Warm feet in the winter cold

After 3 years here in Norway, I think I have landed on the right boots for this winter climate.  Maybe it takes me a while to figure things out. I am a great one for trial and error. And looking back on it, some of my trials have been big errors.

My first winter saw me with plastic leather UGG biker boots (definitely no animals harmed) and a pair of random hiking boots from the UK. The UGGs gave me more ground views of the world than I care to remember, in a “down she goes again” kind of way every time there was ice or even a dusting of snow. Deceptively worse than useless as they certainly looked like they could handle the cold, Australian style perhaps. The hiking boots went into fright at the first sign of snow and gradually began to welcome it inside. My right foot had a bad few weeks back then.

Then I decided I’d be really clever in my second autumn, to a large degree using my Irish logic. It’s wet, it’s cold but not very cold, I need wellies with warm socks and I will be sorted.  They’d be good for the wet muddy weather, forest walks and snow with woollen socks.  Versatility was what I was after.  They were black of course, I didn’t want to make a total show of myself.

BUT… do you know what happens to wellies in minus temperatures. Even if you paid a lot for them on t’internet, I think it was the useless buckle on the side that did it with the price. Well anyway, they don’t like cold weather (I am talking the Norwegian definition of it, at least below -5 C, not the Irish definition, +5deg C with a bit of a cold wind)  and they crack wide open, unceremoniously. One day you look down and see your sock in a way that is not intended in minus degrees.

I moved on to high heel boots that I bought in Ireland in a moment of madness. They have been worn exactly once, I felt like I would fall over the edge of the world going down the steep hill on the way to the train. I am out of practice on tottering and I realise that those boots and I are probably never going to be an item, sob…

I had a few more mishaps after that, including trying to go Swedish with a pair of leather, sheep wool-lined boots by the impressive sounding Swedish Design Group. Definitely a step up from the wellies but still cold, still having to thaw out far too often. So I finally gave in, or got Nordic sense, a few weeks back and bought a pair of proper snow boots with wool on the inside and a bit of fake fur on the outside, at least I am presuming it’s fake unless it was a grey teddy bear once. Waterproof and windproof, they are not stylish but gees, who cares, they work.  They have a respectful relationship with snow, they hug it and then repel it nicely.  My new besties, it’s love.

Even the locals had started to say it was cold here, that it was looking like a proper winter again.  We have had almost three weeks of temperatures below -10deg C continuously, sometimes reaching -17.  There is thick snow everywhere so it’s incredibly pretty. Younger kids, including my daughter, can be seen sitting atop sledges and being pulled to kindergarten and back, morning and evening. Kids carrying skis to and from school is another regular sight. Wondrously strange to me still, I love it.

You learn quickly that you really need to have your act together when catching a bus or a train because missing one, and then waiting 20 minutes for the next one, is just not funny. My husband got caught pretty badly by this last week. He was getting an overground train from a nice unsheltered windy station near us called Hauketo on his way to work. For various reasons, he had to wait 30 mins on the platform for his train. Thirty minutes in -15deg C, a business suit (with coat of course) and the best bit, business suit shoes, you know the ones that look shiny and handsome and give you a bit of credibility in a corporate meeting room but absolutely none standing on a train platform in -15 deg C? Yes, those.

Now Hauketo is a cold spot, even on a warm day.  Apparently, there was as much danger from freezing standing still on that platform that day as there was being knocked over by people who were pacing up and down the platform on a mission to stay warm. My husband reached his step target that day before he even stepped on a train to get to work.  He also finally gave in to the cold and bought a proper pair of Norwegian boots for the winter, that very day.  I picture this crazed Ice Man figure going in to XXL, the big sports shop chain here, screaming Boots, give me Warm Boots!!  Apparently he was a bit more dignified that that.

You see, being used to East German cold winters when he was younger, he always had an air of slight “snow superiority” in this house, you know, I know this weather, I can handle it. It all changed that day as his hitherto understanding turned him in to a near block of ice. All I can say, with just a small dose of loving smugness, is that it’s good to have company around here sometimes on the trial and error path of adjusting to Norway.

In terms of life as we know it, the toddlers are still sleeping outside during the day at our barnehage, even in these temperatures. With sheepskin rugs underneath them and dressed in multiple layers of woollens, they are snug as bugs in their Arctic sleeping bags. I don’t think I will ever stop finding this impressive. Or crazy and impressive in equal measure.  The kids are going on noticeably fewer trips into the forest in this cold weather and there is no sitting down eating lunch outdoors, they need to keep moving to stay warm.  My 4 year old daughter is still outdoors a lot each day but in short bursts of activity and play in the snow, with great care being taken that none of them get too cold.

My kids are now thankfully used to the layering up each morning and evening. Except for gloves, they are always trying to wing it on gloves as they think they don’t need them. My son heard about the detailed effects of frostbite yesterday at school and then legged it home running like the wind in case his fingers fell off before he got there.  Still wearing no gloves mind you, but at least we got home faster than normal.

Today the temperature rose significantly to -2deg C, almost balmy.  Now we are a bit horrified at the prospect of temperatures going above 0 deg C and all of this lovely snow melting. Nooooo. Here’s hoping to freezing with the cold for at least a few more weeks. In for a penny, in for a pound and all of that.



  1. Five and a half yrs after leaving Norway, I still remember the weight of my snow boots. I felt like Attila the Hun wearing them. How I looked forward to Christmas and Easter in Ireland where I could ‘glam’ it up in normal, high-heeled leather boots! I still have my son’s arctic sleeping bag though he is now 9 and we are in Australia where it will hit 34 degrees today. My kids still miss the snow- but I dont?

  2. Dear Expat Runner, I know what you mean about the boots. I love giving Irish visitors my winter jacket – thick-lined, windproof, waterproof, multi-pocketed (continuously finding new pockets), hooded, weighs a ton, fit-for-Arctic coat – and watch their arm drop as they say “For the love of God, (or some such …) what is in that thing”. Nothing but jacket. Enjoy your Australian summer, I am imagining that 34 degree warmth but struggling right now 🙂 Yours, MLM

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