Want a taste of winter? Come to Winnipeg.


Just when I thought this world couldn’t get any stranger.  In a bizarre case of the grass must be greener over there, Winnipeg is welcoming visitors from Australia and southern United States who want to experience cold.

Val Keenan and Jean Hyrich will welcome visitors to Winnipeg. (Photo - Matt Preprost: Winnipeg Free Press)

Yes, that’s right cold.  Bone chilling lock yourself in the bedroom and crank up the furnace and hide cold.   The six-day winter exchange is all part of worldwide cultural exchange movement called Friendship Force.  Founded in 1977 by US President Jimmy Carter, Friendship Force joins people around the world in an opportunity to explore different cultures and experience the world in a way travellers seldom get to experience.  By billeting, the travellers get the opportunity to stay in a home hosted by a native of the area.  Thus getting an authentic taste of daily life that staying in a hotel just cannot deliver.

Australian Pam Ferguson with host Jean Hyrich. (Photo - Phil Hossack: Winnipeg Free Press)

The group visiting Winnipeg this week for Festival du Voyageur includes 25 Australians and 9 from the southern United States.  Most of the group have never experienced anything like what we have in store for them.  Today, Weather Network.com is showing an air temperature of -26 Celsius.   According to Gayle Macready, an Australian, a cold day is when the temp dips to +18 C, that my friends is an almost 50 degree difference.

I was muttering only last week that the temperatures were unseasonably warm, and that all the snow sculptures were melting before the start of Festival.  Well what a difference a week can make, we are back into the deep freeze and now proudly showing it off to the world.

Friendship Force is giving these brave souls a chance to experience cold in a way that I would imagine would be completely foreign to them.  Not only do they get to develop the ability to calculate windchill factor on their frozen fingertips, they also get to practice dressing in layers.

You see just having bulky clothing is not enough here.  For example what would you do if you started to sweat in the bright sunshine underneath a massive down coat?  Dressing in layers offers one the ability to shed a little clothing at a time to stave off freezing to death in your own perspiration.

But enough of the cold, Friendship Force visitors will also get to experience Manitoba’s famous hospitality.  We don’t have Friendly Manitoba, on the licence plates just for fun.

Friendly Manitoba

The visitors will get to take part in curling, hockey and be the guests of honour in the opening ceremonies for Festival du Voyager.  I am sure a hearty bowl of pea soup and a slice of tourtière will await them after braving the cold opening parade.   Reportedly Aussie Pam Ferguson was disappointed with the balmy weather when her group touched down in Winnipeg last week.  Thankfully the weather god’s favoured her with an authentic mid-season blizzard that caused the province to shut many highways for safety and the temperatures to plummet.

Ooops, another frozen tongue!

Well Pam it looks like you got your wish after all.  I hope that everyone in your group gets a good taste of Winterpeg, Manisnowba.  Don’t lose any fingers to jack frost and don’t be licking any flag poles for that matter either.

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25 responses to “Want a taste of winter? Come to Winnipeg.

  1. LOL! Sounds nice and toasty. does that mean that you guys get to go to Australia to get some sunny heat soon then? 🙂

    • Oh I wish Ivy, I wish. Dar and I are not part of the Friendship Force movement just yet. Although it does seem like an incredible way to explore the world and meet new and exciting people.

      I found it funny though that some of the Aussies were complaining about our warm (+1c) weather last week. I thought that hovering around the freezing mark would have been cold enough for them. Well they sure got a taste of Winnipeg this week. Temps have been back around -25c and we got one hell of a storm on Thursday night.

      Did you change your e-mail info? I had to approve your comment today.

  2. Brrr! This post makes me cold. I was shivering this morning when the thermometer read 50F (about 10C). Can you even go outside??

    • Yes SG, we can and do go out side. A little frozen water is not going to stop a determined Canadian. Dar and I are planning on heading out to the Festival this year, we actually have some concert tix for next Saturday night. Looking forward to it.

      Good question though, even our cars have special heaters built into them so they can start in this weather, at very cold temps things tend not to want to work.

  3. This sounds soooooo chilly!!!
    I don’t know Bob, I don’t know how you do it. I think my toes would fall off.
    Do you sleep with hot water bottles? I do that in London and its not nearly as cold as what you’re talking about!!
    This Friendship Force thing is something to look into if it means you get to go to Australia…:)

    • Actually it’s not really all that bad, yea I know, sounds crazy but it’s all a state of mind. Once you get used to say -25, walking around at -15 with your coat open is easy.

      Really, honest and true after a long hard cold winter people are practically running around naked once the temps start to edge up around -10. That’s what we call T-Shirt weather here in Winnipeg.

      The Friendship Force really does look like an excellent way to travel. But think I am going to stay put for a while with all the things blowing up in Mexico, Blowing away in Tornado Alley, or crumbling to the ground in New Zealand.

  4. Bbbrrrrr…….. I love Canada, but only in the warmer months.

    • It’s not too bad, I know I bitch about it and honestly I would love to be on a beach right now with an umbrella drink in one hand. But all the cold weather does lead to some serious cuddle time. So that part of it is pretty good.

  5. While I think the Friend Force thing sounds effing awesome, I don’t know why ANYONE would want to come to where I live in winter. I am SO ready for winter to be OVER.

    Although. The winter festival thing looked pretty cool.

    • Hey guys.. it is getting towards spring in Dublin! Lovely bright and “springy” (OK not a real word) day today.
      🙂

      • Yea so true Nikki and I am north of you so what does that say bout me?

        Ivy, you can use “Springy” any time here. I think that in the next few weeks Winnipeg should be getting some of that Springy Love too!

        I can’t wait, feels like I have ice in my veins.

  6. Interesting post Bob- but not interesting enough to make me want to experience the cold.

    • Perhaps you could convince some of your new Japanese friends to come with you to modernize our winters for us. Just a thought. 🙂

  7. Hi guys! I’m the communications coordinator for Friendship Force International. The 25 Australians and 9 Americans are on their way home now, but they had a BLAST experiencing the Winnipeg winter. I hope you all will check out our website, http://www.friendshipforce.org. We have 360 clubs in 55 countries that would be happy to welcome you!

    • Welcome Jillian, it’s a rare honour that you have come to visit my little site. When I first read about people coming to Winnipeg to experience winter I thought that they must have been eco-tourists. I had never heard of such an organization the likes of what you are a part of.

      Personally I believe that anything that fosters an understanding of different ways of life can only be a positive thing. Even though in this case the persons visiting were of “western”, English speaking extraction I gather that this is not always the case.

      I would like to personally thank you on behalf of myself and my international readership for taking the time to stop in and let us know more about Friendship Force. If I may ask how did you come across my little part of the web? I always like to inquire that of any new people brave enough to comment here.

      Take care and happy travels.
      Bob

  8. Hi Bob,
    Nice article on our Friendship Force Exchange to Winnipeg. I was an Exchange Director and the 34 ambassadors had a great week in our fair city. We hosted a couple from the Sunshine Coast whom we had met during a previuos Friendship Force trip to Japan. If your readers are interested in Friendship Force in Winnipeg they can visit our website http://www.friendshipforcewinnipeg.org.

    • Hi Val, looks like the Friendship Force people are really coming out of the woodwork now. As I said above when I read about your organization in the Winnipeg Free Press I knew that I had to inform my readers about the wonderful opportunities that your group offers.

      I do have a pretty diverse readership as my globe shows. Some of my regular readers are from The United States, Australia, Ireland by way of Sweden, England and of course Canada.

      Thank you very much for the information you have provided, perhaps myself or one of my readers will one day become a member. It seems like an awesome way to see the world.

  9. Richard Grover

    Hi Bob, Enjoyed your article. As Winnipeg Friendship Force hosts, my wife and I really enjoyed showing a Queensland(Australia) husband and wife why we love our WINTERPEG….beautiful blue sky, bright sunlight, and fresh/ brisk/ CLEAN air! As long as you dress for the cold and keep moving, it is a great time of the year (although admittedly 5 months of winter does become a little bit too much of a good thing). Just remember to plug in your car at night when it goes down below -20C, and pray that our Greater Winnipeg Floodway saves us again from the possibility of flooding this spring.

    • Hi Richard, welcome.

      I am so glad that your guests had a good time exploring all that Winnipeg has to offer, that really is the purpose of this blog. From our clear blue wide open sky’s to our great restaurant scene. Winters here may be long but the quality of our people more than make up for any hardship as you and your wife have now shown the world.

      Have you been anywhere with Friendship Force? If so how was your experience abroad?

      Feel free to poke around here and please feel free to comment on anything.

      Have a great spring!

      Bob

  10. Richard Grover

    My wife and I travelled with a Wpg. FF group to Hungary and Russia in 2008. Great hospitality, generous people,mind opening experiences…and all in the accompaniment of local FF people. Thank God the Cold War is over and we can see Russians as northern people like us. They love their cottages and hockey. I had an earlier similar but shorter FF trip to Oz and NZ…..like visiting cousins.FF is something more people should consider joining.

    • So glad that you had a positive experience through FF. How does it work? I gather the membership fees only cover the introductions and arrangements. The travel end of it comes out of your pocket I would guess.

  11. The Winnipeg Exchange was wonderful! My husband and I have been members of the Friendship Force of San Diego since Oct. of 2004. Through Inbound and Outbound Exchanges, we have made lasting frindships wish people in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, England, Egypt, New Zealand, Peru, and Thailand. We thoroughly enjoy hosting and traveling!

    • Welcome Lauren!

      I was hoping have one of our guests come by and leave a comment. I am so happy that you had a great time here in Winnipeg, cold and all.

      It sounds like you really have travelled the world with FF, awesome.

      Please feel free to look around the my website, you are welcome to comment on a anything you see here. The more discussion on any topic the better.

      Take Care
      Bob

  12. Lauren Lee Beaudry

    Here’s a P.S. to my entry above. In 2006 The Friendship Force of San Diego hosted an Inbound Exchange welcoming the Winnepege Club….the dates in February were almost identical! Just a coincidence!