We’ve had a couple weeks of unusually cold weather for these parts now…and by "unusually cold" I’m talking about temperatures consistently in the mid- to high-20’s…occasionally dipping down as low as the teens (Fahrenheit) overnight. And if you’ve just read those numbers and are thinking to yourself, "Shazzer thinks that’s cold? WTF?!" you’re not alone. I’m mystified by it, too!
Before coming to Sweden I lived in northwestern Indiana, where daytime temperatures were routinely in the teens and 20’s in January and February. It was also fairly common for our area to get hit with an arctic blast of cold air from Canada at least once or twice each winter, pushing the temps down into single and even negative digits for a couple days at a time. So it’s not as if I don’t know REAL cold. I do.
So how the hell did moving to Scandinavia turn me into a cold-weather weenie?? I mean, here I am, living as far north as I ever have in my life (latitude 55° 36′, to be specific), and I think anything below freezing is "unusually cold"? What’s wrong with this picture?!
Part of it has to do with years of (inaccurate, as it turns out) cultural education that taught me (along with many other Americans) that Sweden is a winter wonderland for at least 10 months out of the year. And in the very northern parts of the country, there is a small element of truth to that perception.
But here on the south coast (AKA the Swedish Riviera) it’s MUCH milder thanks to the North Atlantic Drift, an extension of the Gulf Stream that makes the climate much milder than one would expect at this latitude. Consequently, average temperatures in the winter tend to hang out in the low to mid-30’s during the day, which is why any amount of snow that stays on the ground for more than a day or two is such a treat.
So the other day I was talking to my pal Nicole (she of the forever-cherished public toilet advice) about my transformation into a cold-weather wimp in just four Nordic winters…and suddenly I knew the reason why.
Back in Indiana it was pretty easy to think that 25 degrees "isn’t all that cold" when your only experience of it is the time it takes to walk from your front door to the car, or your car to the office, Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, etc. But that same temperature takes on a whole different feel when you’re out walking, biking or waiting in it for 20, 30 or 45 minutes at a clip, a couple times a day, at least five days a week…which is the case not only for me but for most of the people I know.
So I’m not a cold-weather weenie after all. Cold-weather WARRIOR is more like it.