Winter in Québec City 

It may not seem unexpected, maybe even a little cliché, to write a blog contribution about the winter in Québec City. Nevertheless, it was the thing most unfamiliar to me in the beginning, which had grown very familiar in the end of my stay. 

Even if I had already spent a week or two in Quebec during winter holidays as a child, I found it quite different to spend part of the winter there while studying full-time. 

At first, it wasn’t very difficult to adapt to the season, assuming, one had a warm winter coat, gloves, and a “tuque” (as the locals call a knit cap) to face the cold weather, which was luckily my case. (Other fellow international students had come up with their own “survival strategies”, like avoiding going outside or covering themselves in layers of sweatshirts and coats, but I’m rather glad to have followed the advice of the locals here). The famous tunnels (a 3.7 km long underground network, connecting all the buildings on campus), well lit and rather well heated (not to mention their interesting colourful murals) proved to be particularly useful, although I probably used them more often during rainy days in autumn or late at night. On an average winter day, I preferred to be outside, enjoying the fresh crisp air like many other students. 

I generally had difficulties in visualizing the amount of snowfall when Québécois students talked about some pouces or pieds de neige that had fallen overnight. As for many other measurements, people in Québec use a rather complicated mix of the imperial and metric systems in their everyday life, even though institutions and the government long adopted the latter. In the end, however, this wasn’t that important for me, as I didn’t have to shovel snow or drive a car myself. With a simple look out the windows, I could usually decide whether to take the tunnels or venture outside.  

Apart from that, everything went rather well. The buses were mostly on time as usual, due to an efficient snow removal system. In December, the festively decorated, snowy Vieux Québec was especially worth a visit. One often thinks of the spread of typical North American Christmas lights and decorations, songs, etc. around the world, and particularly in Europe, but as the Marché de Noël allemand in Québec clearly shows, it goes both ways. Which was all right for me, since I could enjoy the typically local festive experience while simultaneously having a glass of Glühwein and listening to a choral sing “classics” from home, such as O Tannenbaum

The first snowstorm of the season was quite an experience. The day after the last exams, the university administration decided to close the library and its main buildings. And of course, I was lucky enough to have to leave the well heated and comfy residence and the much-appreciated tunnels to run some errands, as I had depleted my food reserves during the exam week. After a short walk through the windy weather to the bus station, and a surprisingly smooth bus ride, I arrived at the shopping centre, where business was going on as usual. People didn’t seem worried in the slightest; one could see that this storm was just one among others for them. 

The wind ended up becoming very strong some hours after my return, although it was generally not as bad in Québec City as elsewhere in the province, where gusts of wind reaching 130 km/h were registered. These caused significant damage and left some people without electricity for days. Luckily, this wasn’t the case for us, and even though I had to cancel my plans to visit family in the countryside, I spent a very merry Christmas Eve with friends from the international exchange programme. 

As I don’t go that to the mountains that often during winter in Switzerland, I was glad to experience a snowy winter, instead of the typical grey and rainy season in Bern. While rather cold for Swiss standards, I got used to the average temperature of -5, sometimes -10 and very rarely -15° Celsius very quickly (the dreaded -25° Celsius normally only occur after Mid-January). I even preferred this to the times when the temperature rose above 0° Celsius, which brought slush or slippery ice on the sidewalks. 

Now, when my friends or family members complain about the “particularly cold” weather here in Switzerland, I can’t help but slightly roll my eyes. After all, it could be worse! Even though I was sad to leave the Université Laval and Québec in January, I have a feeling that, had I stayed another semester, I would have probably become a little too familiar with the weather – if not to say a bit tired of the winter – by the end of April.  

Yanick Hutmacher

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