What do Canadians call cold?

I've noticed in the last couple of days we are allowed to say it's cold. Before temperatures here hit -18C and below, every complaint from me was met with a confident, "This is nothing. Just you wait."
So what temperature does it have to fall below before Montrealers will call it cold?

I figure it's somewhere between -15C and -20C. A friend who works in daycare tells me they are allowed to send the kids outside until it drops below -15C so it would seem this is cold. For me it's less of a number and more of a collection of symptoms which make me think it's cold. For instance my nose contents froze yesterday when I was outside - not on a ten mile hike but WALKING TO THE CORNER OF THE STREET. That's cold.
Sometimes my coat freezes. It becomes weird and stiff at the bottom. The first time it did it I thought something was stuck to my coat.

Then sometimes when you are out jogging (I know I've already pigeon-holed myself as strange here) you lose feeling in a bit of your anatomy. A few days ago it was my right ear.
Then there is the kind of cold which makes your nose and eyes stream as soon as you step outside. This is my weak English system rebelling against Canadian winter. It is also the type of cold where you do not want to take off your mittens even for a second.
Talking of which they really do know their mittens here.

Felted mittens

They are mitten experts. Two friends have knitted me mittens in the last year and boy, are they warm. The first pair were felted wool (above) and the second something called thrummed mittens. (below)

Thrummed mittens

There is a whole mitten culture here. It's like being six again. I love it. It's only a matter of time till someone offers to pull me along the street on a sledge.
Winter also seems to bring out the toughness in your average Canadian. There is a ritual when you enter any Canadian household at this time of year which has all the intricacies of a Japanese tea ceremony. It is the removal of the boots, coats, mitts, scarves and hats. It takes a full ten minutes and is reversed on leaving the home. To the uninitiated it seems like excessive politeness as everyone who enters your home appears to be bowing to you. When I suggested we should provide a chair to aid guests one friend snapped, "A true Canadian can take their boots on and off while standing up." That's me told.

On the radio last night I heard Quebec City is -40C with windchill. I would call that cold. You?
PS There is a high of -22C today. I haven't been outside yet.
Things to do when it's cold.
-58C anyone? Read about cold in Canada.


  1. I hear the temperature here in Toronto will rise to 0 degrees within the next couple of days. Positively balmy! (Not barmy.)

    PS There's no such thing as a "sledge" in Canada. Toboggan, yes. Sled, okay (if you're Santa.) Sledge? You must be English.

  2. Maria
    That's it. I'm getting my bikini ready. Knew someone would bite with the sledge bit. Ha ha.

  3. I beg to differ with your guest. All houses in Canadia should be equipped with a vestibule, which should include a bench for taking boots on and off!
    Todd Richards, OAQ

  4. Yes I am coming round to this opinion myself. We are sadly lacking in this department with freezing stairs, overcramped boot tray,etc although it is fun to see folks hopping about on arrival. It is like some quaint Canadian dance.

  5. I love this, you have every detail "spot on".
    -10C? That's nothin. I consider -20C "cold". As it was Friday night in Toronto when I was walking without my "cold" layers of clothing. Could not feel legs after 20 minutes. Got dizzy. Forgot my name. Thank God for the nearby pub...

    This happens every year without fail yet we still love to complain and act with surprise when the wind whips every last bit of warmth from our skin for a few weeks in January. And as happens every year, it will warm up in a few weeks/months. Until then, the rituals remain necessary, and amusing (I'm a master of boot removal while standing).

    "...has all the intricacies of a Japanese tea ceremony." = brilliant!

  6. Nat
    This sounds like an elaborate excuse for going to the pub to me. Feeling dizzy, numb legs? That's usually on the way out of the pub isn't it?
    In English newsrooms up and down the land journalists have an expression for the annual incomprehension that it is cold. It takes the form of a fake headline: Snow in winter shocker.

  7. The coldest it gets in my part of BC is -14C and that is highly unusual. Not all of Canada is as cold as Montreal. I don't think I'd survive in Montreal in those temps!

  8. Sparkless
    Then you have the windchill or realfeel as they call it here. The temperature it actually feels - which usually makes it sound even more horrific. My friend doesn't believe in such new fangled ways. There is only one temperature to her. Windchill is for cissies.
    Keep cosy

  9. -22 was without the wind factor, -39 including it.

    Damn was it cold. At least it was not a humid day, so it's not that bad. But still, when your nostrils are stuck together at 7:30 in the morning when you're waiting for the bus, it's a rough start.

    And yes, we, Canuck, take big pride in the whole we-know-how-to-handle-winter thing. Including the boots part ;)

  10. You mean I can brag about going for a run in -39C. This is terrific news.

  11. You're so right - all that winter-wear ritual takes some getting used to. I get pretty excited about buying new mittens though. I had never heard of thrummed mittens before, but I do believe I need a pair now. My husband is obsessed with sledding, so -25C or not, free time = sledding time.

  12. Yes I've got one of those at home obsessed with XC skiing at night. Any snow fall is greeted with singing in our house. Thrummed mittens = warm hands, I can guarantee it.

  13. In my family, the line was it's so cold today, you'll freeze your pickle whatever pickle is.

    Loved this post. Howled at the frozen coat comment and the art of taking winter boots on and off. Thanks for sharing. Gave me my afternoon smile.

  14. Interesting about the pickle. I love expressions we all use and no-one knows where they come from. I just called our cat a daft ha'peth which means daft half penny worth. My Canadian husband thought I said you daft hairbrush!

  15. Hey Anne, guess what? You have just won a blogging award! I'd like to award you The Versatile Blogging Award. If you go to insearchofalifelessordinary.blogspot.com, you'll see what I mean in my latest post. Then you must pay forward the love. So congrats - I always enjoy reading your blog and am more than pleased to give you some blogging hugs! Cheers, Russell

  16. Wow thanks Russell. This makes up for you being in Australia where it is VERY hot. I forgive you.

  17. Oh yeah 0 is totally balmy! I have to say I am happy I'm missing winter this year and have just landed in Peru's summer, it's much more pleasant.

  18. Enjoy the heat! We're in the middle of a big snow storm today and it's
    -13C , the sort of day when I'm grateful I can work from home and actually don't have to go out. Another thing - it's windy. In Northern England it was often windy. Here it rarely is by comparison. Hence today it's -29C with windchill. Everyone must be on the Metro - there are no cars or people out there and it's 10am. It's so peaceful.

  19. I can't imagine dealing with that kind of extreme cold for such long periods of time!

    When I lived in the tropics in Indonesia and Africa I couldn't stand the hot sweaty weather and never feeling clean and always feeling sticky. I'll need something in between, but haven't found the right place yet. Too picky for words, I guess.

    Hang in there!

  20. Hi Anne, I was just dropping by to make sure all is well. Haven't read your tweets in a while. bye, Sol

  21. Sol
    All is very well here. Too well in fact. I have been travelling a lot in Quebec (it's big) and neglecting twitter and blog. Good news is I'll be blabbing on about my travels very soon with pics and video.
    how annoying that spellcheck tells me travelling has one "L". travelling, travelling, travelling. Take that.

  22. Anne, you'll have to try a prairie winter for a few weeks when the wind blows pretty much every day and the thermometer hits -40 without including the windchill. Love your blog by the way!


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