Feeling a little nippy this winter? You should try facing the cold in Siberia. One British expat shares the tips he picked up during his first Siberian winter...
1. Do you really need to go outside?
Before you pull on your coat, ask yourself if you really need to venture out. People choose to stay indoors during the winter in Siberia – so if you're heading outside, make it count. If you’re visiting on a city break, consider what attractions are available indoors – many Russian cities pride themselves on their cultural events, putting on fantastic plays, music and ballet performances. Sampling Tchaikovsky in his homeland is a joy well-suited for the winter months, and there are plenty of museums and galleries too.
2. Invest in a warm wardrobe
Perhaps you’re really intrepid and have your heart firmly set on going outdoors – to see the Taiga, Russia’s wondrous nature, or just to marvel at Soviet architecture in all its grey glory. Well fine then, don’t say I didn’t warn you! One Russian motto is that ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes’, and you’ll want to take that logic onboard. Kit yourself out properly: stock up on thick socks, leggings or thick tights, a good pair of boots, thermal vests, a jumper and a thick, padded jacket. Remember that the Siberian cold is a dry cold, so it has a hard time penetrating effective clothing.
3. Keep your face covered
You'll need a very large scarf! The Siberian cold only really stings on exposed skin. Walking down the streets, you’ll see that everyone does their best to keep their faces covered. Take special care to keep your neck and face as warm as possible. Those who wear glasses, watch out: a scarf over your face will soon lead to fogged-up lenses! There’s a reason that so many Russians wear contacts...
4. Use public transport
Russian public transport is very cheap – trips on buses, trams or the metro across the city often cost less than 20p. When you go home to overpriced public transport (London, we're looking at you), you’ll miss Russia’s bargain Cold War-era transportation intensely.
5. Get that blood pumping
Know how to pace yourself when walking for a long time. If you start to chill, take five minutes inside a shop or warm public place, just to get some heat into your body. When walking, keep your head low and braced against the wind – a lowered head aids circulation. You might worry that you look anti-social, but there’s a reason that cold climates breed cold people! Also, try to keep moving; if you find yourself waiting at a pedestrian crossing, jog on the spot or exercise your arms.
6. Sweat it out
The Russian banya
, a type of sauna, is a popular fixture for many Russians in winter life. Steaming at length in scorching temperatures, cleansing your skin, you certainly won’t be complaining of the cold. For added relaxation, you can opt to be beaten with fir branches drenched in boiling water. As a grand finale, it's customary to take a naked run outside, and plunge yourself into a snow drift. It’s certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience! And if you don't like it, you could always report your hosts to Amnesty International.
7. Embrace the cold
If banya doesn't float your boat, why not try ice swimming? It's a popular activity in Russia and Eastern Europe during the Orthodox Epiphany holiday and is practically mandatory for any adventurous tourists who find themselves in Siberia in January. It is often said that the temperature in the water is often warmer than the air outside!
8. Find a pub
They say that alcohol warms the blood, though of course it actually lowers your body temperature... but why not go along with the illusion? It certainly never stopped Boris Yeltsin. Bars are widespread, and there are plenty of great-quality, sociable spots in most Siberian cities. Novosibirsk offers everything from trendy to indie hangouts, from pubs to clubs. The obligatory 'frost face' selfie
9. Learn to live with it!
Wintertime Russia may seem intimidating at first but, like any hostile clime, it is just somewhere that requires a bit of adaptation. The natives don’t find it much easier than you do! In return for a little hardship you'll have the chance to see beautiful nature, experience Russian hospitality and, of course, take that amazing frost-faced selfie that you’ve always wanted. Main image: Winter forest (Shutterstock)