Does -51C seem ok for you?! Don’t worry, that is not the only problem about a winter so cold like this. Together with this kind of temperature, when outside you will have a running nose, teary eyes – sometimes these tears will freeze – it will be so cold that breathing will be hard when the freezing air makes its way to your lungs, without gloves your hands will simply dry and freeze, the skin around your mouth will get so dry with time that if not taken care of, it will bleed. Waking up in the morning? HA HA HA… it’s torture!

And of course… don’t forget that the streets will be slippery, and one of these days you will fall on the ice. It will hurt. Trust me, I fell 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 times in 6 months.

Winter in Winnipeg, by Packing my Suitcase

It did hurt! One of these times I broke a heel, the other I fell in the middle of an avenue and even the driver laughed at me. It happens… to everyone. I laughed, what else could I have done? Hate the winter? I already did that!

Ohh, did I mention that you should not leave the house with wet hair? I learned that in the hard way…

Winter in Winnipeg, by Packing my Suitcase

You know what is not so funny? Life in Winnipeg during winter goes on normally, everything works… the bus: even though sometimes when it finally arrives you are already frozen. The school: I envied my friends living in the North of the US when their classes got canceled because of snow. What? 1 year in Winnipeg that never happened!

Ohh, have you ever heard of Slurpee? They keep drinking it… indoor or outdoor.

Winter in Winnipeg, by Packing my Suitcase

How did a Brazilian survive a winter in Winnipeg?

  • Waterproof boots
  • Wearing 2 gloves, 4 pair of socks and thermal tights
  • Winter jacket until the knees
  • Layers under the winter jacket
  • Leaving only my eyes uncovered, after all I needed to see where I was going!
  • Lip balm for dry skin
  • Drying the hair before leaving the house!
  • Checking the temperature before leaving, as well as the bus timetable!
  • Frozen feet or hands? Take everything off, wait until it gets warmer, and then put everything on again. Ready for one more turn…
  • Crying, laughing, complaining, praying…

Β At the end, I even had ice cream and Slurpees outside!

Winter in Winnipeg, by Packing my Suitcase

If you think the problems stop when spring is coming, you are wrong… when the snow is melting, I wouldn’t wear my favorite pair of jeans if I were you!

Winter in Winnipeg, by Packing my Suitcase

Well, I survived the winter in WINTERpeg! Now I am ready for any kind of winter. German winter? I tell you… it’s nothing!

Winter survived: 2004 – 2005

Winter in Winnipeg, by Packing my Suitcase

About Allane

A Brazilian living in Germany. Married to W. mommy to a baby girl and a Golden Retriever. Traveler, writer, aspiring photographer, diver, wine appreciator, Formula 1 fan, avid reader of historical and young adult fictions books. City girl, nature lover, believer of a better world, one little change at a time.

  • LOL! Well, I guess it wasn’t funny then but it is hilarious reading your story πŸ™‚ No thanks, I shall remain in the tropics πŸ˜‰

    • hahaha even then it was funny, some days… others I was just mad and complained a lot hahaha today I can laugh about it all!!
      Staying in the tropics is certainly a good idea πŸ˜€

  • I really had my laugh of the day reading this post.. the reality how you truly felt was too good for a laugh πŸ™‚

    • hahahaha I am happy I made you laugh Jackson!!
      I figured there was no better way of talking about this story and not making it funny hahaha πŸ˜€

  • Oh my, it sounds horrible! I wouldn’t have made it out of that winter, I don’t do well with cold. I’m the happiest when it’s sunny and warm, haha! πŸ˜€

    • hahahaha ohh Vlad, it was really difficult! But as it was the first winter of my life, everything was new! But if you ask me today if I want to try to survive another winter in Winnipeg, I would probably say no hahaha
      But the good thing about this winter is that there are more sunny days than here in Germany! Here its just too dark! Sometimes there is no sun for 3 weeks!

      • We didn’t have sun for a whole month here, apparently it was the longest we’ve gone without seeing a blue sky, people were complaining a lot. Then it was sunny for like a day, hahahaha.

        • hahahaha same here!!! Yesterday we had some sun finally… and today for a while, but now is gone πŸ™ though I dont think we are having snow this year anymore!

  • This is hilarious to read from an outsider’s perspective!! That’s so funny, I grew up in Manitoba and lived in Winnipeg for university. It is definitely not for the faint of heart.. I do not miss that weather. Glad you survived alright, and with many wonderful frosty memories, I’m sure! (Did you love skating on the Forks river trails? That’s my absolute favourite thing to do in the winter!)

    • hahaha happy you enjoyed it Holly πŸ˜€ Its great to know your thoughts too as you are Canadian!
      I miss my time there, but definitely not the weather hahaha, no way!! I don’t even know how I managed that!
      Skating on The Forks was amazing, I went to watch only… I am very bad at skating, and every time I went to try, it was soooo cold that I gave up!! But I regret that, I wish I had done more “winter activities” there! πŸ˜€

  • I honestly don’t know how you did it! I’m Canadian and I don’t think I could last one winter in Winnipeg haha. At least when you visit other destinations during the winter they will seem relatively mild now!

    • hahaha I know right? Every time I tell a Canadian that I lived in Winnipeg they say: OMG, how did you manage? hahaha I just have to laugh!
      Oh yes, today, winter here in Germany is nothing… last winter there was almost no snow, and the min temperature was -20 for 1 or 2 days, 3 years ago hahaha

  • In Russia it is +3 and raining. For the second week in a row. I might have to go to Winnipeg for some real winter!

    • hahaha oh really? I thought you would say it was freezing cold there by now! The weather is kind of crazy lately… here in Germany today is sunny and its 13C, can you believe it?!!
      For real winter, go to Winnipeg!!! πŸ˜€

  • Gosh, I don’t think I will survive in -51 degree C πŸ˜€ Congrats that you made it!!! Not sure how is it in Munich but the winter in the Netherlands in general is super annoying because of the winter winds. Some of my Canadians colleagues who have been living in the Netherlands think that the winter in Canada is better than the Dutch “annoying” windy winter. Like today, it is actually only 7 degree but the winds drive me nuts! So, would you like to try the Dutch winter? πŸ˜‰

    • I know right? I dont eve know how I did it looking back at that time hahaha πŸ˜€
      Here in Munich, at least in the past 3 years wasn’t that bad… but sunny days are very rare!
      I have been to Amsterdam during winter before, with my sister… and it was very cold and windy… I believe how annoying it must be there. I dont want to exchange it with you haha can you believe today its 13C in Munich? And what s even more weird: its sunny! πŸ˜€ <3

  • Would you do it again ? πŸ™‚

    • hahaha I dont think I would live there again! But I certainly dont regret to have lived there… but for me it was a one time thing, and I have great memories of that place πŸ˜€

  • Having been in Winnipeg in the winter I can vouch for your hardiness in surviving it!

  • This is the best post you have ever written !!! I kid you not !! It’s super fun and unlike anything you have shared before .. And I finally got to see your face (eyes)

    • hahahahaha thank you so much!! I am so happy that you liked it, you really put a smile on my face πŸ˜€
      I hope to write some more posts that you enjoy like this one!!
      Yesss… I survived hahaha πŸ˜€

  • Brrr! I had a good laugh reading this post! I guess we really cannot imagine how cold it is until we get there! The keeping your hair dry advice was new to me!! I’ve never been in a situation where my hair actually freezes! Thanks for an enjoyable post!

    • hahaha I am happy to make you laugh Helene!
      I also never thought about this until one day my hair got frozen… I will never forget that day πŸ˜€
      Im so glad you enjoyed the post! And I hope your hair never freezes!!

  • How did you ever survive? You are a brave soul! I can’t imagine. Guess you really are prepared and can handle anything now!

    • hahahaha Thank you πŸ˜€
      There were some really hard days! Now I have great memories… and I dont think I could do it again hahaha πŸ˜€

  • Ha ha ha, lovely post!! Reminds me a bit about my first winter in New York after living in a tropical country like India for 24 years :))

    • hahahaha happy that you liked it Shikha!!
      Ohhh I can imagine exactly how it must have been your first winter in NY πŸ˜€
      Have a great weekend!

  • Haha funny story, and that polar bear pic falling over was hilarious πŸ˜€ We don’t get too many bad winters in the UK, but I’d still prefer to be in the tropics right about now. Not sure about being in Winnipeg though πŸ˜‰

    • hahahaha perfect for the situation… there are indeed polar bears near Winnipeg πŸ˜€
      Ohh yes, you already don’t like winter in the UK, you certainly will hate winter in Canada πŸ˜€

  • WINTERpeg? EEEkkk, I never knew of the nickname but I tell ya, I’m so impressed you could handle it! I’d be buying my one way ticket out of there stat…and then heading to Miami to um…warm up πŸ˜‰

    • hahahahaha ohh yes! Well it wasnt easy, especially for a Brazilian used to 30C everyday hahaha.
      At least I had break of it during 2 weeks when I went to California πŸ˜€

  • Winter-peg was my reality from age 3-13, before I was old enough to be forced to “endure” anything like trying to get to work. I remember my father, who grew up in a tropical country (Philippines) had to plug the car in every night so was warm enough to start in the morning, and when we moved to BC he found it strange that none of the cars even had plugs and block heaters. Winters in the Lower Mainland of BC are very mild — not so different from Northern Portugal.

    Because I was in Winnipeg as a child, all my winter memories were fond ones, playing in the snow and ice skating and building snow forts at recess. I don’t think I’d put up with it now, but one thing I will say about anyone who lives in hard winter climates are that they’re very down-to-earth people. You have to be a certain kind of person to get through those long, harsh winters and I find a lot of artistic communities (especially music) thrive under those conditions, where people rely on each other more and find creativity amidst all that darkness and cold weather.

    For those who say “I couldn’t do it”, I say don’t knock it until you try it! Even if it’s just for a short time.

    • Wow, thank you so much for sharing your personal experience! I had no idea you lived in Winnipeg before… and you are right, I really remember of my homestay mother plugging and unplugging the car hahaha crazy life!

      I also agree with you that they are people very down to earth people, living in those circumstances every year isnt for everyone. And I also think that one should live in a place like this at least once in their lives, even if it is for a short time… you really learn a lot and become more mature and ready to face other challenges in life! I don’t regret for a second for choosing to live there, it was the most wonderful time of my life πŸ˜€

  • Oh my gosh, I am never going to complain about the cold again! We go down to about -3 in the UK and it’s like the world has ended! πŸ™‚

    • hahaha I know!! I see a lot of people complaining about the winter here in Europe, then before I do too I remember how awful it is in other places in the world πŸ˜€

  • Very interesting narration…the way you have put it, though appears funny, must be very difficult to get onto such freezing temperature… as described the outside temperature and the temperature shown in thermometer with such wide difference…it can be highly misleading.

    What do you do when everything needs to be covered and you are in fact cornered to one place…movement is literally get restricted…how do you work in such frozen surrounding…we should learn from you the tips and I think there can be no trick which can play to avoid such biting cold.

    By the way, all must be set for the onset of celebration coming week…

    • Thank you Nihar!! Glad you liked it πŸ™‚
      It was a very different experience for me…. but many people live like that everyday, and it all seems normal. What was really interesting to me was that life goes on normally despite the cold.

      Christmas celebrations around here was great, very calm… and today we got snow πŸ˜€

      • It must have been real different experience the way you had described it…

        O! Lovely, must have been a great feeling to witness the beautiful snowfall…especially when the mood is that of celebration.

        Hope you had a great Christmas, how is the holiday weekend shaping up…

        Lots of preparation must be underway…for the New Year…

        • Yes it was a unique experience I must say πŸ˜€

          Christmas was great, and NYE will be very calm and relaxing πŸ˜€ and with lots of snow apparently!!

          I wish you a happy 2015 Nihar πŸ˜€

          • Yes, New Year celebration is more exciting to have a close party with near and dear ones and watch at the world celebration and soak in the joy and fun across the world, what a feeling when everybody is happy and enjoying it, that’s how the world should remain…

            Happy 2015…Happy Blogging…

          • Well said Nihar πŸ˜€

            I hope you enjoy your new year with your loved ones!!
            Happy new year and happy blogging πŸ˜€

          • Thanks so much and wishing you a real wonderful year ahead and looking forward to more such and much more beautiful and insightful exchanges of thoughts…it’s been lovely knowing you and sharing such lovely thoughts!!!

            Happy Holidays and Happy Blogging to you too…
            take care…

          • Thank you dear Nihar!! It surely has been a pleasure for me too πŸ˜€
            Happy new year!!!

          • Yes, keenly looking forward to more such lovely interactions in 2015..

          • Me too πŸ˜€

  • Wow, you’re such a strong woman! I’ll keep that list in mind when things get colder here in Slovenia, it doesn’t get that cold though, but I’m from a place which lowest temperature in winter is 10 degrees! So you can imagine, lol!

    • Thank you πŸ˜€
      hahaha, don’t worry, in Slovenia won’t be so cold, but of course somethings work for any kind of cold!
      10 degrees? Thats great, I come from a place where the min temperature is 26C πŸ™ but I honestly dont miss it so much… sometimes I like winter πŸ˜€

      I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!!

      • Just got snow <3 So I can assess now that yeah, a little cold sometimes is good!

        Happy holidays to you too!

        • hahaha yaaaay awesome!!!
          Enjoy the snow!! Any plans to go skiing? πŸ˜€
          Happy 2015 my dear!!

          • Not yet, though I’m dying to try it!! I have never skied so it will probably be a funny experience haha!

          • Ohh you will have lots of fun!!! I like skiing, but as most of the mountains are too high and I need to go up with a cable car I am always afraid haha… I am afraid of heights πŸ™
            I hope you go soon and enjoy the most of it, its lots of fun!!

  • I used to complain about winter until I picked up the cross-country skiing bug. Now it is my favorite time of the year although -51 degrees is a bit harsh. I think I would stay inside on that day and sit around the fireplace and drink bourbon πŸ™‚

    • Hi Ted πŸ˜€ thank you for the comment!

      hahaha yes, a bit harsh… and not fun! I also wanted to stay at home warm, but life goes on normally in Winnipeg even when its that cold πŸ™

      I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

  • Being from Canada myself, I know what you mean and can definitely relate. It gets really cold in Canada and after living in Taiwan for 15 years, I think I would struggle with the minus temperatures if I were to return in winter, not to mention shoveling and winter driving.

    • Hi Constance!! πŸ™‚
      Yesss, I think we get used to warmer temperatures faster than colder ones… even living in Germany now, I also would have some trouble with the Canadian winter again hahaha πŸ˜€

  • I remember my first winter in New Hampshire and how much I loved the first snow. October to April…I was really looking forward to the snow melting. πŸ™‚

    • hahaha yes, I totally understand you, same here πŸ˜€

      I hope you had a wonderful Christmas Karen πŸ˜€

  • I don’t think I could survive Winnipeg! I thought the -40 C with windchill in Chicago last year was bad…

    • I know right? The cold of Winnipeg is definitely not common around most cities in the World… just too cold!! If you ever go there, go during summer πŸ˜€

  • Heey, thank you for your comment. January is a very cold month indeed. I really don’t remember a waterproof boot brand, but as soon as you get there head to a shoe store at the shopping mall and get one πŸ˜€ there are so many options!
    I wish you a nice time in Winnipeg!!