When Fulera Dikki came to Canada last September, she was anticipating the worst about what the cold would feel like – even though it wasn’t winter yet.
Dikki, who came to Canada from the northern part of Nigeria to study human resource management at the University of Regina, had been told that Canada was cold throughout the year prior to arriving.
“I was so scared. I was really expecting the worst,” recalls Dikki. “When I landed, as God would have it, the day I landed was not too bad because the weather was a little bit mild.”
She was suspecting that when she went outside, she would freeze. She found it surprising that when the snow started falling, it wasn’t as cold as she thought.
“There was a particular day that I took it for granted and I really suffered. I almost had frostbite. It was minus 37. It was really, really very cold. I learned my lesson.”
“But the cold set in,” she remembers. “There was a particular day that I took it for granted and I really suffered. I almost had frostbite. It was minus 37. It was really, really very cold. I learned my lesson. Anytime I’m going out, I cover myself properly.”
Dikki’s nine-year-old son Moses came to Regina recently. Although the snowfall is not expected for a while, Moses is excited and can’t wait until he experiences his first winter in Canada.
His mother prepared him for winter by getting him a thick winter jacket and boots because she didn’t want him to have the same shock she had when the cold weather arrives.
“The jacket is still hanging in the closet,” notes Dikki.
“I expect snow will be really cold. I want it to be cold because I’m hot,” Moses says.
He wants to go ice-skating and make snowmen and snow angels.
“Life in Canada is fun. I’ve made lots of friends,” he adds.
Getting newcomers ready
Julia Hardy of the Regina Immigrant Women Centre is ready to help newcomers who have yet to experience their first winter.
“We have some donations of winter clothing that we can share with clients,” says Hardy. “We teach them about keeping warm and the clothing that they will need, how to prepare their car and what to have in an emergency kit, where to get weather and road information, how to weather proof their homes.”
Upcoming workshops will be posted on the centre’s website.
The response from clients has been positive, notes Hardy, explaining those who attend regularly seem to settle down faster.
Many newcomers, for example, do not know about the wind chill factor.
The Newcomer Welcome Centre with Regina Open Door Society also provides helpful classes on how to prepare for the winter season.
Some information the centre provides includes how to shop for thick, down-fill jackets, proper water-resistant boots, toques, mittens, scarves and even ski pants.
The workshops also talk about how to dress in layers and how to interpret weather temperatures.
Many newcomers, for example, do not know about the wind chill factor. This is when even though the weather reports say it is -20 C, it actually feels like -30 C.
Also, sundogs are deceiving for new immigrants. This is when it looks like the weather is warm out with a sun and rainbow, but actually it means the weather is extremely cold.
Other signs that the weather is very cold include when your nostril hairs freeze quickly or when the snow makes a crunching sound as you walk.
Quelling fears of winter
Montreal’s Assistance Crossroads for Newcomers (Carrefour d’Aide aux Nouveaux Arrivants) will hold its information session on winter preparation November 4 at 6 p.m. at Café de DA (545, rue Fleury Est).
“They marvel temperature variations, they express their fears of slipping, and they wonder if it is possible to die!”
“It’s been more than seven years that we offer this information session,” says the centre’s assistant director Audrey Mailloux. “We gave the session four times last year (at our organization in a local library with a high immigrant concentration and twice in a university). In all, over 140 people showed up.”
She advises people to register beforehand for the French session. However, if people don’t speak French, they can ask for a volunteer to translate the session.
Aside from the usual tips on how to dress, where to look for appropriate clothing, they also learn about heating bills, rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, what to eat to maintain a healthy immune system and activities they can do in the winter in Montreal.
“Usually people ask details of the types of clothing to wear,” explains Mailloux. “They marvel temperature variations, they express their fears of slipping, and they wonder if it is possible to die!”
Florence Hwang is a Saskatchewan-based freelance writer. She is a media librarian who loves storytelling. She has written for La Source newspaper, CBC Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Folklore and South Asian Post.