The prospect of your first European winter should rightly be filling you with not only excitement but also a tingle of fear for what lies ahead in some of the world’s chilliest places. Coming from an environment of balmy days and cool, yet not unpleasant winters can be quite the shock for many Australians (even if you’re from the cooler states). Getting yourself properly equipped physically, mentally and materially can make all the difference in surviving your first European winter – whether its experiencing a fantastic winter full of snow, sipping on delicious Norwegian Glogg, and skiing or facing the cold with shivers, misery and even a touch of frostbite.
Do the Research
All of us are aware that Europe (and especially northern Europe) can be a fairly cold place. But are you aware of the vast differences in winter temperature? In places around Denmark, you’ll find the average winter temperature to be a windy but mild -2 to +2 degrees C. But should you want to travel a little further north, this can drop to -25 degrees C. Make sure that you check out the range of probable highs and lows for the specific region you’re moving to and don’t assume that Europe or even “Northern Europe” is all the same.
If you’re planning to live or travel to different places within the Nordic or Scandinavian region, remember that the differences in weather can be extreme. Ensure that you’ve done adequate research so that you won’t get caught out.
Your Regular Clothes Will Not Be Enough
Even in the cooler Melbourne winters, a good jumper and jacket will probably do you fine. But in the northern wild lands of Europe, they just won’t cut it. It’s time to put practicality over fashion and invest in some proper outdoor gear. A good starting place is to check out the kind of clothes available in the country you’re going to. Go online and check out the local online clothing retailers to see what the locals are wearing during winter.
The clothing that locals wear for dealing with harsh weather conditions, tends to have been developed over time. They know the tricks and tips for dealing with their environment, so see what they’re up to, try and match the clothing and you’ll feel the benefits.
Shoes, Shoes and Shoes
As with your regular clothing, odds are that your shoes are not going to be suitable for a snowy, wet winter. Check out what the likely depth of snow is going to be and set yourself up accordingly with footwear that will not only keep you dry and stop overspill but also warm your toes. Shoes are an incredibly difficult purchase at the best of times and are often the biggest problem for visitors who are more active.
Hiking Boots: A tough leather boot will definitely keep your feet warm and dry. Great for the Nordic hiking and with a fantastic grip. They will, however, take a good while to wear in. If you’re not planning far in advance, be careful you don’t end up with blisters.
Slip on Boots: These are warm and waterproof and often have a good gripping sole. Another advantage is in being able to slip them off. After a day in the snow, your fingers are likely to be frozen, being able to just ease off the boots is very handy.
Trail Runner Boots: These are the best of both worlds. They have the waterproofing, the warmth factor and the sturdiness that you need, whilst requiring almost no wearing in. You can put them on and start hiking straight away. They are comfortable and lightweight and ideal for almost any weather conditions.
Get Set Up Before You Land
If you are moving to Europe during the Australian summer, then chances are you’ll be arriving in the middle of the European winter. Be aware that temperature differences can be enormous. If you’re flying from Sydney to say London or Vienna, that’s a potential change of 30 to 40 degrees C. Endeavour to carry all your winter clothes in hand luggage. That way if there is any chance of lost luggage on the way from Australia, you’ll at least have enough warm clothes to get you from the airport to your hotel on day one.
Take Advantage of the Active Opportunities
Although it can be tempting (and wonderful) to curl up in front of a log fire wearing a cosy jumper, to do this day in day out is going to be a huge waste of opportunity. Look out of the window and you’ll see that folks are moving about, getting on with life and not freezing to death as often as you’d think. A key way to stay warm is to keep moving and keep active.
Whether you’re into sports, skiing or even just sightseeing and shopping, being out and about and active will keep you warm. Moving around will raise your body temperature and of course, means that you’re going to get a lot more out of your expat assignment.
Embrace the Sightseeing and Lack of Crowds
Surviving your first European winter may not be too difficult, however the second or third ones may in fact be the difficult ones. It is easy to forget that the European winter can drag on for many months (not to mention the shortened daylight hours), and so it is important to not let the cold weather stop you from getting out and enjoying life.
Northern Europe is at peak beauty during winter. The skies, the snows, and even the blizzards are some of the most spectacular in the world. To miss out on these natural wonders because the weather is colder than you’re used to would be a huge shame and a waste of the experience. By getting better prepared (both mentally and physically) you will be able to really benefit from the opportunities available to you. Living in Europe is often a once in a lifetime opportunity, so make sure you make the most of the winter as well – whether it is ski trips, the northern lights or Christmas markets, or take advantage of fewer tourists and spend the winter visiting Europe’s best museums without the queues.