How to winter like a Canadian

October 20, 2023

If there’s one thing that most Canadians will agree on it’s that winter plays a huge role in Canadian culture and identity.

If you're new to the Canadian winter, what you need to know is that this season (usually mid-November to the end of March) is about more than just surviving the sub-zero temperatures. The real (and arguably harder) test is your ability to face the biting cold with a smile. In Canada, we're not about enduring winter, we're about making the most of it.

Whether you choose to embrace the bone-chilling season by cross-country skiing through pine tree forests, hitting slopes in the Rockies, or lacing up skates for a game of ice hockey on the pond, be sure to abide by the following guide.

Here's how to winter like an actual Canadian. Complete this list, and you'll be one of us in no time.

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Insist it’s not that cold even when it’s literally freezing.

Canadians do this all the time. We love to act tough around cold weather. The attitude is that cold weather (even below freezing) isn’t that cold because it could always be colder. It makes no sense but that’s how we are. Here, -5 degrees Celcius is nothing and -10 is just barely getting into winter’s grasp. When in Canada, relentlessly dismiss sub-zero temperatures. Think it’s cold now? Oh just wait…


Anything above 4 degrees Celsius is patio weather.

Learn the word “toque” and use it incessantly.

It’s not a beanie. It’s not a hat. It’s a toque. If you’re a visitor, you’ll add this to your vocabulary now. If you’re a real Canadian, you'll have a whole selection of toques to go with every outfit and last you all winter. The word “beanie” isn’t even in your lexicon.

Bust out the skis even if you hate skiing.

You’ve got to make the most of winter right? The best way to do so is to bust out the skis and glide (or stumble) through slick snow-covered trails in a Canadian ski town. Hate skiing? Do it anyway and post it to your Instagram story. Spend most of the “skiing” day actually shivering on chairlifts and rolling down the mountain in a string of wipe-outs? Just don’t tell anyone. Shhh!

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Doesn't this look *fun*

Listen to folk during a snowstorm.

So the winter storm has hit and the sky is just dumping snow. Your move now must be to wear a wool sweater, blast folk music, light a candle and cook a stew. No other activities will be accepted.

Take up hockey.

If you want to be like a real Canadian, you’ve absolutely got to hit the ice rink for a game of hockey. It’s better if you play on a frozen pond and even better if you play in a sweater and not a real jacket. The better you are, the more likely you are to be given a visa/residency/citizenship.

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Almost ready to play for the Leafs!

Make fun of Torontonians.

People from other parts of Canada love to make fun of those from Toronto. Especially when winter hits, and Torontonians start complaining about cold weather. Oh it's only -4 in Toronto? Adorable.

Passive aggressively say that places without winter would feel boring.

In the event that other warmer countries come up in conversation, your best response is to knock it. Jamaica? “Ooof, those beaches would get boring. The novelty would wear off.” Portugal? “Maybe for vacation.” Mexico? “Yikes too hot! I could never live there.” It doesn’t matter if these are all likely lies, the point is that you’re trying to convince yourself that you couldn’t live without winter and that -30 degree weather is normal. Denial is the way.

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Who needs the beach, when you can have all this?

Drink a stout.

Microbreweries and artisanal beer are a huge, huge part of Canadian culture. Whether you’re visiting Montreal or Victoria, you’re bound to come across your fair share of breweries. In some countries, beer is a light drink to be enjoyed in hot sunshine. In Canada, we create flavours specifically for cozy winter evenings. Between December and March, stouts feature strongly on most menus.

Hit the gym for snow shovelling season.

What are you doing with those spaghetti noodle arms? You’re going to need muscle on those babies for all the show shovelling you’ll be needing to do. Hit the gym and get on those bicep curls!

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Can I get a snow plow please?

Comment on the absence of the Canadian geese.

The most feared animal of our northern country isn’t the bear or moose, it’s the Canada goose. These are vicious little birds and many Canadians absolutely hate them! If you want to winter like an actual Canadian, comment on their absence during the winter. Slip it into conversation subtly.

Repeat after me: “Thou shall not hibernate.”

It doesn’t matter if it’s -20 and there are cold-weather warnings. If you really, really want to winter like a true Canadian, you’ll get outside and enjoy winter for what it is. Hate the cold? Go for a winter walk through the woods anyway. Have frostbite? Thaw your hands and post a photo with #WinterWonderland in the caption. Whether you snowshoe, skate, or ski, be as obnoxious as possible about the fact that you did something other than hibernating with Netflix.

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You got this.

Retell the stories of the good old “polar vortex” years.

If you’ve lived through a brutal Canadian winter, muster up your best “back in my day” spiel and recount all that you had to do to battle the brutal weather that even caused Niagara Falls to ice over. Be dramatic and exaggerate. Show your battle wounds if you must.

Grow a beard even if it’s patchy.

The bearded look is the winter look in Canada. Give the razor a break and save the clean-cut look for spring. Now get some flannel and a toque and your Canadian winter look is complete.

Critical role crit role

Lookin' good.

Weasel the word “zamboni” into conversation.

The zamboni is the machine that polishes the ice on a rink. Use this word casually in conversation and nobody will even question your nationality. You're one of us now.

Say something about how maple syrup season will soon be upon us.

At the end of the season, the snow starts to melt and temperatures rise. That means one thing: the maple tree sap is starting to flow and it’s almost time for sugar shacks, tree tapping, and all the maple syrup making. Mention this to fellow Canadians and also make a point to partake in said activities!

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