One of the main differences between Irish people and Latvian people is that an Irish person will tell you it’s ‘Baltic’ when it’s around 10 degrees celsius; a Latvian will tell you that it’s warm when it’s -10 with a comfort level of -25.
But then, it’s just as well we don’t often get extreme winters in Ireland. When we do (and by ‘extreme’ I mean -2 and a snow shower), children crowd around the radio over breakfast waiting to hear if their school is closed that day – burst pipes or snowed-in teachers being the main reasons. Staying indoors is highly recommended unless it’s an absolute emergency. The roads are declared ‘treacherous’ which is simply ‘frosty’ in any other country. Public transport comes to a standstill, airports close and old people are put on death watch. Radio talk-shows advise against clearing your driveway in case somebody slips on the patch you’ve cleared and sues you…
In Latvia, however, people are at their happiest when the country is buried under several feet of snow. They delight in telling you ‘This isn’t cold! Wait until the temperature hits… Now that’s cold!’ They don their ski gear and optimistically head to the ‘slopes’ in what has to be one of the flattest countries in Europe. Armies of old ladies take to the streets, sweeping and shovelling from well before dawn until late into the night. Seemingly sane people visit saunas deep in the countryside, sweat for a while (sometimes slathered in honey) and then dive into a freezing lake – followed by some good-natured beating with sticks (while still naked – naturally).
They think we’re crazy. We think they’re crazy. You decide. All I know is that you can take the girl out of Ireland but you can’t take Ireland out of the girl. So for the next few months, I’ll continue to carefully pick my way along the icy streets, nervously glancing skyward every now and then, in fear of the falling icicle that will end my Latvian winter prematurely.