This article originally appeared on VICE Canada. Growing up in Vancouver, we never had snow days—it was never even cold enough for me to own a parka. The ocean generally keeps the city's temperatures from getting too hot or too cold, though in recent years things have gotten a little kooky out there.
Moving to Toronto was my first experience with a true Canadian winter. I came straight here from Guatemala, where I’d been traveling, so I got out of Pearson airport wearing only flip-flops. I’d lost my actual shoes on the last leg of the trip. It was mid January, and around negative 13 degrees with the windchill. Within a couple of minutes walking outside, my feet began to hurt. I almost stopped to take a photo of them in the snow, but I was genuinely concerned I was going to get frostbite. My toes burned for a week every time I took a shower.
Although I found Toronto to be pretty cold at times, I noticed that wasn’t a sentiment I could express without getting an unreasonable amount of bitter snark in return.
“You think THIS is cold? Try living in Ottawa. It’s negative 40.”
“Winnipeg is literally colder than Mars right now.”
“It’s snowing, so everyone in Toronto has forgotten how to drive.”
You get the idea.
This tendency to one-up one another based on how cold our respective hometowns are is uniquely Canadian. It’s like the weather version of a dick-measuring contest, and, until recently, I thought it was pretty fucking weird. Like, why are you bragging about how cold it is where you live? Being cold sucks. I would take Vancouver winters back any day, and calling me a little bitch baby won’t change my views on that.
But the past couple weeks, I’ve found myself cold-shaming others—namely, Americans who are seemingly just realizing that winter is cold. I spent the holidays in New York, and it was chilly, but nowhere near cold enough to warrant the level of hype I heard. “It’s dangerously cold outside,” my friend, who lives in Brooklyn, texted me on a day that was 24 degrees, using it as an excuse not to go out that night. Twenty-four degrees is not even North Face jacket weather. You could still go for a run in 24 degrees if you’re one of those performative fitness weirdos who do things like run outside. I swear there are some older Canadian men who would wear shorts in 24-degree weather.
Then there was New Year’s Eve, which saw New York City drop to ten degrees—the second-coldest ball drop ever, apparently. That’s not even a temperature most Canadians would think is worthy of screenshotting and posting on Twitter. Up here, we’re familiar with terms like “polar vortex,” and there are 20-year-anniversary stories about ice storms that left people without power for weeks. So you can understand why watching Anderson Cooper lay out his heated balaclava before going live from Times Square and reading headlines like “Deadly, Bone-Chilling Cold Grips Wide Swath of United States” feels a tad dramatic. Also, maybe y’all are handling this poorly because this is what you’re being advised to wear when it’s “cold AF.”
To be fair, it has been fucking freezing in parts of the US—Duluth, Minnesota, was around negative 43 degrees last week. (We’re with you, Duluth.)
But just when I start to feel sorry for you, I check my weather app, compare New York’s weather “advisory”* with Toronto’s “extreme cold warning,” and my empathy disappears. Allow me to cold-splain for a moment—an advisory or alert isn’t really shit. If you see a warning, that’s when you should start to be worried.
All this said, I think I’m starting to see the appeal of Canadians’ winter superiority complex—there’s not really any other upside to four months of absolute crap weather. And if you live in a city like Winnipeg or Ottawa that regularly gets dogged, maybe your winter “cred” is all you have over places like Toronto and Vancouver.
I’ve never been good at winter sports, but cold-shaming is one I can get into.
*I just checked the weather app, and sorry, New York, that does look like a pretty shitty blizzard! Welcome!
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