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how to survive your first new york winter

new york, fashion, essaysaniella matejovskyComment
outfit: Diesel Black Gold Pre-Fall 2016.

outfit: Diesel Black Gold Pre-Fall 2016.

I come from a far away land where there are no seasons, no hurricanes named after dead people, no zombie trees dying and coming back to life, no baby icebergs floating on the lake next to my house. Where I come from is known to be, even in the Caribbean, one of the hottest spots on the Equator. Maracaibo is famous for its inclement, ever-standing sun (it's right and center in our state flag) and a contaminated lake due to unhealthy, but coveted, amounts of oil. So it's fair to say that no, you can't, under any circumstances, refresh yourself by dipping your toes in the water; at most you can dress as light as possible parading yourself in front of any AC on as high as possible.

I moved to New York City in a cold January two years ago. It was the first time I had ever seen snow. Ever. I had watched American Christmas movies and idolized the beautiful winter wonderland they depicted. But all that drastically changed the first time I stepped out of my new apartment in my skimpy caribbean gear (aka shorts, tank tops and flip-flops). I had no idea how merciless the wind can be to a bare face, how unfriendly the blocks of snow are to an unprotected foot, and how difficult it was to feel alive when faced with deadly conditions. So I learned a thing or two, the very hard way, that I'm willing to share with you for the sake of your health.

First things first: always check the weather! It might be steady where you come from, but New York is the most unpredictable city on this side of the planet, temperatures fluctuate at the blink of an eye going from one extreme to another without warning. Some days you might need rain boots, another just a light jacket, and the next day the warmest scarf you own with double leggings. The weather according to Google might be the closest guess you get to making sure you'll live another day.

Give up your old style, and by that I don't mean: look awful; but you must set aside that cute cotton crop top you brought from Florida. Instead get everything wool and accessorize with layers on top of layers. You'll be glad to be walking around in your own warm cocoon.

And then there were shoes. I ruined so many good pairs of perfectly decent sandals, I can't even think about it without mourning a little. No matter how ordinary you believe winter boots look, you'll have to get a pair, because there no other shoe can manage to survive being dipped in that cold mud New Yorkers insist on calling snow.

Ultimately, the sad truth is that the cold in this city never stays outdoors. The chill would clinch to my bones all day long, specially after making so many rookie mistakes. Once I got home, it would take a warm bath, two hot cocoas and three blankets to get from blue to alive; but that was until my first American Christmas happened, and I got a ridiculous amount of scented candles for gifts, which I smelled with disdain because they were always a waste of money where I come (unless the power went out). But later that day when I lit a few before going to bed, I realized they could be a great friend. They kept me just warm enough in bed and gave me the most cozy caribbean-scented dreams. They were home that night.

What are your tips for surviving the winter?