What to expect of winter in Sweden.
What the heck you can expect from winter in Sweden? How cold is it really? How can I prepare myself for the weather? This were a few concerns that I had before coming to Sweden, and let me tell you something. It isn’t what I was expecting it to be.
So, what is an expectation and how can we draw a conclusion as close to reality as possible?
noun: expectation; plural noun: expectations.
1. A strong belief that something will happen or be the case.
As human beings we tend to draw conclusions or create expectations from what we’ve seen, heard or experienced. I wouldn’t say most of the times but some of those times the expectations we create in our minds are representative enough to draw a reasonable conclusion. This was not the case when I first came to Sweden.
Let’s start with something that everyone probably already knows or assumes. It obviously gets cold in Sweden during the winter, but this is already a generalization since the perception of “thermal comfort” is different for everyone. The real question is: How cold does it get? This of course dependes on where in Sweden, so, to illustrate this, I made the following infographic.
No matter where you live, weather is among the most popular fika conversation topics, and specially winter. This is my second year in Sweden and I’m definetly no expert in the subject but I know myself around the topic and I learned a few things from my time here. Gimmy wrote a fantastic blog post on how to dress dress for winter where he basically breaks down the process into simple an effective tips.
To further discuss the topic (because one cannot be tired of talking about the weather in Sweden). I will give you a few tips that I’ve found myself pretty useful.
How to prepare for the winter.
The first rule of the Swedish winter is: The faster you aknowledge that the winter is coming and that it is starting to feel cold in most parts of Sweden by October-November, the easier it will be to aclimate yourself. The second rule is: You do not underestimate the weather. The third rule is: You DO NOT underestimate the weather! The fourth rule is: don’t get fooled by the thermometer, coldness is a combination of air temperature, radiant temperature, air velocity, and humidity. So, how you can prepare for the winter?
Put your money in a good pair of waterproof shoes. Probably you guys will be walking around a lot, and there will be snow at least in 2/3 of Sweden for a few days. Nice boots or a pair of Gore-Tex shoes will most certainly get the job done, and sometimes even some casual sneakers might come through.
Always check the weather in the morning before getting dressed. All the weather apps probably display, temperature, humidity, air velocity and UV index. Humidity goes from 0 to 100 %, if it’s too humid outside then you will experience a lower temperature. Waterproof and breathable clothes are the way to go if the weather is humid. The air velocity is more or less self explanatory, the windier it get’s the colder it will be outside. There are a lot of chill wind charts in Google to get an idea.
Finally, dress for the occasion. Probably you have heard the Nordic saying “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”, well it is absolutely true. Our clothing keeps us warm on cool days by trapping air between our bodies and clothing. However, on a cool damp day this layer of trapped air contains more water molecules. If it is humid outside, our clothing is also likely to absorb some water molecules. It takes more heat energy to warm water than air. In more scientific words, water has a higher specific heat capacity than air. If the layer of air next to the skin is damp, it will take more of the body’s heat energy to warm it. Hence the perceived temperature is cooler. Long story short, your body consumes more energy to warm up the layer between your skin and your clothes, and the higher energy consumption translates into a higher heat loss. So, what can you expect? Well it will be cold for sure, but most of the time you will probably be indoors, also not everywhere in Sweden gets extremely cold, now you know it, first it is essential to understand the weather outside, and then choose the right clothing. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Winter also brings a lot of opportunities to practice sports, to visit all the christmas markets, to throw snowballs at your friends, and to see different landscapes. Like this one.