Winter weather panic: how the rest of the world puts us to shame

If there is such a thing as meteorological hypochondria, we Brits have it.

The weather is our favourite topic of conversation and whenever there is even so much as a gust of wind we’re taunting ourselves with notions of the “worst storm of the century” and “90mph blizzards”.

The most recent terrifying weather phenomenon is Storm Emily, set to cause the “WORST WINTER IN SIXTY YEARS”, newspapers shrieked this week.

According to nigh on hysterical reports, the “POLAR PLUNGE” will last for “THREE MONTHS”, causing “ARCTIC BLASTS” and “SCREAMING GALES”.

Call us cynical, but we’re not exactly battening down the hatches just yet.

However, one thing’s for certain when there is even a hint of drizzle and that’s complete shutdown of our infrastructure. We’re used to the “wrong type of snow” by now unfortunately, and we simply let out a disappointed sigh as things grind to a halt at the flutter of a snowflake.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the top five things we Brits whinge about and how countries that really have something to cry about… well, just deal with it.

School closures

Britain: 10cm of snow, 1 degrees Celsius, almost all schools closed

Alaska, USA: 12cm snow, -13 degrees Celsuis, schools open as normal

Alaskan school children

These children in Anchorage, Alaska, sadly hardly ever get snow days. But sledging to school is always a bonus

We all know if there’s a slight chance teachers cannot make it to school, it is immediately closed. It was one of the best things we remember about childhood. Now we’re not saying teachers should risk life and limb on icy roads, but we know what they secretly fear more than their own safety is being the only teacher to make it in to school and spending the day outnumbered and trying to suppress a mutiny by uncontrollable snow-frenzied children.

They’re prepared to risk that in Alaska however, where temperatures need to be below -40 degrees Celsius before there’s a chance schools will be closed. Sorry kids.

Bus disappearances

Britain: 3cm of snow, 0 degrees Celsuis, major transport disruption

Athabasca, Canada: 20cm of snow, -10 degrees Celcuis, fleet of 22 buses running fine

Brewster glacier bus

The Canadian glacier bus - think of it as a cross between a Routemaster and a monster truck

You’re standing at the bus stop on a cold winter’s night, with snow almost up to your ankles. However, you should know as soon as the snow reaches around 1cm deep, there’s a mysterious absence of buses. The scientific explanation for this is snow dissolves buses, one by one, until all that’s left is the driver having a fag outside the terminal. Fortunately, Canadians have discovered a solution to this problem. We don’t know it’s technical title, so let’s call it the Superbus for now. Canadians use the Superbus to ferry passengers around the mountainous regions. Time for Transport for London to get some of these we think.

Post delays

Britain: 8cm of snow, -5 degrees Celsius, Royal Mail apologises for postal delays

Eastern France: 8cm snow, -3 degrees Celsius, no reports of delayed post

French postman on skis

This French postman skied his round in 2003, when snow hit the east of the country. We dread to think what the letters looked like when they arrived but you have to admire the effort

Now British postmen and women are a hardy bunch. They’re out in all weathers making sure our post gets to its destination, generally our recycling bins. But even determined posties get snowed in, causing the familiar “snow delays Royal Mail deliveries” headlines. French postal workers, however, have thought of a novel way of getting Christmas packages to those who need them.

Road chaos

Britain: 11cm of snow, -3 degrees Celsius, stranded people trapped in their cars overnight

Mosjøen, Norway: 4 metres of snow, -4 degrees, roads clear and business as usual

Norway snow road

Norwegians plough through hundreds of feet of snow to create these spectacular snow banks. The view from the car is a bit boring though

After a couple of hours of gently falling snow it’s common to see people glancing round the office, nervously asking each other if it’s best they set off home before they’re trapped at work. But even when metres of snow land in Norway it’s business as usual. Norwegians always drive with winter tyres and use of studded tyres is allowed from 1 November or at times when the weather is particularly bad. Snow chains are also used and it is compulsory to carry a visibility vest in your car at all times. However, roads in towns and cities are normally pretty clear as they are regularly ploughed with snow sometimes being removed and dumped elsewhere. Norwegians laugh in the face of grit shortages. 

Train cancellations

Snow chaos causes train delays

A common scene in the UK every winter

Britain: 4cm of snow, 0 degrees Celcius, almost all morning trains cancelled or delayed

Southland, New Zealand: 15cm of snow, -1 degrees Celsius, tracks swept


Train ploughing through snow gif

So while Kiwis do this, we just wait for it to melt?

Of course, Britain has a great many traditions which we do everything we can to uphold. One of these, which is now decades-old, is not investing in the railways. And, while we love paying more than other countries for a service that is considerably poorer, seeing one of these from New Zealand speeding along the Edinburgh to London line would be so cool. A quick scoot round the tracks by a few of these and it’s snow longer a problem (sorry).

So what’s the verdict?

Britain, hang your head in shame.


Readers' comments (1)

  • Problem is this severe weather, except in Scotland, is too infrequent to justify the huge investment that colder countries find essential. Easier and cheaper to let the customers take the strain!

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