It’s like the weather version of a dick-measuring contest and Americans are an easy target.
What the hell is wrong with us? Photo via Takhini Hot Springs Facebook
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 travelling, 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 -25 C with the windchill. Within a couple of minutes of 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 -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 each other 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 Williamsburg, texted me on a day that was -4 C, using it as excuse not to go out that night. Minus 4 is not even North Face jacket weather. You could still go for a run in -4 if you’re one of those performative fitness weirdos who does things like run outside. I swear there are some older Canadian men who would wear shorts in -4.
Then there was New Year’s Eve, which saw New York City drop to -12 C, 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 -42 C 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 coldsplain 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, looks like you do have a pretty shitty blizzard coming your way! Welcome!
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.