Brits in a Cold Climate

It’s all about layering. (ChillyLarry.com)

I was raised in the frozen tundra of North East England. Icy Scandinavian winds came howling in from the North Sea, stinging my cheeks and making my two-bus journey to school a misery in winter. Cold? I didn’t even know the meaning of the word.

Here in the upper section of the U.S. it gets cold. Nothing in the UK even comes close. (Okay, I haven’t experienced a winter in the Outer Hebrides, but I can’t think it would compare.) Unless it’s to ski, I usually caution my British friends against coming here any time between late November and late March, as it can be brutal. Your average British outerwear just doesn’t cut the mustard, I’m afraid.

Temperatures in the Midwest usually hover well below freezing for most of the season, with averages in Minnesota, for example, between 6 and 16 Fahrenheit (that’s -14 and -8 Celsius respectively.) The lowest recorded temperature in the state is -60 Fahrenheit, which is an unimaginable -51Celsius. (How people live there is beyond me, by the way.)

When it’s winter in the Midwest, the hairs in your nostrils freeze. Yes, you read that correctly. At first I didn’t know what was happening as it’s a strange sensation, but you get used to it. Your eyes water with the wind and the cold and sometimes, those tears also freeze. In general however, we go around wearing butt ugly hats and scarves wrapped tightly around our mouths. The resulting fogged up sunglasses can be a problem but hey – it’s all a blanket of white anyway.

Our coats are basically huge quilts with zippers, and below them you’ll see Sherpa like snow boots. Anything higher than a two-inch heel has you teetering and falling all over the place. Fashion has no place in the Midwest between December and March, ladies.

Even the dogs don’t escape. Pooches everywhere suffer from sore paws, as the streets and roads are often heavily salted. Big burly dogs suffer the ultimate indignity of having to wear – dog booties. Don’t even get me started on how you’re supposed to get them on the dog’s feet, except to say it should be an Olympic event. It’s more work than putting a fitted sheet on a top bunk and my pooch was having none of it last year.

How are you surviving the cold?

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Toni Hargis

Toni Summers Hargis is a Brit who has lived in the USA since 1990. She currently lives in Chicago with her husband and children and writes about US/UK matters when not putting out domestic fires. Toni blogs as Expat Mum and is the author of Rules, Britannia - An Insider's Guide to Life in the United Kingdom, (St. Martin's Press). She has made frequent appearances on radio and TV explaining British things to Americans.

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