Most of the non-Spanish people I encounter reveal a common prejudice; that Latin men are oppressive chauvinists, and that we, the wives of these men, suffer under their regime.

I don’t claim to know every single Spanish man, nor do I claim to know Latin Americans well enough to include them in this post. But I do know Spain, and Spain is the country I will be addressing here.

My general impression is that the machismo was stronger in Spain a couple of generations ago. I have traveled a lot to Italy in my life, and also a few times to France. There I have quite recently experienced catcalling in its ugliest form, a whole bunch of times. To compare, in 2017 I spent a total of three months in Spain, and I have been going there about four times a year since 2010, sometimes five weeks at a time. Every time I am there, I go walking by myself (because shopping happens). I have been catcalled once, by a guy I seriously think was mentally disabled.

The minimum sentence for rape in Norway is three years, after having recently been raised from two. Some argue that this change has resulted in fewer convictions, because judges are hesitant to give “such a long” sentence, and hence choose to let the accused go instead. In Spain, there has been at least one case of a catcaller being arrested for his actions. In Norway the police cannot do anything as long as there has not been physical touching or verbal threats.

When it comes to the protection of women, I believe that Norway is actually behind Spain. Still we like to cling to the idea of the Macho Iberico, and that the Norwegian society is much safer for women regarding sexual violence.

Check this out

These are the degrees of sexual violence and how they are punished in Spain.

Sexual aggression

Basic sexual aggression: The attempt to commit any sexual act (not necessarily penetration) using physical or mental force. Punishable with prison from one to five years.

Aggravated sexual aggression (usually what we call rape): Committing a sexual act using physical or mental force, including vaginal, anal or oral penetration. Punishable with prison from six to twelve years.

Enhanced basic sexual aggression can be applied and punished with prison from five to ten years, under the following circumstances:

• When the violence or intimidation is especially humiliating or degrading for the victim

• When there are two or more perpetrators

• When the victim is especially vulnerable due to factors like age, disability or illness

• When the perpetrator is the parent, child or sibling of the victim

• When there is use of weapons or other dangerous items

Sexual abuse

Basic sexual abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact, but without the victim realizing. This would for instance include a situation where the perpetrator touches a sleeping or passed out victim in inappropriate places. Punishable with prison from one to three years. If the perpetrator is a parent of the victim, the punishment will always go to the maximum.

Aggravated sexual abuse: Same parameters, but including vaginal, anal or oral penetration. Punishable with prison from four to ten years.

Sexual harassment

Basic sexual harassment: Suggesting sexual favors. The relationship between the perpetrator and the victim has to be either work related, or such as the one of a teacher and his/her student. Punishable with prison from three to five months. If the victim is especially vulnerable, the crime is punishable with prison from five to seven months.

Aggravated sexual harassment: Same conditions as above, but the perpetrator has a superior position and is also threatening to punish the victim if she/he does not comply her/his requests of sexual favors. Punishable with prison from five to seven months. If the victim is especially vulnerable, the crime is punishable with prison from six months to one year.

Exhibitionism

These punishments are applied when the victim is a minor or for some reason disabled.

Basic exhibitionism: Punishable with prison from six months to one year.

Distribution of pornographic material: Punishable with prison from six months to one year.

Norway

In Norwegian law, rape is defined as the following:

• Obtaining sexual contact through threatening or violent behavior

• Having sexual contact with someone unconscious or unable to resist the sexual act

• Forcing someone to commit sexual acts with others or themselves by threatening or violent behavior

Punishment

• Rape under these definitions can be punished with prison up to ten years

• Rape without any enhancing circumstances are normally punished with four years of prison

• Rape with enhancing circumstances are normally punished with six years of prison

• Prison up to twenty one years can be considered in circumstances where the victim is left injured for life or dies as a result of the rape

• The minimum punishment for the equal of Aggravated rape in Norway is three years of prison

Some statistics

The following shows the differences in percentage regarding partner violence. As one can read from the figures, the number is higher in Norway than in Spain. Regarding women’s own perception of societal safety Spain is only one point below Norway, which can be considered marginal.

It is also worth mentioning that in 2011 the average sentence for rape in Norway was three years and four months of prison, although seventy percent are out after having served about two thirds of their time. It is easy to calculate that most of the sexual offenders sentenced to prison in Norway will serve about two years.

Also, check out this map regarding women’s physical safety, and compare Spain to Norway. Underneath you can see the five best countries in the world to be born female, regarding career and welfare. Spain is the only country of significant size on the list, and is only marginally worse than the others.

The last table is based on numbers from Statistics Norway and Instituto Nacional de Estadística. The table shows how many years sexual offenders are sentenced to in percentage. As one can read, there is a much higher percentage of long jail time sentences in Spain than in Norway.

Conclusion

I will be the first to admit that I am no lawyer, but the information is out there and it is not difficult to read. I am writing this post because I am tired of people thinking that Spain is such a difficult country to be a woman. I am also comfused by the fact that Spanish women tend to look towards Scandinavia when they describe how they would like Spain to be, when Spain actually protects its women to a higher degree than what we do in Norway. Women everywhere are fighting for an increased level of equality, but we should be aware of the numbers, – there is no reason for Spain to idealize us.

And by the way, my husband cooks me dinner every day!

Sources:
https://no.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voldtekt
https://es.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delitos_contra_la_libertad_e_indemnidad_sexuales
https://giwps.georgetown.edu/country/spain/
https://giwps.georgetown.edu/country/norway/
http://www.klartale.no/norge/lav-straff-for-voldtekt-1.334971
https://www.ssb.no/sosiale-forhold-og-kriminalitet/statistikker/straff/aar
http://www.ine.es/welcome.shtml
http://m.libertaddigital.com/opinion/manuel-llamas/no-espana-no-es-un-pais-machista-85000/
http://www.elfederalonline.com/2017/10/12/primera-vez-detienen-riojano-decirle-una-mujer-piropo-subido-tono/
Women Stats Project

The streets of Oslo (and other European cities) are filled with beggars. Only a decade or two ago they consisted of ninety nine percent drug addicts, because I am lucky enough to live in a country where it is almost an impossible task to die from starvation or other consequences of extreme poverty. The system catches you long before it comes to that.

Now though, a great portion of these beggars are Eastern European immigrants, also known as Gypsies, Romani people or Roma, all depending on how politically correct one wishes to be; the term Gypsy is by many Romas considered discriminating (like the n-word), as it often contains negative connotations connected to thievery and crime.

Traditional gypsy caravan
Traditional Traveler’s caravan

First, a little history. Most countries have their own branches of Romas, as does Norway. Those however are few and even fewer still practice their traditional traveling lifestyle. In Britain a big part of the nomadic people call themselves Irish Travellers, and are of Irish origin, unlike the Eastern European, who descend from India.

As you may or may not know, along with the Jews, (all branches of) the Roma people were also victims of ethnic cleansing throughout WWII. During these years between 220 000 and 1, 500 000 Romas were executed by the nazis, – quite an unclear number, which again, in my opinion, demonstrates the general lack of knowledge on the Roma genocide.

However, the seemingly endless mistreatment of the Romas did not stop in 1945. Governments in Czechoslovakia, along with those of several Scandinavian countries (Norway amongst them) initiated a systematic (and obviously forced) sterilization of Roma women in order to reduce their population. In Norway specifically, people of Roma ethnicity were denied entry by law until 1956. Since then the Norwegian government also systematically removed Roma children from their families (estimated to between two and three thousand children) and placed them in orphanages and foster care, up until the late seventies. The practice was not officially abolished until 1986.

In 1951 a law was passed that forbid any branch of the Romas to own horses, effectively robbing the travelers of their traditional way of living. According to the Norwegian Holocaust center, there are well documented cases from Norway’s most famous psychiatric hospital, that prove the sterilization, castration and lobotomization(!) of people of Roma descent.

Romas waiting to be deported to concentration camps (Germany, 1940)
Romas waiting to be deported (Germany, 1940)

Still, it continues. In a society that no longer puts up with racism and discrimination, the hatred towards the Romas never ceases to exist. Unfortunately we no longer see them as musicians and craftsmen, like they once were (and often still are), but as an annoying burden, giving our perfect welfare state a filthy stain. You don’t have to look far. Read the comments in social media. Raise your eyes to see how people talk about (and to!) the beggars that are not Norwegian drug addicts. Why are the Romas the last minority it is socially acceptable to discriminate solely based on their ethnicity? (Enhancing the last sentence, as it is the most important message in this article.)

In early 2017 the Norwegian state broadcasting channel, NRK, launched a documentary claiming to prove that the Roma beggars on our street corners are massively involved in drug and prostitution crimes. The documentary was later proven to have used several photographs from unrelated sources, showing these off as “evidence”, until the public learnt the truth.

Yet, the documentary once again kindled the debate on whether or not Norway should make begging a crime. Or, as I like to put it, if we should make it illegal for the poorest to burst our perfect bubbles of wealthiness with the presence of their misery. If we should force them to take their misfortune elsewhere.

The absolutely amazing Russian Roma trio, Loyko
Amazing Russian Roma trio, Loyko

It is an utter mystery to me that Norway, with its exceptionally ugly history regarding this minority, still lacks the decency to treat them, as anyone else, like human beings. This does not only apply to the government (actually, the current prime minister officially apologized to the Romas in 2015, praise her for that), but to the general public.

A common argument is that the beggars don’t get to keep the money they earn, that they are part of organized begging circles where the bosses control them and end up with the profit. I have no evidence to show whether this is true or false, but I do know the following;

– No matter who gets the money you earn, you have to be beyond desperate to endure Norwegian winters, sitting on one spot in temperatures way below zero, day after day for hours at the time. Apply the fact that most people who pass by despise you. Does it still sound attractive?

– It makes no sense what so ever to glance upon the most vulnerable minority in our society and think that the solution is to push them down even further. I cannot think of any other group where this is being done, or even suggested.

– Nobody is asking you to contribute. If you don’t believe in it, let it be, but be civilized about it. Take another look at history, and ask yourself if you really want to continue that history in the same manner.

– However, sharing a little of what we have might contribute to less crime. Desperate people will act accordingly, and I think we can all agree that begging is better than theft. (This is just one of my own reflections, but it can be applied to everything from the need of drugs to the wish to feed your child, regardless of ethnicity.)

Infamous picture of three fingered Roma guitarist, Django Reinhardt
Infamous picture of three fingered Roma guitarist, Django Reinhardt

For some reason the Romas fall outside of the common moral rules on how to treat one another. It is not a matter of giving them money or not, but a question of what level of integrity we want to have as a country and as individuals. Still there are Romas that keep their origin secret in fear of the consequences, and we are living in 2018.

It also saddens me deeply that the Roma culture and talent always have been overshadowed by the prejudice and fear of people living life in a different manner. There are countless Roma musicians out there with skills that match any so called professional, that never receive the recognition they deserve as a part of Roma culture in the eyes of the general population. The loss is ours, and it is a perfect example of how we blindfold ourselves and hence rob ourselves of what could also be enjoyed by “us”.

I would like to finish with this beautiful Roma saying that has stuck with me for one and a half decade; Bury me standing, I’ve been on my knees all my life.

(Below you can find links to a few of the most amazing music pieces by Roma musicians)

Rosenberg Trio – Gipsy Summer

Loyko – Brahms

Django Reinhardt – Honeysuckle Rose

Gipsy Kings – Bamboléo

Sources: Wikipedia.org, Aftenposten.no, Spotify

Cultural differences are interesting to get to know, and appear in the strangest of forms, – often on subjects where one has not even considered the possibility of their existence. It is usually mostly entertaining, somewhat educational, and – I will not lie – at times slightly annoying. Anyhow, it’s worth writing about, and I hereby declare that the following observations are based on the Spanish and Norwegian individuals of my own life, and might be totally wrong for the rest of the countries’ population, but I tend to think they can be applied to the greater majority. Prior to further reading; brace yourself for stereotypes, generalizations and (although I hate to admit it) exaggerations.

Watching TV while having dinner

Norway: The taboo among dinner customs; mostly considered the practice of dysfunctional families that don’t care for actual communication. Apathetic faces staring blankly at some kind of useless sit-com or TV-shop woman selling a vacuum cleaner, while not noticing that grandma died in her chair an hour ago. In reality most people dine in front of the TV from time to time, but they DO NOT tell anyone, due to the shame and social exclusion following such a reputation.

Spain: The TV is on most of the time, also whilst consuming one of the many meals during a day in the life of the average Spaniard. Another family member might be watching a youtube video, and a third one checking out a song on Spotify. No one turns down the volume, and no one stops the five conversations that are going on across the room at the same time. Watching TV while eating in Spain is not anti-social, and does not mean that you don’t enjoy conversing with your family members. Spaniards are world champions on multitasking, and seem to think that no activity excludes another.

Sleeping with the window open

Norway: Ah, fresh breeze from the window, all year round. Thick duvets all the way up to the chin, winter temperatures in the room, slippers ready by the chunky carpet on the floor. No headaches, no old air (as we like to put it), cold nose but a really, really warm body. And the comforting sound of rain or wind slowly lulling you to sleep.

Spain: For PUTA’s sake do not open the window, are you LOCO? Turn on the heat, make sure the vents are closed, the fan is off and that #noairwhatsoever is let in. If there is a tiny breeze from like, your cat sighing, we will get sick. We will get a cold, sniffy noses, sore throats and probably swine flu, aids and rabies. And we will not be subtle about it. We will complain and we will let you know every five seconds that YOU ARE TO BLAME.

Bringing kids into bars

Norway: The first sign of real child abuse. Call teachers, neighbors, the police, social services and the pope. This child is being molested by every single person inside the family, and it is plausible to conclude with both violence and general psychological torture, all to be blamed on the occasional beer within the presence of ~a child~. All future offsprings will be automatically aborted by the prime minister herself.

Spain: A bar is a social place, where there may or may not be a drunk fellow. Anyhow, your kids will not really notice, nor be frightened by them, considering that present parents won’t treat mentioned drunk people as something shameful nor dangerous. Most people however will have a couple of cañas and some tapas, while having their kids run around just like in the average Starbucks. Parents don’t drink enough to get affected by it, and kids are usually having fun with other kids, while their folks earn a well deserved break from everyday life. All are happy.

Doing stuff

Norway: Let whoever doing something, do it in peace and quiet. Leave the person undisturbed until the task is finished, unless there is something really obvious you can do to help. When in doubt, just ask, but prepare to have your offer to help rejected.

Spain: Your husband, your mother in-law, her father’s third cousin’s long lost nephew and his dog are coming with you to do whichever task you have before you. They will tell you how to do it, maybe try to do it for you, or discuss the best way to execute the task. Sometimes while staring at you and standing way too close for you to do what you need to do properly.

The concept of NOW

Norway: Being ready to leave NOW means that you’re standing fully dressed by the door with the keys in your hand. NOW describes the moment of something happening instantly, mostly within seconds, with the exception of the real time (HAHA) signs belonging to the public transport system. Those were probably made by Spanish workers and auctioned away with Norway as the only bidder.

Spain: NOW is relative. NOW can mean right away, or within some hours. You can be waking up from your siesta, naked in bed, looking like an earthquake and telling your hubby you are ready to go NOW, meaning that you will be ready an hour later. Ironically the public transport system is actually reliable, but after the one minute limit has passed, the real time sign goes to zero minutes. Otherwise no one would know when the transport is actually coming, obviously.

Aesthetics

Norway: A scratch on your car must be fixed immediately. Any respectable citizen will renew the kitchen every tenth year or so. Clothes with tiny wholes or stains are simply unusable (Trust me, I worked in retail for eight years).

Spain: In Madrid people actually calculate distances by slightly bumping into the cars in front and behind when parallel parking. Cars get scratches, and nobody cares as long as they still run. Regarding appearances it is easy to assume that the good people of Spain can be compared with their stylish fellow southern Europeans in France and Italy, but nothing could be further from the truth. Most Spaniards are naturally attractive and charming, but they are also totally chill and casual, and everything but snobbish.

Rules

Norway: Rules are made to be followed! Five hundred grams overweight when you check-in your luggage at the airport means that you pay, – not for four hundred and ninety nine, not for five hundred and one, – but for five. hundred. grams. Norwegians like equality, and therefore rarely make exceptions from the rules. They also rarely question the rules, if said rules are made by higher forces (meaning the government, not Jesus C.™)

Spain: If you enter a bar that says restrooms are only for paying customers, you might very likely still get to use it if you ask nicely. Also, getting minor services on let’s say, your car, doesn’t necessarily have to cost you a single eurocent. If the car repair man doesn’t feel like he has really made an effort to solve your problem, he might just say hasta luego baby and leave, while you, having the role of the confused foreigner, are left with your credit card ready, not knowing whether to feel relieved or uncomfortable. No wonder the country has had some economical issues when they insist on working for free. Spaniards are the mere opposite of square, and their relaxed attitude has them bending the rules all the time, especially if the rules imply more work. Which is also why the airport employees won’t even charge you for five kilos overweight.

How the day works

Norway: It is almost socially frowned upon to have a job that does not take place between the hours of eight and four. At five people have dinner, and most of these workers go to bed before eleven, after having put their kids to bed at eight.

Spain: People generally work later, not to mention have dinner no earlier than ten. Before that they have what they call lunch, which is basically the first dinner of the day. The lucky and/or traditional ones also sleep the famous siesta after dinner number one, and people (including children) go to bed way after the majority of Norwegians are already asleep. It’s like the whole day has been moved three hours ahead, like the primal Spaniards overslept and their descendants never managed to catch up.

Greeting

Norwegian: No one is introducing me. Maybe I just say hola. If I’m in a good mood I’ll wave from afar.
Spaniard: No one is introducing me. Better take matters into my own hands.
Norwegian: Oh-oh, Spanish stranger approaching. What does he/she want?
Spaniard: Why is this person reversing like a car?
Norwegian: Fine, I’ll do a handshake.
Spaniard: Handshake? What are we, politicians? (Damn politicians de mierda) Come here, amigo!
Norwegian: Why is his/her face approaching mine? What are you – ? What? No. No! NOOOOO
Spaniard: That was a good kiss! Now let’s do the other side.
Norwegian: Now what? I thought that was it!
Spaniard: Good thing I didn’t let go of that hand. Better pull. Ngh –
Norwegian: You gotta be kidding me!
Spaniard: There! My work is done.
Norwegian: This trauma will forever haunt my soul.

(Play this inner dialogue in very fast motion to know exactly what happens when a Norwegian and a Spaniard meet for the first time)

Conclusion

Norway Pros:
• Being on time, and actually knowing when people arrive.
• Being left alone when you need to.
• Getting to sleep without sweating through your sheets.
• Routines and rules.

Norway Cons:
• Hysterical and slightly judge-mental attitude towards people doing things differently.
• Being left along when you actually do need help.
• Living in a society that basically discriminates everyone who is not an early bird.

Spain Pros:
• Being a part of a very inclusive society, without even trying.
• Not stressing about anything, – no pasa nada! (nothing will happen!) is a very comfortable life motto.
• Having the opportunity to live life as a night owl.
• A life dominated by variation and adaptiveness.

Spain cons:
• No one is ever on time. On the bright side, that means you don’t have to either.
• Not being given much space when you need it.
• Having your car scratched more frequently.

I guess the pros and cons mostly depend on how one is wired, but I tried to be as objective as possible. That said, I know where I belong.

You never swam well, but you still gathered the courage to go for a swim a couple of times. Nobody really knew where the bottom was, because the mud was so thick it was unidentifiable. It didn’t matter, most of the time you would just balance on the narrow pier, or go to the beach and pick up stones, hunting for tiny crabs that had got stuck there since the last tide. At times you would dip your feet in the ice cold water, or even just your toes. Usually in the springtime, feeling the very first rays of sun on your skin. The temptation was simply too big.

Sometimes you would get up at five in the morning to go fishing. The yellow boat was too small to use when the sea wasn’t still, and it would always get windy and wavy by noon. There weren’t much fish, but from time to time you would get a cod or a sole that came with a great portion of pride.

You had a lot of respect for the water. Usually you spent the whole boat ride staring down into it, counting jelly fish or hoping to see something even more exciting. Nothing was better than when it got clear, and you could spot the seaweed down there, getting a glimpse of a whole other world.

The first couple of islands were inhabited by birds, and the swans that reigned there would swim to shore in large groups every time you called them, always torn between their wildness and their appetite for bread. Farther out was the main island, the one you used to walk around only to see the huge crack in the middle of the rocky ground. It always made you feel like an adventurer. Beyond that were the black islands that consisted of lava rocks that looked uncomfortable to step on, although you never went on shore. Even the farthest islands were easy to find as long as you followed the dug out canals, marked with fragile looking sticks. You always thought they stayed year after year, mysteriously surviving the brutal autumn storms that occasionally broke off pieces of the cement pier, as if it were a piece of cardboard. You were way beyond adult when you found out that they were changed every year.

During the rainy season when there were no cobwebs between the trees, there was the forest. At first you would just follow the main paths, but as you got older they didn’t seem so long anymore and you drifted off and found your own routes. Through the woods, half climbing up the rocks, past the one that looked like a whale, and up where it felt like no one had ever been. It didn’t matter that you were alone, you would listen to classical music and pretend to live the life of someone else. You found a cliff that was so steep it looked like someone had cut it with a knife, and a gigantic old oak tree with branches so heavy you could almost walk up on them from the ground. It was collected in the storage room of your imagination, saved up for the stories of the future.

At night you would curl up on the couch, listening to radio novels while having orange juice and chocolate. A mouse or a beetle would sometimes scoot by, peacefully sharing house while living their own lives. It was pitch black outside and it always seemed threatening, but inside it was safe and warm.

It was a miracle that you never fell while running up the steep stairs; a child’s optimism can make one immortal. Tucked in under the blankets you studied the flowers in the wallpaper for years, before they finally replaced it with wood panels. But you could still see it in the crack behind the door, although you couldn’t see the patterns you used to.

In the morning you woke up to the sound of newly hatched swallow chicks from the nests under the gables. If you stuck your head out far enough, they would peak over the edge and meet your gaze with curious pearly eyes.

The final years you crashed your head into everything, – your brain still adjusted the body like it had done during all those years. The old birthday cards had been taken down from the wall above the bed, and you knew you no longer could crawl through the small window beside the wooden chest. Although you didn’t jump from rock to rock in the garden anymore, you still knew each one of them, where they were round and where they were pointy; you still knew exactly where to put your feet. Now they were just a small step apart from each other.

You knew the crabs had to be fished by new little hands. You hated abandoned houses, there was nothing in the world that made you sadder, and you had promised yourself a long time ago not to let that happen. So you visited the oak tree one last time, and you saw your own face imprinted in the bark. And you let go.

Unfortunately we live in a country where we are lucky (but oh so unlikely) to get three months of summer. The rest of the year consists of different variations of the concept Winter. Everything from Hey, it’s a sunny September day, last chance to wear shorts and get out, only to realize it’s freezing and you should consider yourself lucky not to die from pneumonia kind of winter, to the sneaky It’s covered in white, today must be cold so you put on three wool sweaters but no rubber boots and go out, only to find that it’s not so cold, so you spend the day smelling your own sweat and hence cannot remove mentioned sweaters, with wet shoes and socks underneath kind of winter.

Oh the joy.

Some alien-like people actually enjoy this. But I don’t. In fact, I did not sign up for this. Marry a foreigner, they said, it will be fun, and so on. So I though, until I realized he’s more attached to my country than I am. He freezes less than me and never wears a scarf or a hat, not even gloves. (And you call yourself Spanish?!)

I on the other hand need a full stash of mechanisms, a kind of mental-physical survival kit to get me through this time of year. I refuse to believe I’m alone, so I decided to share it. Here it goes.

• Get ready for having the Michelin man as your fashion icon for six months. Just accept that even if you’re really slim, you. will. look. HUGE. It’s a fact.

• Don’t be cheap about your winter clothes. This is the time to invest in some real chunky wool sweaters, and admit to yourself that sheep were a gift from God to cold people. Check the washing tags when you consider making a purchase, and for His sake, stay away from acrylic, nylon and polyester. Synthetics are wool’s evil doppelgänger.

• Have cats (this seems to be the answer to a lot of issues). Cats have a much higher body temperature than humans, and are great to literally put upon yourself when coming home to a cold house.

• Gain some isolating winter kilos. Fat people freeze less.

• If you have installed heat in your bathroom floor, try moving your kitchen and living room in there. Get comfortable and stay put until April.

• Make sure to use blusher or rouge on what little of you is visible when you go outside, – I for one am quite content with looking like a corpse only when I actually become one.

• Snuggle. I do this all year round, but it’s even more important in the winter, being that I mostly interact with other living creatures over the edge of my scarf.

• Party like an old person and swear by beverages that warm up your throat, like cognac. Bonus for classiness.

• Be a little extra friendly, and invade the intimacy zones of yourself and others. The power of body heat shall not be underestimated.

• Avoid public transport. They are usually cold and tend to stop a lot during this time of year. If you have to use it, go back to the previous advice.

• Complain. In the winter, complaining about the weather is the greatest ice breaker (couldn’t resist that pun) there is. You will make new friends.

• Do not ever go to cottages. People will make you ski.

• Make an effort to blow up the coziness scale by drinking lots of tea, eating candy and lighting a fireplace. Cover yourself in blankets, be lazy and feel great about it.

• Leave. The country, Europe, Earth. Just make sure you go South.

Sincerely, good luck. I mean it.