Surviving the Winter Cold, When You’re New in Europe

freezing winter snow

It’s a learning start of the year for me as I’m heading for a Berlin German Course for a month, courtesy of the Goethe institute – Nairobi. In addition to learning and living within the natives of the language, this trip also means a couple of firsts. My first, first is; ‘WINTER, I’m coming’ .

Coming from a tropical country I have no idea what to expect. I mean, except for Merino wool hats sold at Viewpoint, in Rift Valley, I doubt we even manufacture clothes for heavy cold. In the past a 17° that feels like a 14° is heavy cold! So in my scale I cannot fathom what 2° would feel like.

Considering I was preparing to experience my first winter, I had to shop for heavy clothes under the smoldering sun with highs of many degrees and lows of the moon up high at night. In my mother tongue, this sun is called ‘Riua ria mbura’ The sun of rain. My mother tongue has lots of gems like this that may not make sense immediately. It’s fortunate it hasn’t rained recently; BUT getting my brain to NOT get sundresses was the real struggle.

I had to get socks, scarves, Jackets and many more things to layer inside. I am yet to get gloves. Goodness, cold begets such strange tasks!

Clothes are not the only thing that I have had to deal with. The expectations of my loved ones are a memory I will always carry with me. I mean, I can see why people feel pressured to get into civil unions devoid of love, in a foreign country. This has of course become an inside joke and the excitement is infectious.

As I wait for my flight, I am concerned about the commute from the airport, about my hand luggage exceeding the limit because of the size of the jacket I have. I am curious about getting homesick. I am curious about the experiences that await me on the other side.

This month smells interesting already.

“It’s like, Nairobi-cold.”

My friend Maureen described this winter better than me.

I mean, I have been wondering how to describe it. I expected too much from this winter and all I am getting –so far, is rain that rains like it has been forced. If this rain was a person, it would be the spoilt kid who has to do something and doesn’t want to. So they do it unwillingly, dragging their feet, their mouth in a pout and angry glances at the authority that made them do it. I have never seen such rude rain before. I’ve also been stopped by gales of wind. And I do believe I saw flakes of snow – Although Maureen says there hasn’t been. I know what I saw!

The temperatures have not been that bad. In the sense that, I can barely tell when it’s 0°. In fact, I was looking at the temperatures for last week on accumen and was surprised how low it got. My trick for being unable to tell the accurate tempatrure is – Don’t look at the weather forecast. Your brain can freeze you out!

On the second day of school, my classmates and I were looking for a ‘Knipe” and while we were standing at Hackesher Markt, We looked at the temperature and it was 0°. The moment I saw that, I became more conscious of the numbing cold. The brain is a powerful tool and such moments are when ‘ignorance is bliss’ applies.

Even though there is a very good heating system in the house, sometimes I still get cold and I find that SQUATS help! I couldn’t believe it either! So I find myself doing squats and having to peel off a layer of extra clothing.

I think from this, I have learnt something about beating the winter.

  1. Set very high expectations. Dream big. Visually intense cold.
  2. Don’t look at the weather forecast. It’s winter , it will be cold and wet, dress warmly and leave it at that.
  3. Do your squats.

I believe I am well equipped for the remaining couple of weeks. And if snow means it get worser than it already is, then I will be content with … seeing it on television. But if my three tips don’t work, I will be sure to update.


By Wanjiku Mwaura

Wanjiku Mwaura is a Kenyan poet, and creative. She was recently part of the One Wor:l:d program that had Kenyan artists performing in Berlin and the German artists performing in Nairobi.

Share with friends: