Winter: London vs. Calgary

winter in calgary

I get so many questions about what winter has been like in Calgary compared to London, so I decided to write everything about it down. That way, if anyone asks me, I can be like, “See my blog post!”

Did You Know?

London and Calgary are both 52 degrees north. I’m not kidding. The fact they are both so different just shows me how our world is unique and beautiful! It hit me that I was going that far north again when I was flying from YVR to YYC. The plane was flying north for more than half the flight and I thought, “Okay, this is real!” So, what are the differences in winter between London and Calgary? Read on to find out!

Sunrise, Sunset:

I looked up differences between sunrise and sunset times in London and compared them to Calgary. It just seemed a little off compared to what I knew in London. The sun rises and sets a half-hour later in Calgary. It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma why that is if they are both 52 degrees north.

Before I moved to Calgary, I mentioned to a friend of mine here how I struggled with Seasonal Affective Disorder in London. My friend recommended buying special lightbulbs, aka SAD lights. It was like this moment in Legally Blonde.

I'm sorry. I just hallucinated.

How could I have grown up in London and NEVER found out about this?! I don’t think SAD lights are a thing there! Talk about a stiff upper lip. Lol.

During my quarantine period after moving here (see my Quarantine Diaries I and II), the clocks went back. There was no way I was waking up before 8 am! I then went to Canadian Tire (which I love more than Home Depot) and got some SAD lights. Voila! Cleared my fatigue right up!

As I got older in London, SAD got worse for me. It didn’t matter what I did (walks, Vitamin D, etc). Nothing worked. I got to the point I couldn’t stand another English winter and moved to Sunny California! My thing to say was, “Ask me if I miss London!” So, you can imagine how pissed off I was to know that the constant fatigue I felt in London could have been remedied with SAD lights!

Temperatures and Humidity:

Zero degrees Celsius in England? More like Absolute Zero. Yep, the humidity was such that I could feel the cold cut through me. I knew people in England who would buy cold-weather clothes from other countries because what they had in England was not sufficient. Don’t even get me started on shoes. When someone in England says it’s cold, believe it. I read Canada by Mike Myers, and he described the cold as bone-chilling. Okay, it says a lot if a Canadian describes English temperatures as bone-chilling. I knew people from other cold-weather climates think it was much colder in London than it actually was.

On the bright side, I became a big tea drinker. Nothing like a cup of tea to warm me from the inside out. No wonder that became a cultural thing! Here in Calgary, sometimes the heat in my apartment can be too much because it’s not humid. In London, it would be sheer bliss!

Dealing with Snow:

In February 2009, there was a massive snow dump of 8 inches in London (more in other parts). I kid you not, the city completely shut down. It was fun to get a couple of days off, but it made the UK look like a laughing stock to other countries. I mean, it’s not LA. You would expect the largest city above 50 degrees north to not shut down over a little snow, but it did. It snowed some more the following year and things were only slightly better.

That wasn’t even the whole story. People didn’t know how to shovel their front walk or said they wouldn’t do it because they were afraid of being sued for doing it wrong. So many people ended up in emergency rooms with broken bones because of it. My Mum ended up being one of them. She blamed herself because she didn’t grow up around snow. I don’t think she was to blame. It can happen to anyone. It’s even more likely if your country doesn’t handle snow properly. Our friends who were from northerly climates were the most sympathetic about what happened.

I reached the end of my rope with London when it came to snow. Plus, it knocked the confidence I had from living in snowy climates. Therefore, I was rather dubious about ever living in a snowy climate again. It took me a while to get my snow confidence in Calgary, but it did come back. If anything, I have learned more here than I did in other snowy climates, but that’s a whole other post. I will say this though, I wasn’t expecting to feel like hibernating when the temperatures were the lowest in February.

Staying Physically and Emotionally Healthy:

I didn’t know what it was like to be really sick with a cold or flu until I moved to London. After that, I just accepted the fact my immunity was bad. Even though I did everything I could to boost my immunity, it didn’t work. It wasn’t until I moved to California that I realized my body was feeling like it was constantly fighting infection. I don’t know what it was about England that made my immunity worse, but I know I wasn’t unusual. I knew other people who moved to England and felt it impacted their health. The most famous example is Srinivasa Ramanujan who died of tuberculosis after living in England. It’s not usually that extreme though and everyone is different. In contrast, I felt like my health got better in Calgary.

I have noticed big cultural differences in other factors like obtaining good quality fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods, and winter activities. It almost surprised me how good produce is readily available in Calgary. Plus, I feel like the level of food quality is higher overall than both the US and UK. Even though I haven’t participated in winter activities in Canada just yet, I am excited about doing so! I noticed that in London, there weren’t any activities that I could label as “winter activities” like they do in more Arctic climates. It makes me wonder how that impacts well-being too.

Overall, I would say that Calgary winter is much better for me. My tricks for combating SAD work. I have had to get my mind around the fact that it’s actually really sunny here. I don’t think I am really built for England. What do you think about what I said about my winter comparissons?

Author: winteroseca

I'm a Third Culture Kid who has lived in four different countries before and recently moved to Canada. Follow my blog about my life in Canada, plus expat life hacks and more!

18 thoughts on “Winter: London vs. Calgary”

  1. I have never been so cold in my entire life as November in Toronto or October in Scotland. When the winds howl, that humidity settles right into your boes. I would much rather experienc -30 here than 0 in a humid climate. Still do not see your posts in my Reader even though I refollowed. Allan

    1. I am with you there about -30 in Alberta. No more Londons for me! I also went to Scotland in October once so I agree with you! Thanks for commenting 😊

  2. An interesting and engaging article! Like your mother, I didn’t grow up around snow so I have no idea how to handle snow. I’ve never heard of SAD lights. It sounds like just what I need during the short daylight hours in the California winter πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you. I understand that. My Dad and I have had to give my Mum a lot of help with that, but she manages very well. If you ever visit Canada, you can get SAD lights at any Canadian Tire store. Don’t know how they would manage at customs though. Thanks for commenting 😊

  3. I guess we all have to try and find somewhere that suits us. It’s high humidity here in the Algarve too and I find the summers a real trial, but I love the place. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  4. This was a very interesting read! The winter in the Niagara region is much milder than the winter in Calgary but I still find it extremely cold because I had never experienced winter before but at the same time winter is honestly my favourite season. I love the cold, the snow and of course the warm drinks,

    1. I love that you have developed a love for winter living here :)! I don’t know if I would recommend spending a winter in London though. There’s a reason why TB is so prevalent in literature there. Lol. Btw, your comment went to my spam for some reason, which is why I couldn’t find it at first

  5. Ah yes, us Canadians have really embraced winter. It’s amazing how many winter activities and festivals there are. They provide good motivation to get outdoors. You just have to bundle up first. Glad to hear that you enjoyed your first winter in Calgary, and that was during the middle of the pandemic!

    1. Definitely! I was really surprised considering I didn’t see that in London. I would love to get out more next winter. I had to be careful because I haven’t qualified for healthcare yet and my health insurance didn’t cover COVID. Thanks for commenting 😊

  6. People in Calgary like to call it a dry cold. Which is great until the end of July when everything is brown because it hasn’t rained in weeks. Glad you like your first winter 😊

  7. That’s a lot of thought for one season. In Toronto, the situation seems a little better than further north but I still find the Canadian winter too long. Especially compared to the European countries where I have also lived. I agree about the humidity and the winter sunshine, these are two positive points of the Canadian winter.

    1. I get asked about winter in Calgary vs London all the time, so I have had a lot to think about. Well, anywhere south of England is going to have a shorter and better winter by comparison!

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