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Living in a cold climate… things you don’t expect.

As you all may know I am from sunny South Africa, Durban to be specific; a city that is known for its good weather. Warm-hot summers and warmish winters, bar one or two days in the year. No wind, like Cape Town, and no dryness like Johannesburg, the ‘perfect’ middle ground. The only thing people really complain about is the humidity. Coming from what many consider a city with a yearlong summer to a colder climate has had some unexpected hurdles.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a cold weather girl, well at least I thought I was. I would much rather take a winter day over a 32 and more degree summer day. Dressing warmly or staying cozy under blankets with a hot cup of tea is a dream day. Even going out on a cold winters day was fun for me. Being able to wear one of my favourite coats and some stockings (this only happens about 3 times a year) is a thrill. But what I have discovered is that cold 24/7…not so thrilling. Here are some of the good and bad things I have discovered.

Waking up

We all know waking up in the morning is hard, but, waking up on a cold day is even harder. It’s not just the frosty air that chases you back under the cozy duvet. But for some reason cold weather seems to make me more tired in the mornings. Maybe it has something to do with comfort, when you are hot and uncomfortable, waking up is no sweat because you practically are awake. But the cold seems to have the opposite effect. It also doesn’t help that at 8:00am it is still pretty dark outside, so to quote Frozen (in reverse) “the skies asleep so I’m asleep”. I assume that’s also why businesses here seem to open and close later, to compensate for this.

Dry Skin

There isn’t too much to discuss here, other than every morning my face seems dryer then the Kalahari dessert. I have to put on about 3-4 layers of moisturizer in attempt to resurrect the dead. I am thoroughly sick of flaky dry skin. Thanks cold weather.

Cold extremities

I am one of those low blood flow type of people; cold hands and feet are a common occurrence, even back home; And then with living in 4 degrees and below temperatures there is simply no escaping it. Perhaps it is something that your body learns to adapt to, I go out and see the locals with no gloves on and a thin pair of sheer stockings, or socks and I am flabbergasted. On cold days(who am I kidding,..everyday), I put on 2-3 pairs of normal socks 1 pair of thermal socks and fur lined boots and I can still feel my toes going numb. Gloves are a whole other kettle of fish; on, off, on, off… I spend so much time taking them on and off because I can’t do anything with them on. Every time they are off I am back to square one; cold. I even have the gloves that are meant to be touch screen compatible... not so compatible it seems; very frustrating.


I know I just discussed cold extremities but I feel this needs its own section. I am extraordinarily over wearing $%^&#%& socks. Back home, we wear closed shoes, quite often actually. But you get home and the first thing that gets flicked off, other than a bra (for women) is your socks and shoes. The same applies if you are wearing slops or sandals. Let it breath!!! There is nothing like feeling the cool ground under your feet and fresh air on them. Socks all day every day is not only starting to make me feel like I am suffocating but, it seems to be a shock to my feet as well. I already have two injuries on my toes from constantly being bound in socks.

Fresh air

As expected in this cold European country there is heating in every room of every building, so I could absolutely alleviate a number of the problems discussed above by just making my home warmer by using the heating more. But, this comes with a whole lot of unexpected problems. To really get your room nice and toasty you can’t just turn the heat up, you need to also close all windows and doors to keep the cold out. This gets the room to a really comfortable temperature; the only problem is it is stuffy as hell. In Durban we don’t know what heating is, the odd person has a plug in heater for days that drop below 21 degrees; on these days’ big coats come out and everyone complains about how cold it is. That’s the experience I have with heaters. These heaters are fine, they work well and are easy to use, but I am just not used to the air situation. In my house in SA there is never a time were there aren’t at least 2-3 (if not all) windows open, plus all the doors, fresh air is a must to most. Here it seems you have to make a choice, be cold and breath in fresh air or be warm and closes all windows and doors. I fight this battle every day.

On the days that I choose the cold and fresh air the windows become problematic; in this particular apartment, and I assume many others, the windows are not really designed or built to be kept open: Some seem to be made to open but seem a little stuck, which I can let slide. The major issue is that they have no device to stop them from blowing shut and banging. All windows I know have little latches that hook the window open to stop it from blowing around, these do not… which means open one window, and the other one slams shut, its like playing catch with the wind. In a few hours, the 3-4 windows I had open have all closed on their own accord, infuriating.

Getting ready

Hanging out at home is no sweat, as explained above. For the most part there is sufficient heating so other than throwing on a hoody it’s a breeze. Getting ready to go out is another story. I can only assume that I have a harder time with this then locals because 1) I don’t have the correct clothes for this weather 2) My body has not adapted or become accustomed to these temperatures like theirs have. Now, I was told/ warned to stay warm and layer clothes but, you simply cannot prepare yourself for the process of getting ready so as to actually ‘stay warm’. I also don’t think words will do it justice so…I will provide you with a very unglamorous photo series I took for laughs to send to my family of me getting ready to go out on a 0-degree evening.

This outfit consisted of the following layers, added on as the photos progress:

  1. (I will spare you this photo) underwear

  2. Thermal underwear and socks

  3. Thermal stockings and long sleeve top

  4. Woolen stockings and button up shirt (this shirt had no warmth value, pure aesthetics, in hindsight totally stupid because no one will see this under all the freaking clothes)

  5. Pants, a thinish wool sweater and thermal socks, makeup, hair and fur lined boots

  6. A coat, a scarf, a very warm beanie and gloves.

To sum it all up, what feels like 5 hours later, 4 layers on my legs, 5 layers on my feet, 5 layers on my upperbody, 1 on my hands, 1 on my neck and 1 on my head, I am finally ready to head out the door.

Truthfully, there is a serious art to putting on enough layers and not looking like an oros man. But, there is no getting ready in a hurry. No throwing on a dress and some sandals and heading out the door. A serious hack.

Making art

Other than the cold hands and, sometimes, cold legs sitting at my desk. It luckily hasn’t affected my ability to make art too much. I suppose the cold weather has probably been more of an advantage in this respect actually. With all the missioning to get ready and look presentable while also staying warm it is much easier to stay home at my desk in my studio and just work. It’s not just easier, I have been thoroughly enjoying it. The weather isn’t screaming “what a lovely day it is to be outside, site seeing”, which I could so easily get caught up in. My paper seems to like the weather too, no drooping sculptures from the humidity, so that’s been great. It has allowed me to be very productive, so cold weather for the win (well... fro my art sake).

Having said all this, today is very clearly not a good day away from home; I am missing the warm sun on my face, especially the winter sun, the one that warms you from the inside out (it just isn’t the same here). I miss the general warmth, but I do not miss the heat. I can at least be productive here; in temps above 40 degrees Celsius, like what my sister just experienced in Mozambique, there is just no functioning. So, Africa, you can keep those scorching days thanks. Generally, it all doesn’t bother me all the time; my five roses tea tastes better here, in the cold, and there is still nothing like getting cozy with my duvet. I am sure one would get used to the rest of the things the cold effects, I am going to have to; it hasn’t even snowed here yet and is set to get much colder in the coming month. Wish me luck.

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