Dear People Immigrating To Ottawa, Canada, From Warm Climates:
I am writing this because every year, as fall turns to winter, I see lots of people in the halls and at the bus stops huddling, hands in pockets, looking vaguely shocked, shivering and very badly underdressed for the weather. I’ve been meaning to say this for some time, so let me say it now: welcome to Ottawa, I hope that you enjoy your stay, I believe it to be a very nice city, in many respects and most of the time. However, there are a few things that you should know if you’re planning on staying here for any length of time, double-especially if you’re staying over the winter months.
You see, the winters here are cold. They are not cold in the way you might believe “cold” to work – they are far, far colder than that. There’s a good chance that your heaviest jacket is what I would call a windbreaker – that is, something that I’d only wear in the spring, or possibly in late summer.
If it does not snow in your country, and that snow does not stay on the ground and pile up, you are not currently equipped for this climate.
When you get here, you will probably need to buy two coats; one heavy fall/winter jacket, and one jacket that just seems huge and heavy and absurd, like humans can’t possibly live in climates where clothing like that is necessary.
I am not telling you this to scare you away; this is the reality of the situation. Canadian winters, especially in the Ottawa valley, are long and cold. You will need good gloves, and you will need good boots, and you will need a toque.
That second jacket I describe, you’ll need that because every year we get two to four weeks, typically between mid-January and the beginning of March, that are colder than anything you have ever experienced in your life, ever. Forty-five degrees below zero, with the wind chill, is not unheard-of. Thirty-five below is not even unusual. The weather reports, during those periods, will describe the cold the way overexposure to sun is described in the summertime; not in degrees, but in the number of minutes that exposed skin can remain exposed to the elements and not be permanently damaged.
This is not a joke, and it is not an exaggeration: it is the truth. When you arrive in my country, I urge you to befriend a local and ask them what kind of winter clothing you will need, and to pick that stuff up before the winter starts in earnest. Which is usually around now, November.
Other than that, make yourself at home. Try learning to skate on the Rideau Canal, it’s a lot of fun.