Surfing the Norwegian Winter

Updated: Feb 22, 2019

by Sandra Larriva

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Winter did not scare me when I moved to Norway. Having lived through seemingly endless blizzards in New York for nearly two decades, I felt ready. Then I relocated to Oslo and mother nature threw me a curveball: days were short (a full three hours and 21 minutes shorter on the shortest day of the year); sidewalks were dangerously slippery; good quality vegetables and fruits were scarce and pricey; the sun didn’t always show its face and once it set, streets became eerily empty.

I quickly learned that there are winters and then there are Norwegian vintre, but if you prepare for what mother nature has in store for you from December to February, you will not only survive this dark season, but actually enjoy it.

Here are some tips to help you surf through winter in Norway:

1) Slow down: If we change our perception about winter, we can give our mind and body a deserved break. Yes, winter is cold, dark and even quiet, but that’s not necessarily bad. Many animals hibernate in winter: their bodies slow down so much that some reach a near-death state. So bid your overachieving self farewell and go to bed earlier, do less and garner energies for the spring.

2) Nourish yourself: Did you know that what goes on in your gut affects your thoughts and emotions? As winter kicks in, you may notice that you have increasingly less energy and eventually even feel depressed. In order to give yourself the necessary fuel, avoid processed or refined products and focus on eating high-quality whole foods.

3) Rise with the sun: One plus of hitting the proverbial hay earlier is that you can rise sooner. If you don’t have a job to report to, a daily morning walk right around sunrise will do wonders for your mood and make your day seem longer.

4) Sweat it out: Hand in hand with diet, exercise is crucial when it comes to mental (and overall) health. Walk/bike instead of driving/riding public transport whenever possible. Also, try on a pair of skis; every Norwegian has one and when the season peaks, you’ll want to know how to use them.

5) Light it up: Natural or artificial, light will be your life source in winter. Investing in a good dawn initiation lamp will help you get you out of bed faster. Brightening up your living and working spaces will provide extra energy.

6) Share: In the thick of winter, when hitting snooze on your alarm clock or falling gracelessly on the icy sidewalk is your winter sport, you will start reevaluating your reasons for moving to Norway. Don’t let it get to this. Sharing your experience with others can help validate your feelings, find other ways to cope and get a support system.

7) Bundle up: Any Norwegian will tell you that when it comes to winter, wool is the key to success. Invest in wool underwear and socks, and a good insulating layer, and you’ll be several steps ahead.

8) Make it koselig: When it comes to interior decor, Norwegians are #1; they invest in their homes because, well, they’re in them a lot! In preparation for winter, make your home a space that you want to be in (get candles, light up the fireplace, wear a nice pair of ullsokker), invite friends and enjoy.

9) When in Rome: This may come as a shock to your system, quite literally, but Norwegians are big fans of ice swimming. For a vigorous wake-up, I would start with a cold shower (followed, of course, by a trip to the sauna) and then reassess.

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