In India, I have often been asked how we survive the cold in winter. Having cold winters is the norm for us over here, and that makes it hard to find the words to explain it.
The answer I usually give amounts to “well, we heat our houses, have windows and doors that don’t let the cold in (well, not too much of it), and have coats and boots which protect us from the cold when we go outside.
Having just come home from the cinema on a chilly night, I can tell you the statement above is a little idealistic. Here is what a cold winter in Switzerland is like.
First of all, sitting at my computer I can feel cold air around my hands when I type. It gets outright chilly when I reach for the mouse on my right, nearer to the window. Yes, I have double-glazing. No, the building isn’t very old – thirty years or so. Yes, the windows could do with some sticky foam around them to keep the draught out. Or I could at least fit curtains on my windows. Or pull the blinds down everywhere as soon as it gets dark enough.
But apart from that, I’m just normally dressed inside: trousers and a blouse or pullover. I tend to snuggle up in blankets more often than in summer, though.
Outside is a different story. People don’t stay outside unless they have to. If they do plan to stay outside (for work, walking, or any other good reason), they’ll make sure to put a few layers on, warm shoes and a serious coat. If they are skiing that’s another matter – we have ski-gear for the occasion.
But if you’re just going to work, you don’t want to turn up there with three pullovers or your ski-gear. It’s warm inside. It’s warm in busses and trains. It’s warm in cars too, if the trip is long enough for them to heat up (which isn’t the case with the 10 minutes or so it takes me to get to work or university).
So either you pile on layers for the journey, run the risk of finding yourself caught in a warm place and sweating, and having to peel everything off on arrival – or you just dress for work, put a big coat on and walk quickly.
That’s what I do, of course. Shiver my way to the car. Turn motor on, start driving (with gloves, the steering-wheel slips in cold hands). Wait for the temperature in the car to become bearable (a human body in a small closed space does heat it up a bit – especially when the motor is running), get out of the car, and shiver off from the car to the destination.
Repeat for return journey.
The point being: if the aim of your expedition is not to stay outside, you’re bound to be pretty cold outside. Shivers, nasty draughts where the coat lets them in, numb fingers, runny nose…
If I have a choice, I’d rather be too warm than too cold. That being said after having lived one year in a tropical country where I was too warm.
Oh yes, I almost forgot. As we heat our houses, we need our fridges the whole year around.