When I arrived in Sweden, one of the things I was most looking forward to was experiencing a snowy winter. In most places in South Africa, we don’t have snow at all. Plus, Christmas is right in the middle of our summer. The only “white Christmas” that I had experienced was one of sun and white sandy beaches. However, I soon found that you need to be well-prepared to get the most out of your snow adventure. These are some of the things I learnt during my first snowy winter at Chalmers.
Get your timing right
I remember so clearly the first time I saw it snowing in Gothenburg – in my child-like excitement, I immediately grabbed a jacket and went outside to enjoy the snowflakes. Needless to say, I have since learned that snowflakes are not always as fluffy and romantic as they are made out to be in the movies!
I have since become much wiser in how and when to enjoy the snow. The first thing I learned was to stay inside while it is snowing. Snowflakes aren’t soft and romantic – they are cold and wet. They stick to your hair and clothing, unnoticed, only to melt as soon as you enter a warm building and leave you shivering. Instead, grab yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee and watch the snow as it falls. Chalmers has some fantastic spots in the Student Union building where you can sit, warm and comfy, and watch the snowflakes as they drift slowly to the ground. I ended up doing this for hours in between my studies and found it to be an excellent way to
The second thing I learned was that you need to enjoy the snow quickly in Gothenburg! Go out early in the snow season, and as soon as possible after it has stopped snowing. The snow doesn’t stay clean and pristine for long. Especially around campus, the winter wonderland is soon disrupted with mud and footpaths as people pass through it. So, if you want to make a snow angel or just take some epic snow photos, do it quick!
Suit up for snow
Everyone understands that you need to dress appropriately for snowy weather. However, as a first-timer in snow, I still managed to get it wrong: I focused on keeping myself warm, while instead I should have been worried about keeping myself dry. Although a good winter jacket and some comfy thermal underwear is recommended for keeping in the heat, the most important thing is to make sure you have good shoes and good gloves. There’s nothing worse than having cold, wet toes and fingers in the snow!
Another surprisingly important accessory is a good pair of sunglasses. Even though Sweden has very short daylight hours during the winter, the snow can be extremely bright during those times. Especially if you plan to go out and play in the snow for a while, make sure to protect your eyes.
Set aside time to enjoy the snow
It’s easy to get caught up in your work over the winter study periods – my experience is that the Swedish work culture gets busier around this time. Don’t let this spoil your Swedish snow experience. Plan some time specifically to go out and enjoy the winter weather. And, if the sun blesses us with a brief appearance, be spontaneous enough to go out and enjoy it – nothing beats a sun and snow adventure!
Fun snow activities around Chalmers and Gothenburg
Once you’ve got your gear and planned the timing of your snow expedition, it’s time to get some ideas for snowy adventures! I tried as many different activities as possible, and chose some of my favourite ones to share with you:
- Build a (BIG) snowman on campus.
My friends and I built one close to the bus stop at the Chalmers library, where many students enter campus.We got a ton of compliments on our handiwork, and even made it onto some prominent campus Instagram stories!
- Sled down the Chalmers library lawn.
The slope is gentle enough for first-timers to try out sledding without any fear. Plus, you don’t even need a proper sled to try this out – some plastic bags and cardboard boxes will suffice.
- Have a snowball fight in front of the Student Union building
The open space in front of the SU building is the ideal location for the ultimate snowy showdown between you and your friends. Plus, the Student Union building itself provides a safe spot for anyone who want to watch your epic battle without standing in the snow themselves. Important note: be mindful that this area can be quite busy, especially as students change classes. Always be considerate in your snowball fights and make sure that there is no risk of anyone being caught in the crossfire!
- Shake some snow off tree branches
You can get some truly fantastic slow-motion footage for your social media feeds in this way. Alternatively, just enjoy the authentic snowstorm experience.
- Visit the archipelagos after it snowed
This was one of my all-time favourite snow-time memories. Be warned, it requires proper preparation and planning! Most of the archipelago ferries have at least an hour break between trips, and many islands don’t have cafes or restaurants that are open in the winter season. Be ready to stay outside for a while, and make sure to have warm clothing/snacks that will last you for that entire time. However, the experience is truly spectacular – from seeing frozen beaches, to enjoying whole fields of undisturbed snow just for yourself, this is not something you want to miss!