How to Survive Winter (Coming from Someone Who Survived Their Last One in Finland)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

If you had asked me what I thought about winter two years ago, I would have been a girl version of the Grumpy Cat: I. Hate. It. I thought it was pointlessly cold, pointlessly unpleasant and just... well, pointless.

But then again, you could say I was a bit of an ignorant when it comes to winter. I neglected proper clothing for the sake of looks, and I pretty much didn't behave as if it's really cold. That's why I loathed winter: I didn't know it. So when I was forced to spend a winter in Finland, I got to know it. Really know it. And having spent winter there made me realize two things: winter in Belgrade, or pretty much anywhere else in continental Europe, is nothing compared to the one in Scandinavia; and it was good that I had to spend it there, because now I know all the do's and don'ts. Today I'm sharing them with you.

For the first couple of years in Belgrade I had a really nice black winter coat. Except that it wasn't really a winter coat. It was lovely, and elegant, and I felt like a grown-up in it. (Don't underestimate the power of that feeling when you're 19.) I also felt like being in the North Pole. Sure it was beautiful, but it did nothing to protect me from the cold! And I didn't want to admit that until I bought a winter jacket that made me feel like a bear. Because I looked like one! But I wasn't freezing anymore, and it felt beyond great. I was finally able to run errands in January without wanting to die if I'd spend more than 5 minutes outside. Trust me, it was a very big step for me: admitting that functionality is actually more important than looks. And it should be for you too.

In Finland I went even further, and bought a winter hat. It was silly and looked awful, but it was made out of wool and faux fur and I probably wouldn't have survived without it. Plus, I would have looked sillier and more awful with a bare head. It's just NOT something you do in -26 degrees Celsius.

And layers. Don't forget the layers. When I was a kid, I loathed tights, but now I was actually happy to wear them all the time, because they made me warm! I also regularly wore a shirt under a sweater. That just wasn't my style before (if you can call this bear-look a style anyway), but last winter I was all like "hmmm what else can I wear with this / under this / on top of this?". And it worked. Once you realize that you CAN be warm in this awful weather, you become addicted. All you need to do is make a decision - and that's why Finland was good, because there I kinda didn't have a choice - it's a bunch of clothes or death. No joke.

If you still think it's more important to look good, ok. I don't judge, I was there. But you could just try and make yourself warm once - and then see if it's worth sticking to. ;)

Oh, and don't forget appropriate shoes/boots. They're EVERYTHING. You need a good pair of winter boots that will keep your feet both dry and warm. Don't settle for a cheap pair that doesn't do either of the two.

Hopefully you'll never see me dressed like this again - this is just an illustration of the amount of EVERYTHING I had on me. I had gloves too, but you cannot really let a reindeer lick you with gloves. 

I'm pretty annoyed that it gets dark here around 4.30 PM already, but then I think back of last year, when we actually had around 4-5 hours of daylight per day. And I wasn't even there for most of December, so it was even worse - luckily, I missed that part. Weekends were the worst - if I had gone out the night before, I would have woken up around noon, and by the time I'd have my coffee and breakfast and check my social media - it was already getting dark! Awful.

Back in Finland I struggled with this (and the overall gloominess and almost depression) by taking vitamin D. It really helped and I was so grateful! Here in Holland it's the same as back home, so it's not something unheard of - it's just not that great. That's why I try to wake up early. Ok, it's not early in absolute terms - it's 9ish - but I would love to wake up even earlier, it's just that it requires going to bed earlier as well, and I haven't mastered that yet. I also try to actually get out in the daylight - it might be cold, but our bodies need that light. Luckily, I have uni every day. Did I just say luckily?! Well, nevermind. Go out. Even for a quick stroll of 15 minutes, but do it. Everybody has time for that. And definitely try to align your daily schedule with the daylight. It just feels awful when you wake up to the sunset, doesn't it?

Coffee, Tea and Everything Nice
I usually start my day with coffee with milk, it's a habit at least seven years old and a very loved one. I also have one cup in the afternoon and during spring and summer, it's usually the only drink except water I have. But come October, and I'm crazy about tea! Actually, as I type this, I'm drinking a cup of lemon and ginger tea. I make a winter stock of different kinds of tea and drink at least one cup in the evening (but it's usually two - a delicious one, like this lemon and ginger or rooibos (my fav), or wintery stuff like apple and cinnamon / orange / coconut...; and a cup of green tea, because it's good for you. Over the years I learned to appreciate green tea even though I disliked it in the beginning, and my favorite is definitely Oolong, the most amazing tea from China.).

I know some people say you should eat and drink cold things in the winter, and warm things in the summer, but I love my tea in the winter nights and it definitely makes me warmer. (Especially in Finland, where the heating in my student flat was really bad.) So give it a try if you haven't already. There are SO MANY different teas out on the market, so I'm pretty sure everybody can find something they'd like.

From A to Zinc
Vitamins and minerals! Eating healthy is always important, but you might want to pay more attention to it in the winter months. Boost your immune system! For me, winter equals tangerines, and it's great because they're full of vitamin C. Apparently, though, it's not enough, so I spent most of my last week inside of the house, only leaving it for grocery shopping. I hate being sick (who doesn't?), so I invested in a bottle of pills that says literally "from A to Zinc". So come and get me, winter! (Just joking. Don't.)

Lotions and Potions
Wind, the cold and the dry air inside can damage your skin, and that's why it's important to take extra care of it in the winter. I am by no means an expert so head over to some beauty pages/blogs to get better advice than those I'm capable to give. Make sure you nurture your skin with a lotion, for example. Don't forget the lips, one of the worst feelings ever is cracked and dry lips. If you speak Serbian, check out this post on lip care during the winter by Teodora, a girl from my hometown and owner of the Health-Alt blog.

Right Attitude
Sometimes... this is everything. Yeah, I know, snow is sometimes super annoying. And so is the sleet. Especially the sleet. Especially if you live in a city. But as long as you keep yourself warm, dry and healthy, don't let it determine whether your day is good or bad. Light some candles, treat yourself to some sweets. Do what you love. Stay in if you don't really feel like going out. I recently bought a bouquet of tulips, and here they are in my room, making me feel as if it's not that cold. (Seriously!) You cannot spend the winter in a cave, so make the most out if it!

What are your tips and tricks for surviving winter? I would love to hear from you!

Love, Tihana

P.S. For those who've been following me for less than a year, here are some memories from last winter: what the five months in Finland felt like and taught me; what my town looked like; and my favorite one, the most amazing trip I ever took, to Lapland - here and here.


  1. Aaaa, koliko dobar post! :) Necu dalje nista da komentarisem, zurim da citam ove sto su nabrojani u poslednjoj recenici :)

  2. Divan post i slike <3! Odoh sad da pijem čaj i pravim piling za usne ;).


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