The best way to… survive Dutch winter

Brace yourselves. You may have noticed that Holland’s weather can be like a hormonal teenager – unpredictable and downright grumpy. Now that winter is coming, you have to know what to do when it hits.

Dutch winter is strange. We don’t often have much snow to deal with, but it rains a lot – and it’s much colder. When we do actually get snow, it’s as if the whole country is on lockdown preparing for an environmental crisis.

Public services like trains are often cancelled and the streets are filled with happy students, contrasting with the grumpy social workers tasked with clearing away the white stuff. Salt is sprayed all over to get rid of all that damned snow, but after a day or two, it melts into a grimy, grey, frozen slush – especially on the bike paths.

Here’s how to deal with winter in Groningen.

Buienalarm: Download the ‘Buienalarm’ app: This app can help you beat Mother Nature at her own game. It forecasts what precipitation to expect and how severe it will be within the upcoming two hours. You’ll know to study hard when it’s likely to rain all evening, and you’ll also know exactly when to abandon your books and go outside when it’s finally snowing in Groningen!

Reconsider biking: Even though the days are often wet here, wintry precipitation often freezes overnight. Biking, which you may have come to love and appreciate, becomes an extreme sport in the winter!

When the bike paths ice over, even the Dutch may take a tumble, so if you aren’t ready to risk ramming into the occasional lamppost or falling on your face, consider walking.

Bus-tle and Hustle: This might be the best bet for those of you who have to go all the way to Zernike from the station. Lines 11 and 15 are at your service for 3 euros. If you worry that many others may have the same bright idea, you’re right.

If you’re worried that the busses will be packed, you’re also right! These busses are different, though. If they are too full, extra buses will come within minutes to pick up the remaining half-frozen students and ferry them to their campus.

Exercise to stay warm: Go ice skating in Kardinge. Many Dutch people start to skate from a very young age. You will notice that the blonde 4-year-olds hold their own against intermediate internationals while their grandpa gracefully glides past, hands clutched behind his back, seemingly taunting you to try and catch up. Don’t be discouraged, though! It’s really fun and really Dutch.

If you’ve never skated before, a thick padded foam wall for newbies to crash into is available at Kardinge. You can cling desperately to it while you dream of becoming the next Sven Kramer.

It’s all about the layers: For people from colder parts of the world, leave your furry jackets and hats back home – they’re actually too warm. Try a good old puffy coat, cotton gloves, a scarf and hat – that’s usually enough. For people from warm places, consider a tanning booth. I was informed by a Spanish colleague that this is a popular option among Spanish ladies to bring some optimism and UV rays into their grey lives. No matter what season, always bring an umbrella just to be on the safe side.