Braving the Cold in Scandinavia (and how I learnt the hard way)

So we’re in the first few days of February in Costa del Copenhagen and by God it is cold. I don’t mean Glasgow-horizontal-rain-and-wind cold. I mean cold; and the worst thing is: this isn’t even the coldest part of Scandinavia (sending prayers to my friends in Norway, Sweden, and Finland).

However, Scandinavia is absolutely geared up for the extreme winters. You won’t find single glazing here. Buses are always on time, so you’re never left waiting for long and all public transport runs 24 hours. Considering the cold lasts until at least March, this is absolutely a necessity.


Snow in early November is normal here.

The Danes have a saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. It was a motto I quickly learnt to stick to during nights out, as it became almost impossible to last 5 minutes outside without a thick coat.

The best advice I can give you? Layers. Initially, my vain self was concerned about how chubby I looked, but that was thrown out the window as soon as I had to start biking to campus in freezing temperatures. Leggings under jeans and two jumpers are everything.

As if the cold weather wasn’t depressing enough. In December, the sun sets as early at 3:30pm, which really sets a fitting tone for exam season. This is why the Danes invented hygge, and why us expats experiencing the harsh winter for the first time must adopt this mindset.

Hygge is basically the creation of a cosy environment. Most often, socialising with your friends in a living room with some blankets, candles, and wine. Not groundbreaking, I know, but it really does make these long winter months considerably more bearable.


A Hygge of sorts

Just to put things in perspective, I went to Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in early December (highly recommend by the way), and had to spend an hour queuing outside the arena because I was too excited to restrain myself and stay in the warmth of my hotel a little longer. I was as layered as I could be. Hat, scarf, gloves, and two pairs of socks type of layered. It was -1℃, but the apple weather app said it ‘felt like’  -4℃. That was a lie. It was at least -8℃ and within 10 minutes I couldn’t feel my fingers at all- the gloves were useless. 15 minutes in, I bought a burrito just so my hands could hold something warm. The guy at the stand took pity in the fact I was unable to stop shaking and turned his electric heater to face me. I was quite obviously not from Scandinavia. 40 minutes in, I called my friend and made him tell me every single detail of his day just to get my mind off the cold. 55 minutes in, I started seriously contemplating asking for medical help as I’d convinced myself I had hypothermia. Then 5 minutes later they let us inside where heating exists so I was fine, and then I met Conan O’Brien so all worth it in my opinion! But that experience definitely taught me that you can never be too wrapped up.


Me and my burrito, contemplating why I’m still outside


We’re both very pale















As always, if you have any questions, feel free to get hold of me in any of the following ways:



Here’s a link to a video I made documenting my first semester in Denmark featuring the most amazing hike above the Fjords in Norway.


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