What Living in Norway taught me about Surviving Winter
Winter! Season of cosy (but not the hyper commercialisation of “hygge”!), snug times, introversion, warm drinks, comfort food, opportunity for more tacky decorations in our flat, winter walks and starlings. We might find it by noticing small things, the path of the sun, the changing landscapes and the moods around us.
For many, winter is HARD.
I have defo been there. I struggled so much with the weather when living in Norway. It owned me on every level (although i did live in Bergen, wettest city in Europe averaging 231 days of rain per year, much of it cold and/or mixed with slush and if you´re lucky, glimpses of sunshine to tease what could have been). I couldn't afford to jet off somewhere warm, but thankfully some amazing Norwegians taught me some of the best lessons in how to survive winter (We didn't call it “#hygge” though, fyi).
HERE'S MY TOP 10 TIPS FOR SURVIVING WINTER - NORWEGIAN STYLE!
Disclaimer: these are the lessons that made the most difference to my journey through challenging winters in Norway. Of course, i´m not the type to say “do this and you'll feel great!”. But perhaps it might offer someone some tips in how to make life more comfortable during winter.
A few 'koselig' words...
Before we begin, feel it's essential to note that most of these tips can be filed under the “Koselig” tag, and if there's one word you need to know in Norwegian, it's this one. English translation: cosy. It´s going to get you a lot of brownie points to drop this phrase in front of any Norwegian because essentially, if you can implement, or at least relate to “Koselig” or “kos” for short (but that also means a kind of, affectionate greeting-come hug- come “good vibe cocoon”.....) then you are well on your way to being celebrated as “being more Norwegian” (...they like that!)
Norwegians are excellent at the Koselig way of life, i guess, with the weather being as extreme as it is, they've had a lot of training and can create an environment of “aesthetically yet minimally cosy” at a moment's notice. They also have more time in general to invest in making things Koselig. Shorter working hours. More time for leisure. And so on. Koselig is a well honed art. And i´m tremendously grateful for all the friends that have immersed me in the practice of this Norwegian rite of passage. Side note: Koselig can be a mood, or a feeling, or a person. It´s complicated yet oh so simple.
Ready? Let's dive in.
1. THERMALS FOR THE WIN
Honestly, truly, i wear my thermals at any opportunity. They are literally the best! Finemann has nicknamed mine “the catsuit” and he knows i mean business when it comes to the point of the day when i change into them...to be honest, i´m often fantasising about putting the catsuit on as soon as i get home, whatever time of day! Thermals are my yoga clothing of choice for my home practice - although i´m not sure folks would appreciate me rolling up to teach in the old bobbly favourites tbh, as cosy as it would be….but really, they are game changers.
I used to think that people who wore thermals were unnecessarily “outdoorsy” and that they must feel very uncomfortable under their “proper” clothes. Oh, how wrong i was. They are versatile and comfortable and can you tell i am in praise of thermals? Luckily, mine were gifted to me (i think it's a standard thing in Norway, at least with my fam, to gift new “essentials” like this, more on that later), but if you´re on a budget, many of the high street stores have versions that do well! I'm not paid by anyone, as much as i wish, but you probably have an idea of where to go to get you some thermals!
And specifically, “wool underwear”.
Now, this could arguably go into the previous category, because if you have wool thermals then you are officially winning at life. I don't have wool thermals, but i defo own more wool than i ever did before i moved to Norway. I was so sick during my first winter, but everyone around me seemed so happy and comfortable, so i went on a mission asking “what's your secret?! How do you stay warm?!”. And when my pal Christine and subsequently many others answered “wool underwear”, i nearly choked - the idea of pants made of wool made me feel, well strange. And itchy. After a good chuckle or two, i learned that what they meant by under-wear is literally that - clothes you wear under-neath other clothes. Layers. And warm ones. Nature is the best teacher (always), and wool is certainly an excellent way to hold in heat. But if you can't manage wool underwear, getting small accessories can make a big difference - gloves, hats, scarves, socks, and so on.
Again, i was so very deprived from super-kos (cosyness) before Norway. Now, no sofa or bed is complete without a selection of blankets. Most of them gifted/inherited or acquired over the years, they are a super easy way to cosy up on winter days and nights. My fave desk position is literally embalmed in a blanket cocoon - layering them up underneath as well as over my legs and feet, and on colder days, adding a hot water bottle too, shifting it from feet to thighs intermittently - YES BABES! Cosy times!
4. AMPLE FOOTWEAR
Again, i was ignorant and oblivious to what cold actually was before i moved to Norway. I had it easy in Brighton, where it's pretty mild all year round (really UK folks, we rarely have any idea of what cold is over here!). My fake leather shoes and boots that were gashed up with holes in did me no good. Neither did my horribly cheap and condom-smelling wellies that were no better than me walking around with just plastic bags covering my feet - in fact, i think the latter would have been warmer.
Investing in good footwear is essential, 'cause your feet are important! I used to cringe at the idea of ever wearing ugg boots (sorry if you´re reading this and wear them- i bow to you and your all-knowing wisdom of the cosy, i was so very very wrong). Of course, i could never afford uggs, but luckily for me my cousin had a wrong size delivered and gave them to me, but because of my ridiculous shame around them, they sat in the cupboard for two years whilst i was in Norway - whatever was i thinking?!! Finally one day i dug them out amidst one of many moves and - honestly - i´d never experienced what it was to have warm feet in Norway until then. It was heaven. And i really wish i was being paid to write this...uggs and other hairy warm shoes, hit me up! Anyway. The point: get some warm shoes! (not sponsored)
I've always been a sucker for fairy lights and candles. Norwegians treat candles like a very beautiful ritual. Tea lights are literally in every household and somehow aligned just so, it's an art. They're rarely fans of coloured lighting, but come particular times of year - namely Jul (xmas) and Easter, they go for it - winter being purple, for their advent candles, and easter: yellow. Although I never really understood why purple for advent (hit me up if you have the answer to that one!). Light can be a nice symbol of hope in darkness i think. Just don´t burn the carpet/house down!
6. A GOOD COAT
Again, i failed at this in my first year in Norway. I had bird/swine/goat- and whatever else was going around -flu, which was simply awful, and a friend came to visit from the UK who invests in a new coat every year (this was all new information for me, for i get a coat when mine is literally falling to bits...so much to learn dionne…so much to learn) anyway. Norwegians tend to update their wardrobes regularly, especially outerwear. They have the latest ski clothing, and it's all so very trendy. Same with boots and coats. I get it. You really need it there. Perhaps not every season, but it's worth the investment at least once i realise. Again, i'm not in the camp of being able to afford that, but there are ways around it. I managed to find some big wool coats in thrift stores, so if you´re on a budget that´s a good place to start to stay warm and cosy in the winter.
7. COD LIVER OIL
Had never taken it before (only force fed the liquid as child and crying because it tasted so gross) so i wasn't the most accommodating student when it came to this one. But i think it helped. I now take krill oil, but find your own suppliments, vitamins and minerals that work for you.
8. THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS BAD WEATHER, JUST BAD CLOTHING
I would always scoff when hearing this, (to be honest, sometimes i still do) but bearing in mind all the advice i acquired above, i realised it was, and is, in fact, true. Although, even after all the years experiencing Norwegian winters, it´s something i struggle with the most...and there´s a video of my mood when faced with one of many winter storms in Bergen, here::::::
9. GETTING SOCIAL - AS MUCH AS YOU MAY WANT TO HIBERNATE
This was a challenge in itself as as much as i wanted to hibernate, it simply wasn't possible. Luckily i was teaching all over town most days which got me out and about, often trying to talk to strangers despite all the weird looks i got (that's a whole other chapter) but really and truly, getting yourself outside (and wrapped up) is probably a good idea to shift your state.
It's not about getting everything i've listed above in order to survive winter, it´s just choosing the things that suit you and make a difference in your life that feel warm, supportive and cosy.
And inspired by this list i thought i'd add one more thing to it - yoga! So i made a restorative practice for you to enjoy in the spirit of getting cosy, softening and being tender with yourself::::::
Thanks to my dear Norwegian friends who have helped me over the years!
If you have any more suggestions for this list, feel free to add them below!
May you stay Koselig, warm, healthy and happy during the dark winter days and above all else, remember spring is getting closer every day!