February 26, 2018

Culture Shock: Walking on Ice Without Falling

One thing I enjoyed quite a bit about living in Kerala was the absence of snow, ice, frost, or bone chilling weather. While Kerala may have frost in the mountains, I am sure snow and ice are absent. I doubt if there would even be words in Malayalam for these weather phenomena? 


Spikes are not typically needed when walking to work,
but may be helpful for hikes or walks in the woods.
Cold weather, snow and ice were a few of the things I was not looking forward to when moving back to the U.S. Of course not all places in the US can boast snow as part of their normal weather pattern, in fact, a places like Florida (which is a lot like Kerala, weather-wise) would not see snow or ice, or if they do, it’s very rare and the entire place will shut down! Some may wonder why I’d worry so much about snow, ice and cold when I grew up in that kind of weather. Wouldn’t I adapt back to it with ease? Well… those who know me know I don’t have a lot of grace. The first time I went ice skating, I fell and ran over my fingers and got blood all over the ice rink. Therefore, even the thought of cold and snow make me think of ice, which make me worry about falling. 


In many pre-departure U.S. culture training programs, we would take time to talk about the weather patterns in different parts of the U.S. and the kinds of weather one may expect in the parts of the U.S. they’d visit during different times of the year. Though it snows in India, it did not snow in Kerala, Tamil Nadu or Bangalore, so therefore knowing how to walk in snow or on ice was always an interesting discussion. Interestingly, in an English class I recently taught in Salt Lake City, newbies to the U.S. mentioned that in addition to learning how to walk on ice, they thought the sound of walking on snow and ice was also something new to them. (The video to the side demonstrates the different sounds of walking on the ground in the winter.)

Let’s look at a few tips that can keep you safe while walking on slippery and/or icy pavement while visiting the U.S. or any cold climate in the winter:

It's not always easy to tell if it's just wet or icy.
Be careful!
1. Wear shoes with thick tread. Do not wear high heels or shoes with no or very little tread on the bottom. 
2. Walk with a different stride. We have to change our center of gravity and walk kind of like a penguin. So, walk slower. Some of the videos below will help you get an idea of how to do this.
3. Do not run. Do not carry heavy bags or purses on one side of the body. Do not carry large packages while walking over ice. (Though sometimes this can’t be avoided, learn to do it safely.) 
4. Be careful to walk on ‘black pavement’ thinking it’s dry. Sometimes it’s wet or the sun has melted the snow or ice then later when the sun disappears the cold temperatures freeze it, creating black ice or grey ice. Sometimes it’s not always easy to see where the ice is as in the picture to the right of a city sidewalk.
If in doubt while walking on a sidewalk, try to walk on the snow on the sides of the sidewalk.
Salt is sprinkled to melt ice,
but it can freeze again later.
5. Pay attention to the sidewalk and the roads when walking on them and crossing them. Do not look at your phone or text people while walking on icy or possible icy roads.
6. Buy spikes or tracks to put on the bottom of your shoes if you know you need to walk on icy parking lots or you may go hiking. Do not wear these spikes or tracks while driving your car or walking in buildings, as they will ruin the floors. The picture at the beginning of this article is of me wearing microspikes on the Wind Cave Hiking Trail. These spikes can help you traverse over rocky and muddy terrain a little easier, too.
7. Some people may also prefer to wear a pair of shoes with more tread on it to walk [into] work, but then change their shoes once they get inside the building. Note that if you're not used to wearing winter boots or thicker soled shoes, this may take time for your feet to get used to. You may also need to walk a little differently. Be patient and it will come with time. 
8. Take extra time to get to where you need to go if you the sidewalks and roads look bad. 

For more tips and demonstrations, watch the videos below.






This last video is a video I made almost 10 years ago to explain the American idiom 'black ice.'


And, one more, the sound of feet underfoot at Bryce Canyon National Park.
(Mossy Cave/Turret Arch Trail)



While a fall on ice can be painful for anyone, take care if you have elderly family or parents visit from abroad when it is icy and snowy. Getting used to wearing different kinds of footwear can take time, so please slow down and take care. 

Please stay safe out there. And, always remember if the walkways are icy, the roads probably are too. Make sure your car is ready for the winter weather, too. 



If you are looking for some online or virtual training options for your offshore teams to learn more about American culture, please contact us.

Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. Any application of the advice and its outcomes are the sole responsibility of the reader not the writer of the blog. 

Related Posts: 
Average weather in different parts of the US
Kerala is the Florida of India  
Use local weather reports to improve listening comprehension 

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