That's right. In the middle of my third Norwegian winter, I'm ready to call myself a pro. (Which is a little ridiculous, but let's go with it anyway. It's my blog.) A couple of my closest friends recently moved from sunny, drought-addled California to Malmö, Sweden. In January. (What, are they nuts?) So, I thought I'd pass along some of my hard-earned California-expat-in-the-far-north wisdom and make their transition easier. Hopefully, it helps you, too!
Candles: Tapers, sticks, votives, pillars... you'll want them all. They fight the darkness and make life instantly more cozy. That said, cheap candles burn more quickly, so you'll want to begin paying attention to how much you're spending on candles in relation to how long they burn. I'm not exaggerating when I say that, for basically the whole month of December, I've got at least one candle glowing in my house. We've discovered that at least one Norwegian brand will burn three times longer than the rest, and though they are twice as expensive, we still save money in the end. (This took us two years to realize. Slow learners on the slow burners.)
Dry Skin: Holy Dead Flakes, Batman! Winter makes your skin dry out! Two things. Chapstick This is an easy sell for the ladies. Most of us have this on hand anyway. But our men aren't crazy about smearing waxy stuff on their lips, so the amount of chapping can be severe, particularly for lips uninitiated to the cold. This makes them a fraction less kissable. Unscented Burt's Bees chapstick works well for us. Carmex is also an option. Moisturizer I also recommend that you invest in some excellent moisturizer and add it to your routine every time you wash your face (and/or exfoliate). I use mine year-round, but that's addiction. Clinique Youth Surge with 15 SPF is my preference.
It rains a lot in Scandinavia
all year long, but it's worst in the wintertime. Okay, "worst" is relative. Winter is darker, colder, and when rain fails to become snow--as was the case this winter, the warmest in 40 years--the darkness can be soul-crushing. That's why having waterproof shoes/boots is important! I like my
for seriously rainy days. Jonathan has his hiking boots, which are comfortable enough to wear to work. (Office dress codes in Norway are pretty darn casual!) I also have a pair of GorTex trail-runners which I wear for longer walks in the wetness. When the snow comes and begins to accumulate on the ground, I switch over to my fleece-lined North Face boots. Fully insulated. Zippered, because there are few things less enjoyable than knotting or unknotting soggy shoelaces with frozen fingers.
Walking on the Ice: Employing the Norwegian penguin-walk is essential, but hard, at least the first winter, because you know how stupid you look. It gets easier in time because, well, the only thing stupider than the penguin-walk is falling flat on the ice like Bambi. Been there. It's less cute when I do it, believe it or not. Anyway, when the ice gets bad (thick, black, ungraveled and unsalted), I cave and wear the old-lady slip-on cleat-things over my winter boots and/or trail runners. It's a survival thing.
Cafe Blankets: You'll see these everywhere in Scandinavia. People here like to sit outside when it's frrrrrreeeeezing, so cafes supply them. They are cheap, small, colorful. And it's wonderful to have a couple on-hand in your home, for yourself and/or for guests. And/or for cats.