As I’m writing this the temperature here in Albuquerque is 16°F, and the high today is only going to be 29°F. This has prompted many New Mexicans, who are used to warmer weather, to ask how we’re going to deal with the winters in Finland.
Katie grew up in Indiana, and I grew up in Pennsylvania, both of which have colder winters than here in Albuquerque, which makes us a little bit more prepared than many New Mexicans. Still, that’s nothing compared to the extreme lows in Finland . It’s currently 9°F in Jyvaskyla, and the high will by 21°F.
So how are we going to deal with it? It’s simple. The culture in Finland is adapted for this sort of weather, so we’re going to adapt to the culture.
It’s not as difficult as it seems. The building codes require better insulation, for a start, so that’s already taken care of. We get triple-digit gas bills in our current apartment because our house, built in the 1940s, has poor insulation and single-pane, unglazed, real-galss windows. It’s drafty and inefficient. The modern apartment building we’ll be in when we get to Finland will have triple-glazed, multi-pane, insulated windows.
Here in Albuquerque our furnace and hot water heater are right near the back door which, once again, has a big, draft glass window in it. Not efficient. In Finland they have a form of communal heating. Most apartment building have a huge boiler in the basement that circulates hot water through the floors and walls. Most neighborhoods have a big building tucked away somewhere that has a similar giant boiler that circulates hot water through the local homes and businesses. This supplements the furnaces in individuals buildings, and guarantees that even if you’re poor and your home is chilly, no one is going to freeze to death.
As for cold weather gear, I’m waiting until I get there so I can get recommendations from the locals. According to Katie, who has done the research in this area, you need a lot of layers, starting with thermal underwear and ending with snow pants. You deal with the extreme cold by dressing appropriately and allowing extra time to get into and out of all those layers.
Juxtapose this with people in Albuquerque. Some people aren’t dressed properly because of the rampant poverty. A local television station runs an annual coat drive so kids have warm clothing, but between the start of fall and the time those kids get the gift of a coat around Christmas, what do they do? Katie deals with kids who refuse to wear a hat because it messes up their hair, because in America looking good is more important than avoiding pneumonia. I think in Finland, the extremes make people more practical because it’s not just a matter of comfort, it can be a matter of life of death.
Finally, I’m planning on spending some quality time in the sauna. Saunas are like Starbucks in Finland — you can’t swing an old shoe without hitting one. There’s one in almost every apartment building, and there are saunas in gyms and at the university. It’s not only a great way to warm up when you’re chilled to the bone, it’s a social activity where you can sit and chat with neighbors and friends. I think the steam would be bad for electronics, so I can’t imagine people will be texting and fiddling with devices. People actually talk to each other. Imagine that.
Overall, I don’t think that adapting to the extreme cold will be any harder for Katie and I than adapting to the extreme heat of the Southwest. We learned to stay out of direct sunlight, drink plenty of water, and wear sunscreen. I think we can manage to adopt the habits needed or out safety and comfort in frozen Scandinavia.