I was thinking to myself while watching the last storm roll into New York City: What makes a good winter in America? For someone who comes from a city where winter means maybe a light coat, winter was all very new, so here are my top 5 tips for surviving a colder winter than you're probably used to.
You can hold off as much as you'd like but I guarantee the winter is more enjoyable with the right equipment so that leads me to #1:
1. You need to buy a good winter coat
If I can give only one tip about choosing a coat, it’s that you shouldn’t get the cheapest one when you pick one. I did in my first year saying to myself “save some money where you can” and it was a disaster. That all being said, you don't have to buy the fanciest either, but be sure to not buy something that cheaps out on materials where you can.
Get a woolen coat or a wool-cashmere coat if you’re going for layers, or if you’re headed down the parka path then look for something with a high quality down that has a “fill power” of 500+ (I have no idea what the number means but 500 seems like the magic number).
Be sure to try it on in person, or use a service where you can return it if it doesn’t fit because you’re going to be wearing this thing almost every day and you want it to be functional (and look good).
You should also practice taking it off and putting it back on, over and over, because you'll be doing that all the time as well.
Secondary to a good quality winter coat, you also need to buy a few other things:
THERMALS (do it) – I could write (and have) endless articles about the benefits of thermals underneath your clothes and I will emphasize it again. Boots and gloves are right behind thermals (or probably on the same level if I'm honest). In fact, I wrote a whole other article about how to dress for winter, here that you should read because it's going to save your happiness and sanity.
2. Plan ahead, everything is going to take more time
If you're going outside for any reason, whether it's to get outside because you miss the fresh air, to meet with friends at a bar, or just because you need to take the dog for a walk, it's going to take you longer to get even a few steps (especially if you've never done this before).
Assume everything will take 100% more time than it used to when you're trying to get anywhere (whether it be in a car or on foot or on public transport).
Leave early, walk slowly (see below), and plan for everyone to be delayed.
3. Get your apartment good and ready
This winter you're going to be inside staying warm in your own apartment a lot. For that reason, you want to make sure that everything is working and is optimized for the incoming cooler temperatures.
Turn on your radiators, check everything activates and deactivates when you want it to, and turn your thermostat up or down (if you're lucky enough to have one) just to make sure everything is working.
In many cases, your heat may not be on just yet which would explain why turning the knob on a radiator doesn't do anything, but you can still ensure that everything twists and turns like it's meant to in advance.
Look into “winterizing” your apartment which basically means to do all these things, but most importantly your landlord will probably have to flick a few switches to make sure you're on winter mode!
If you can, take your A/C unit out of the window if you have one there, and turn your fans to reverse. Read more here about getting your apartment ready for winter, and why you should do these things!
4. Know how to walk properly and what to avoid outside
See that shallow puddle? It's not shallow, you will be lost in there for weeks. Don't test out your new waterproof boots from above by jumping in puddles because it will end in disaster, wet feet, and very wet boots.
Snow turns to slush FAST in a city, so you need to be ready for this. It’s equal parts slippery and gross. If you’re having a lot of trouble walking on it, take smaller steps and walk like a penguin with your weight over your front foot, that’ll help you from looking like an amateur and slipping onto your butt.
When you walk into buildings, be ready for the heating to be set to super-melt-everything. When you walk into stores, it’s going to be like you just arrived in the Bahamas, and it takes some getting used to. I walk quickly and when I arrive at meetings all rugged up, I look like I’m about to sweat through my suit.
Josh’s tip: Walk slower as you get closer to your destination and start to undress your beanie and your scarf because then you cool down before entering the toastie oven.
Avoid going out in blizzards, and adhere to the warnings that your weather app gives you (I can recommend Darky Sky and AccuWeather for the most accurate readouts. This one really should be self-explanatory but if it’s really gross outside, stay inside as much as possible and send me emails with pictures of you experiencing your first snow: [email protected].
5. Be kind to others and reach out if you need help
Tip your delivery people more (they're trudging through all that slush just for you – here's my guide to tipping and here's my guide to tipping the staff in your building for the holidays), say hello to the people in your building, keep the volume down for your neighbors. All of this will go to making everyone's winter a good one, including yours!
Most importantly though, keep your spirits up by engaging with communities online and wherever you can find them. Winter is a tough time for everyone, especially if you're new or without a good network of close friends to call in on. It's going to be tough this year to socially distance AND keep engaged so be sure to send me an email if you need someone to chat to, or comment below.
We're all in this together!