Stina Backer: Why does a little snow cause such chaos?

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The Independent Online

To a born-and-bred Viking like myself, it never ceases to amaze how much fuss a few flakes can create in this country. It's not like it never snows here. In fact, during my eight years in Britain, it has snowed during each and every one.

After listening to colleagues compare their commuter journeys like battle-scarred veterans, all I could think was "It's only water". As a Swede practised in these matters, I brought a change of clothes to work and, before even thinking about leaving the house, planned my journey with military precision. And that is where we differ, us Scandinavians and you Brits: preparation.

Not only do Swedes build houses with proper insulation and triple glazing (my rented, single-glazed house has frost on the inside at the moment), we don't wear heels, trainers or leather jackets if the streets are covered with snow and the temperature has dropped below zero.

Swedish motorists are forced by law to change to winter tyres (with spikes or thick treads) between 1 December and 31 March, even though most will not see much snow during the winter, thanks to global warming. All cars in Sweden have an ice scraper in the glove compartment – it beats trying to use your bank card and ending up both cold and cashless for the day.

In Sweden, we can also walk the streets without fear of falling flat on our faces in slush, because local authorities make sure every neighbourhood and major street has a box filled with sand.

In Sweden, the kids don't just stay at home and eat chips if a white layer of snow hits the ground – they make sure they get out and play or ride their makeshift sledges (try stuffing a few newspapers in a shopping bag and there you have it – an authentic recycled pulka).

In fact, I remember fondly riding my bike to school in a foot or two of snow as it was the only time of the year I could make impressive skids, or building igloos in the big piles of snow created by the snowploughs. But I guess British children are less likely to be able to create these feats of white powdery architecture because snowploughs are as common here as single glazing is in Scandinavia.

It's worrying that my landline and mobile phone are not working properly, and that emergency services are severely limited and hospitals are cancelling operations due to the snow. But, what worries me most is that, if it gets any worse, I'll be stuck on this island.