As I am writing this, I’ve just recovered from a bad cold (almost) and I’m making sure not to slip on ice whilst walking home from the library. I know it’s only mid-November, but winter started in late October.
As a person who’s been somewhat used to very cold winters in the past, the temperature drop didn’t really affect me. But the speed at which the temperature kept dropping did! Where I was born, really low temperatures hit around in January. But in Montreal, it snowed during the first full week of November and a -15 degrees Celsius was reached soon after.
Therefore, although I’m not an expert (yet, as I expect one year here will help me a bit) in winter preparations, I thought I’d share a few tips which I’ve learnt along the way. I would like to add that the most helpful advice I’ve gotten myself came from people who have lived in Montreal for a while and students previously on exchange here. So don’t hesitate to get in touch with someone who might help you!
First, clothing. I was really unsure of what I would need, especially since the general idea I got from other people was: IT IS VERY COLD. I was told to try Canada Goose, but honestly I didn’t want to pay around 1000 dollars (CAD) for a jacket without looking at other options. I was suggested different sports equipment shops, outlets and charity shops. Some of the ones I found were quite far away, so a trip of more than one hour didn’t seem worth it for me considering my school schedule. What helped the most was looking up different brand reviews online and deciding between feathers and synthetic materials. What may be a good indicator is that some brands will be able to tell you the temperature comfort zone of the jacket. I got a synthetic one which is supposed to help me stay warm at even -30 degrees Celsius and I haven’t had any issues with it yet.
Second, shoes. I didn’t actually pay that much attention to this part previous to coming here. But as soon as it started raining I realised that I need waterproof shoes and soon, boots. I just looked up lots of boots in shops around the Downtown area and tried a couple on before deciding. A good indicator would be some rubber parts (no water in the shoe, please) and warm interiors (which you should be able to tell when trying it on but you can also ask a sales assistant). My friend who’s been living in Montreal for a while now also suggested that the boots reach a bit higher than the ankle since snow levels can be quite high. Nevertheless, a boot reaching the knee would maybe be too warm when attending lectures, but that may be a personal preference.
Third, layers. Many people recommend layering up during winter. And I can agree to some extent. I’ve seen people getting thinner jackets but wearing several layers underneath. I opted for a better jacket so that I could give up a few layers and I’m glad I did. Nevertheless, warm sweaters, fleece sweaters, scarves and gloves are needed, especially the last 2. I would recommend getting some warm, waterproof gloves- best to warm your hands up rather than feeling cold all over.
Lastly, a few other things to consider are general points. I would pay attention to drinking warm drinks and generally, trying to not get a cold (which I did). Which reminds me, you may have to look up the names of medicines up. The medicine I usually get in Europe when I’m sick had a different name here, and I therefore left the first pharmacy feeling like I wasn’t going to find it. I just needed to google it. Also, try to get familiar with the health system of your exchange place- if it gets worse you should be able to access those resources. Next, this has to do a bit more with shoes, but be aware that although snow looked quite nice in the first few days, there was ice on the pavements soon after, which made it harder to walk around. I’m also going to point out that as of yet, it’s not that bad (maybe, again, this is a VERY personal opinion).
To sum things up, these are a few points I have after a month of colder weather. I’m assuming it will get worse which is why this shall probably be a part 1 post, so I’ll update this after a while. Happy winter!