Winter in California vs. Winter in Canada

For those of us who’ve grown up in California, we’re familiar with the less-than-severe weather conditions from December through February that we nevertheless refer to as winter. However, as a Canadian who has spent the winter of 2015-2016 in Toronto, Ontario (Canada), I can safely say there are quite a few differences between our mild version of winter in California and the more traditional winter that graces the “Great White North” during the colder months.

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Ironically, Californians freak out about weather conditions more than Canadians do, perhaps because they are less equipped to handle the elements than their neighbors to the north. As soon as it begins to rain, a new norm seems to take hold where everyone suddenly agrees to drive as slowly as possible, for fear of hydroplaning on the tiny amount of liquid that’s hitting the road. In Canada, however, a little rain (or more likely a few feet of snow) never stopped anyone from reaching their destination at a normal pace. They scrape the ice off their windshields, let the car heat up for a few minutes, and off they go, business as usual! Those Canadians are very stoic individuals, let me tell you.

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As a native Californian, I quickly came to realize come the first snowfall in October that I was not a cold-weather enthusiast. The coldest weather I’d ever endured growing up was probably around about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. So I was not pleased when the temperature would dip below 0. It was a new level of cold I had never experienced, and I did not enjoy it in the slightest. After the novelty of the snow angels and hot chocolates and cute winter clothes wore off, I was a miserable icicle and I just wanted to experience warmth again. And it is not a pleasant experience to have your nose hairs freeze the second you step outside. And never, ever, go outside with wet hair. It will freeze into chunks and break off. Not a good time.

There are also a few wardrobe differences. For example, the typical outfit of a California girl in January is a pair of thick leggings, some nice boot socks underneath Uggs, a puffy jacket, with a cute winter hat with a lil puff ball at the top. The Canadian wardrobe is perhaps a bit more extreme, as a thick winter coat is absolutely necessary so as not to freeze your ass off as you shiver and walk to class every morning. Also, a warm pair of water repellant boots are a must, with a thick pair of socks to prevent your toes from going numb (they usually do anyway). And if you forgot a pair of warm gloves, you are basically screwed. That cute hat that California girls wear as mostly a fashion statement is actually really important in Canada, as your ears will freeze and turn bright red if you let them go uncovered for more than a few minutes in the cold. While it is nice to wear winter clothes, it becomes a little bit of an annoying routine to put on and take off all of that extra clothing. Every time you go into a classroom, you have to take off your scarf, gloves, winter coat, and even sometimes unzip your boots if it was hot enough in the room.  

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Another important difference between winter in California and Canada is the amount of sunlight. While there is a higher percentage of gray and cloudy days during the winter months in California, there is definitely a much higher proportion of sun-less days in Canada. There was a sunny day maybe one day out of the week (if that), and coming from California, this really took a toll on my mood. The novelty of winter had worn off quickly, and I was cold, miserable, and I missed the warmth and the light that I was accustomed to as a California native. While many Canadians can experience something called a Seasonal Affective Disorder (whereby your mood is affected by the lack of sunlight), many simply become used to the gloomy weather, and aren’t too impacted by it. This, however, was not the case for me, which is a big part of the reason that I now go to UCSB instead of University of Toronto.

Despite my Canadian blood, I definitely identify more as a California girl, as this is where I grew up, and where I call home. Without contest, I by far prefer California winter, but there are still some perks to experiencing a traditional Canadian winter: I now greatly appreciate the sunny days that frequent the “wintry” months of December through February. While my peers complain about the lack of rainfall and gloomy days, I simply smile and bask in the sun as I lie on the beach in the middle of January.