Weathering Chiberia

Header photo sandwich board credit to Cup and Spoon – supplier of my commute coffee and morning wit.

I’ve never been a staunch believer in wind chill. I like to think that when the thermometer says it’s -15 degrees, it’s going to feel like it’s -15 degrees. Why shouldn’t it, goddammit?

Recently I changed my views. Because Chicago.

I’m from Scotland. I spent 22 years of my life living beyond the wall at at least 57° North in what people from the rest of Europe like to think of as “perpetual winter” but, while this is true in so far as our lack of seasonal variation sometimes means that it’s often the same damp, cold climate in mid-July as it is in mid-January, it turns out that Europeans don’t actually know what winter means.

Chicago knows what winter means.

Winter means a good six inches of solid ice on a lake the size of Portugal:

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Winter means lake spray, from before the lake was fully frozen, freezing as it hits the rocks and the shore:

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Winter means the water-traffic on the busy Chicago River  struggling to keep the ice broken up before it re-freezes:


Winter means struggling to find your way home during your walk of shame because you can’t read the street signs or recognise any of the distinguishable features of the unknown neighbourhood you’re in. From this experience I learned that it is best to stay in-building for certain things, if you know what I mean.. but that’s a different story:


Winter means wearing sunglasses to stop the wind from freezing your eyeballs, and having wake up 30 minutes earlier for work because it takes you 15 minutes longer to trudge through the snow and ice, and a further 15 minutes to get all your extra layers on and off:


Winter in Chicago means entire months that go by where the temperature stays well below freezing, days where they close schools because the wind chill is 30 below and they don’t want children to freeze in the street, snowfalls of 18.5 inches in a single weekend…

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…And abandoning your car until the spring.

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Winter in Chicago also means some of the most beautiful scenes you could ever hope to see, from wintery garden scenes:

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to downtown icebergy scenes:



to Lake-Michigan-resembles-Antarctica scenes:

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to the-marina-is-closed-for-business scenes:

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and especially… the my-beer-is-colder-than-your-beer scenes:

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Surviving my first Chicago winter was challenging at times. Unlike everybody else in the city, though, I found it to be an altogether glorious experience, cementing my reputation as a “weird foreigner”.

5 thoughts on “Weathering Chiberia

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