Can Repats Get Used to Snow?

I’ve gotten in the habit of taking long walks first thing in the morning. Around 6 a.m. yesterday, I put on, in this order:

  1. underwear,
  2. “long john” underwear (shirt and pants),
  3. sweatpants,
  4. t-shirt,
  5. hooded sweatshirt,
  6. two pairs of long socks,
  7. work boots (one kilo each),
  8. ski cap,
  9. safety work gloves,
  10. winter gloves,
  11. hooded winter coat and
  12. facemask.

Then I started my walk. It was 15 degrees Fahrenheit outside (-9° Celsius). If lucky it will rise to 20 degrees after lunch. There was an inch or two of snow on the ground.

There isn’t a mask mandate while outside, but the pandemic has taught us that facemasks keep your nose and cheeks warm. I completed the walk without getting too cold. In fact, at one point I was toasty enough to take off the mask. That lasted for about five minutes. Then I put it back on.

I’m from here, so I grew up thinking this was normal. At the same time, I’m not so far removed from South America to know there is a better way.

The stereotype of expat life is a house and/or office at the beach. But most people don’t want to live by the beach, and most of Latin America’s great cities are in cooler climates. According to Google, Buenos Aires gets down to 47 degrees Fahrenheit and Santiago is a little colder at 36° F. But those are the coldest. Most Latin American capitals are moderate with no extremes.

It’s never hot in Bogota. You could spot tourists by their shorts and sandals. While it isn’t hot, it isn’t too cold and it never changes. Bogota sits almost on top of the equator, so there are no seasons. It’s the same temperature all year round, so I had only one set of clothes! You would only need shorts if you travel to lower altitudes, which include the beach destinations.

I occasionally hear gringos hear say they would miss the seasons. I have to call bullshit. Having one set of clothes is the dream. In Lima and Arequipa there is enough seasonal variance that you need two sets of clothes, but both ends are still moderate. You never need much of what I put on this morning.

My wife was excited to see snow for the first time. I told her, as I tell others, that it’s beautiful for 10 minutes. An hour at most. Then it’s a pain in the ass for three months.

Removing snow is a hassle. You can mitigate shoveling by living in a fairly urban neighborhood. My driveway is so flat and short that I don’t bother, and the municipalities sometimes plow the streets before I even realize it has snowed. If you don’t have to shovel, scraping ice off the windows is a bitch. And since driving is the only way to get around most cities, you’ll inevitably have to drive on dangerous roads.

But the worst is suffering the frigid temperatures. You can’t go camping. You can’t go to the park for very long. You can’t do your exercises outside. In a pandemic, there is no public, indoor entertainment. You can’t do much of anything except sit inside and get fat.

Will I get used to it? Will I forget how comfortable life is in the tropics?

Dear expats, could you go back to this?

It didn’t reach 20 degrees after lunch.

6 comments

  1. Me, no thanks – nice to see “the beauty of snow and ice” in brit dailies – but some time or other am going back to the highlands, Puno, Titicaca, Bolívia, yep definitely need coat and cap there.
    You right about the even climate. Here in Tru, winter is shirt and shorts, summer is vest and shorts, but dress up to go out – can’t have a gringo looking scruff – so trousers in place of shorts.
    Free Sunshine…

    You are very brave
    Oh and I recall with zero regret and nostalgia two winters as a geologist in the northeast of Scotland. Trees are so rare up there they have preservation orders from saplings …

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  2. I’m not a world traveler, but I’ve actually been to 2 of the 3 capitals you mentioned; the ones that start with a B. I spent last winter in Dosquebradas, Colombia where the average high is about 80 degrees all year. But, I wasn’t ready to put down roots in retirement. I came back to try a motor home and this winter I went as far south as you can go in Texas. I’m actually staying in the border city where Trump made his last photo op at the wall: Alamo, Texas. It’s pretty cold today, but no snow. I’m getting out of here March 1 because it will start getting warm days then and I don’t want to listen to the AC rattle on the roof all day long in the sun here.

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    1. I thought about including something here about those gringos who don’t suffer harsh winters, specifically those in the sunbelt. But at the same time, there are expats and repats who suffer(ed) much worse. There are people who live in Canada!!!

      P.S. You should bring the camper through Missouri when it warms up. We have great state parks. Drop me a line if you do!

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  3. I feel confident that I could go back to having snow again. Since I tend to go back home during Christmas time, I deal with it for a month every so often per year either way.

    Granted, I don’t miss waking up at 7 AM to go scrape ice off my truck nor do I miss the days of walking home through lots of snow with my feet frozen to hell. In the last few weeks to a month, I’ve heard the snow situation has gotten fairly bad in Iowa and Ohio.

    Though I do feel a little bit of nostalgia when it comes to snow given my childhood had so much of it.

    But, like you said, it looks nice for a small time but then becomes annoying. If I ever feel for a change back to snow but want to stay in Latin America, maybe I can move to Punta Arenas far south lol.

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  4. I live in SE Asia. I hate snow and i love the fact that temps here range from 78 F at night to 93F during the day…having 2 seasons…ie rainy or dry. I used to live in Delaware in the 50’s and would walk to school in the snow for 3 miles instead of waiting for the school bus that stopped in front of my house. Breakfast was Captain Crunch [brand new at the time] and a sugar bowl filled that i pour on top.

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  5. I tend to deploy to the Desert I was in Iraq just moved to Doha. I loved going to north Iraq and making a snow ball . I am from New Jersey but y home of record is Hawaii . when people ask which I will retire to I keep thinking food and seasons in jersey vs forever spring of Hawaii it is still a tough choice I have not made yet. Leaning towards costa rica .

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