Surviving Winters When You’re From a Warm Climate

Like most people, cold winters are a challenge for us, especially since we both grew up in pretty warm climates. Bell hails from a small town outside of Melbourne, Australia and from the age of 9, Alex grew up in sunny Florida. But for the past 7 years we’ve found ourselves living in places with considerably colder winters- Amsterdam, Dublin and now Boston. If you aren’t used to cold and grey weather, this can make life particularly challenging for over half the year, so here are a few ways we’ve learned to cope with surviving winters.

New Hampshire

Don’t Move Somewhere New in Winter

Ok, this might be easier said than done, but if you can avoid it, do so! People living in cold cities start to hibernate in December, so it can be harder to meet new people and build a social network. 7 years ago we moved to Amsterdam in March, and while it was still quite cold that year, the end was in sight and those first few weeks in a new country are pretty hectic anyway.

However, we found ourselves stuck moving to Dublin in December, and with no funds to escape for a break at the time, we were a little lonely over the holidays and didn’t really start making friends there until several months later when it started to warm up.

If you move somewhere new in winter, check out like minded groups from a website like Meetup. We also used Couchsurfing meetings as a way to make friends in Amsterdam and Dublin, but that website has unfortunately gone downhill the past few years.

Purchase a UV Light Box

Boston is the coldest of the three cities we’ve lived in during winter, and as Alex feels the grey days more than Bell, we decided to finally invest in a light box. This provides light therapy, and is designed to mimic outdoor light. Light boxes should not emit UV light, as UV light is not effective on mood, and is also dangerous for those at of risk melanoma (skin cancer).

We bought the NatureBright Sun Touch light box with 10,000-lux light therapy. On a cold and grey day outside, our light box makes the living room a whole lot more pleasant, and Alex particularly finds it helpful.

Christmas Market in Brussels
Christmas Market in Brussels

Do Activities you can Only do in Winter

There are things that are special to winter asides from freezing outside at a tram stop, like ice skating or a snow ball fight. There’s nothing like a cup of hot mulled wine at a cold and festive outdoor Christmas Markets. This is one thing we really miss about living in Europe.

Finding any motivation to spend time outside is so important. Exercise is pivotal to our well-being and winter is an easy excuse not to make it happen. While skiing or snow boarding are two other obvious options, we actually haven’t hit the slopes in nearly 10 years of marriage because of how costly it is. These are expensive activities, and while not everyone has the money or desire to ski, you can always build a snowman if the conditions are right!

Cross country skiing in Boston

Comfort Foods are Helpful in Surviving Winters

Hearty soups, stews and warm drinks make winter special. While living in Dublin we enjoyed these things pretty much year round as the summers aren’t very hot, but a hot chocolate on a muggy summer eve in Boston…probably not! Great winter veggies are available, and a favorite dish of Bell’s is parsnip and carrot mash, two great root veggies that mix wonderfully. There are few things better than a stew that has been simmering for hours, filling your home with delicious smells. Thanks to two and a half years living in Ireland, one of our favorites is beef and Guinness stew!

Keep a Positive Attitude

Sulking about something you can’t change doesn’t help, so having a good attitude about the cold is really going to improve your cause. As we write this post, it’s a foggy grey winter’s day in Boston, which can be depressing. But we decided it’s perfect weather to snuggle in bed or on the couch, and make a day of this. If you don’t have a significant other this winter, now might be a great time to add a furry friend to your home. When going out, Bell likes to have cute beanies, mittens and scarfs to make rugging up for outside fun.

Notice Bell does not have the same accessories on in any photo!
Notice Bell does not have the same accessories on in any photo!

Do you have any additional tips for surviving winters? We’d love to hear how you make it through these cold months!


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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6 thoughts on “Surviving Winters When You’re From a Warm Climate

    1. Thanks, Katie! Great tip about Netflix- instead of paying for extended cable, we have Netflix too. It’s cheaper than cable and there’s so many quality entertainment options to help us through winter. Haha, on the chocolates- we stockpiled too many on recent travels and have had to be super careful on our consumption here, especially sitting around more, lol. Cheers and stay warm and happy this winter! 😀

    1. Thanks and excellent point on good heating! in Amsterdam and Boston our apartments have been heated with steam radiators, which are cheaper than electric. In Dublin we had mounted electric radiators in each room which are very expensive to heat your entire house at once. So as a result, most people just heat the room they’re currently in. So trips to the bathroom were initially a chilly and unpleasant experience in Dublin! It sucks when you feel like you can’t fully escape winter in your own home.

      Another thing we learned the hard way is that it’s nice to find an apartment where you receive natural light in winter. We have this in Boston, whereas we did not in Amsterdam and Dublin.

      Another tip, for most people, is taking vitamin D supplements. People can obtain vitamin D naturally from the sun, but in winter most of our bodies become vitamin D deficient from the lack of sun. We don’t advocate most vitamin supplements (best to obtain them from a natural diet) but vitamin D is important to help keep you healthy through winter.

  1. AAAnnnnddd, yeah, I did NONE of these things when I first moved to Germany and I really wish I had! lol I’m from South Florida and those first few winters over here were, um, challenging, let’s say challenging 😀

    1. Hey Dana! Central Florida here (former Orlando and Tampa resident). It certainly took us a few winters to get around to incorporating more of these lifestyle changes into our winter lives. Our first winter in Amsterdam wasn’t so bad because the country was still new to us and we still did some day trips (Dutch people thought we were crazy to care about traveling the country in winter). Perhaps this was something that helped you during your first winter in Germany, despite the challenges? Just being distracted, in a positive way, by the cultural differences and new sights! 😀

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