I wonder if this post will bust some stereotypes about Canadian winters. So, here goes!

Before I Moved:

Okay. I admit it. I fell for certain stereotypes about Canadian winters. Living in California for seven years after living in London didn’t help me to challenge those stereotypes. When I did tutor training, I watched this TED talk called The Danger of the Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I watched it again after I moved because I knew I was going to have experiences that challenged my preconceptions about Canada. What really resonates with me is how honest she is about the times she has fallen for the Single Story. She also talks about how she has been treated because other people had a Single Story in their minds. Here’s the video of The Danger of the Single Story below if you’re interested.

What I initially thought about Canadian Winters:

Okay, a disclaimer before I show these photos! It doesn’t help stereotypes to always have snow in memes when you’re talking about Canada!

Expectation of Canadian Winter
Source: Facebook

Cold right? It’s also funny!

Source: Buzzfeed

Okay. 5 degrees isn’t exactly shorts and sandals for me personally. I can go out wearing a down jacket and carrying a sweater with me just in case it gets colder. There was no need to layer up though. I was rather proud of myself for taking the garbage out in my hoodie at -10 degree weather during my quarantine period and I wasn’t even cold! My friends in California balked when I told them! I did think that winter was going to be constant sub-zero temperatures. My imagination told me I would need to layer up every time I go out, and that there would always be thick layers of snow. Boy, was I wrong! 😱 One good thing is that I have friends in Calgary who did tell me a bit about the winter before I moved. They didn’t tell me everything though, which I appreciated because I wanted to discover some things on my own. I knew about the need to layer up when it was subzero though. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on the subject. My friends talked about chinooks too but didn’t say too much about them. I learned more after moving. Read on to find out what I have learned so far this weird winter!

October Weather:

As many of you know, I arrived in Canada in mid-October. You can read my first impressions of Canadian winter in my following posts:

Flying Internationally and Locally during COVID-19

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 1

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 2

First Month Theme: Is This A Thing?

After I arrived, it snowed for 3 days straight! I was just pissed off that I couldn’t go out for a walk to enjoy it because I was in my mandatory quarantine period! I figured there would be more big snowfalls later on, BUT so far, there haven’t been any other snowfalls as big as that! If you have questions about driving in the snow, I can’t answer them right now. I made the decision to not drive this winter. First of all, I have to figure out the process of getting a driver’s license. It’s dependent on your immigration status. Second of all, the only time I drove in the snow was when I spent a Christmas at Yosemite. My plan is to get used to driving in Canada in the “summer” (such as it is)πŸ˜‚. That should give me time to learn about things I need to do before winter hits again.

November Weather:

After my Mum and I were done with quarantine, we had to pick something up at Best Buy. The guy who helped us noticed we had US government I.D. He welcomed us, asked where we moved from, and then asked how we liked the weather. I said it was beautiful! He said, “You like our weather? Wait 20 minutes.” Now I know that’s a common thing to say in Calgary. He ended up talking our ears off about the weather and climate in Calgary and Alberta! The main points were that he has seen it snow in July, and people sunbathing in November. This was the first time we found out that chinooks can give you migraines because of the sudden change in barometric pressure. I got him talking about the weather in Alberta when I told him about this reel I found on Instagram!

He said Lake Louise gets much deeper snow than Banff. I am hoping I can experience all of that and more in the winter soon! The snow that fell during my quarantine stayed for a long time, and we did get a bit more snow in the second week of November. Here are some more snowy November photos, but they weren’t taken all at once.

My favourite time was when I was taking a morning walk and the trees were covered in hoarfrost!

What I really love about Calgary is it’s sunny! I wasn’t expecting that as much because Calgary is 51 degrees North. It’s the same latitude as London and I would describe that city as anything but sunny. If the temperature is low, it doesn’t really have an effect on melting the snow. I was at the Co-op once and I saw this bit of clever advertising from Cal & Gary’s. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Later in the month, I was kind of curious why we weren’t getting as much snow as I thought we would. My Mum and I went through a rough time in late November. It would have been super nice to have had some snow to make things beautiful!

December Weather:

The month changed and I was still incredulous about the weather. Were we going to get snow soon? I felt like Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin is simply desperate for snow! I read this article about speedskaters practicing on a lake in Alberta, and I thought, “What?” There was no sign of it snowing in Calgary, much less the river freezing!

Then, I remembered that Calgary has its own microclimate that has actually been significant in its history. The Blackfoot and the MΓ©tis would hold gatherings where the Bow and Elbow rivers intersect. If you think about the rest of Alberta’s climate, you begin to understand why they chose this nice little microclimate!

In the first week of December, we had a chinook! I’m not kidding. I used to think they happened in the spring, but apparently, there were some warm temperatures around Canada that week. The temperature broke an 81-year old record. I heard that in general, Calgary gets 2 or 3 chinooks in a winter. Last year, I heard they got about six chinooks. I feel sorry for the people who get migraines! I personally don’t get migraines, but my Mum does. I get ear pressure though, which is pretty painful! During the chinook, I popped my ears and got a nosebleed. I kid you not, AccuWeather has a migraine monitor. I find it useful to look at even if I don’t get migraines because I can plan for ear pressure too. It did eventually snow, but it wasn’t a long snow shower. The overall temperature is colder now though.

Final Thoughts:

A friend of mine told me there are four seasons in Calgary: Almost Winter, Winter, After Winter and Roadworks. I would say after December’s chinook that we went from Almost Winter to Winter. There is a standing joke here about only being able to tell what the weather is going to be by looking out the window. Okay, I don’t really get it right now, so bear with me, please!

I got some weird questions about life in Canada during the winter after I moved. I never miss a chance to nicely tease my California friends for asking me those questions though! 😏 One of my theories for this weird winter is that I brought some California weather with me to hold us for a while! To my fellow Calgarians, you’re welcome!

I have learned not to say anything about future weather predictions, particularly for snow. No jinxing for me! Any time someone says we’re expecting some kind of weather, I say, “What are you talking about? What… (fill in the blank with either chinook or snowfall)?”

A Word on Canada Geese:

I thought when I moved here that the geese would have migrated and I would miss seeing them. Not true. There are still some geese here who haven’t flown south yet. Don’t believe me? The photos below were taken this month! The reason why I thought they would be gone was that in the movie Fly Away Home, they go south with the geese in late October.

I often take walks along the Elbow River, so I see geese congregating there before they fly south. What’s really strange is I hear them going south when it’s dark out, and I’ve only ever known them to be diurnal.

I love seeing the city wildlife here! I’m actually doing an Instagram series of photos and videos of what I see. Follow me @thirdculturekidcanΒ or follow my hashtagΒ #discoveringcalgarywildlife you can see them!

So, there you have my weird and wonderful Calgarian winter! What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. I really enjoyed this post! I felt like I was even in Canada. I also learned a new word today, chinook. Stay warm! I can imagine what your warm climate friends must be thinking πŸ˜‚

    1. Well thank you for stopping by with your high praise! 😊 And nice about the chinook. Apparently, not all languages have a word for chinook I learned, like Dutch for instance. Guess the word only appears in languages where the climate has them. My friends in California are reeling! Lol

  2. Welcome to Alberta, the province where snow can come in any month, also rain and thundersnow. I heard a clap of thunder up in Edmonton while driving to work in January. We can have snow that stays from September or grass as late as December 31. I recall one Christmas Day when my kids were younger and it was +12C and they played in the streets with their remote control cars. Normal weather is not normal here. Merry Christmas. Allan

    1. Hi Allan! That’s very informative. I’m coming to realize that everyone has a funny story about the weather here. Thanks for commenting and Merry Christmas to you too! πŸ™‚

  3. While I appreciate the novelty for you, snow leaves me cold πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Merry Christmas and may all your wintery dreams come true in 2021.

    1. I understand. Each to their own. I was born in the mountains so it’s never left me. Merry Christmas to you too and I hope you have a lovely 2021 πŸ˜ŠπŸ’– Thanks for commenting!

  4. Ha, glad winter in Calgary hasn’t exceeded your expectations! Always good to do research beforehand so you can prepare. But I guess there is no preparing for those chinooks!! By the way, Fly Away Home used to be one of my favourite movies when I was a kid.

    1. Yep. Research is key before moving to a new country! But after a while, you gotta experience it. Same here about Fly Away Home! I used to watch it all the time! Then I moved to London and we had a situation with the DVDs we brought from the US. Last night was the first time I had seen that movie in YEARS!! And I love the fact that Amy is a TCK and that they show some moments where she’s going through culture shock. I didn’t know what culture shock was or even what a TCK was when that movie came out, but I felt so connected to it! Thanks for commenting! 😊

      1. All this talk about Fly Away Home makes me want to re-watch it too. And yes, I can imagine that you’ve experienced culture shock a few times when moving to different countries. Hopefully you won’t experience that too much here in Canada!

      2. Thank you! I just woke up to the most incredible snow day I have ever seen and I feel so alive! Things like that make adjusting to a new country totally worth it! 😍😍

  5. Happy Winter Winteroseca! πŸ˜‰

    Before now, I didn’t know that weathers could cause migraines or nose bleed. Please take care, and maybe you can ask locals for healthy tips so the effects are minimized.

    Personal experience is the best teacher and following a single narrative is dangerous, even if we do fall victim occasionally.

    Perhaps Hollywood is the cradle of this single narrative, specifically of regions and continents.

    Cheers! And continue to have fun in Canada. The snow looks lovely and I got to learn about chinook today.

    1. Thank you! I am learning about all this so it’s cool. I definitely agree with you that Hollywood creates SO many stereotypes! It’s interesting because I was talking to someone I know who is Dutch and they said there isn’t a word for chinook in Dutch. I guess that word only appears in language when it’s in a climate that has them. You can’t tell me climate doesn’t influence culture!

  6. I enjoyed reading your post–interesting and refreshing πŸ™‚ I would love to experience a white winter without the cold and the chinooks. I guess I’d have to settle for a Hollywood film set πŸ™‚ The Cal & Gary’s ad is very clever and poetic.

    1. Thank you! I think you’re not going to get any better than Calgary with a snowy winter. Although, I wonder how much of the weirdness this year is due to climate change. I had to laugh at the Cal and Gary’s ad too! πŸ˜‚ Thanks for commenting! 😊

  7. As you’re learning Calgary’s weather is not typical. The first 2 jokes are probably from Winnipeg where I grew up. They get real winter and people in shorts except on the coldest days. Don’t worry you’ll see -30C in Calgary this winter. Then you’ll appreciate the Chinooks! Maggie

    1. Yep. Calgary’s like a hidden gem of a microclimate within a hidden gem of a country. I’ll be ready for both the -30 C and future chinooks. It’s a learning process on how to deal with them though. I can tell my Mum’s getting a migraine because she has Salonpas patches all over her forehead and neck! Thanks for commenting! πŸ™‚

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