Moving To Russia? What NOT To Wear

Russia does not boast the mildest of climates for a winter visit, so many people when coming to Russia want to know what clothes to wear.

If you are coming for a week visit, you can mostly ignore the advice of this short article, but if you are moving to a major city in Russia for the long-term, then pay close attention.

In this blogger’s day job, I regularly meet folks from around the world who have just made the move to Russia.  Surprisingly, it is during the winter that they complain the most about not packing the right clothes for Russia.  And usually, the complaint is that they packed too much.

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You can usually pick out an American tourist in a crowd by the clothes he is wearing.

In the past, I would encourage folks to buy their winter clothes before coming.  But that is because it used to be that the price of clothes in Russia was higher than in the United States, for example.  But that has now changed, and you can find clothes in Russia on all ends of the budget spectrum.

Here are few thoughts for packing clothes if you are moving to Russia during the winter:

  1. It’s cold, but it’s not that cold.  Trust me on this one.  Yes, Russia is cold, BUT it is highly unlikely that you will spend all of your time outside.  And because it is cold, you will most likely be moving when you are outside, not just standing around.  You will most likely be outside walking, then on a bus or taxi, then in a building.  When your days become a series of walking, public transportation, and being inside you will highly regret your purchase of high end BULKY clothes.
  2. Your American boots are way too big.  For most of the Russian winter I wear what I would call “winter sneakers”, even when it’s snowing outside.  These are not winter boots.  There are people in Russia who shovel the sidewalks.  I do have some fantastic winter boots, but they are only brought out of the closet for very special occasions. 
  3. Upon arrival, observe the Russians’ winter apparel.  It is sort of an exaggeration that anyone is used to the cold.  I remember once hearing “Russians aren’t warmer, they just dress warmer”.  The Russians didn’t buy their winter clothes back in Hoboken, New Jersey.  AND they don’t all look like Sir Edmund Hillary ascending Everest.

    Hillary_and_tenzing.jpg
    You are an English teacher in St. Petersburg NOT Sir Edmund Hillary on Mt. Everest
  4. Don’t buy this hat.  The only people wearing this hat in Moscow are newly arrived villagers from the provinces, American tourists, or the hyper-fashionable (like the guy in this picture).  And although you might be an American tourist, do you really want to be picked out in a crowd?download-1.jpg5. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” -Leonardo da Vinci.  Don’t pay for a second bag on your flight to Moscow.  Save yourself the time, money, and stress of shopping for something you know nothing about.  Leave your thermal underwear, electric socks, hand warming packets, scarves, and mittens all back in your storage unit in Memphis.  Put on the coat you presently own and come to Russia.  There are heated buildings, cars, clothing stores, and shoveled sidewalks.

Visas to Russia for Canadians and Americans

You can thank me later.  But for now, you will enjoy Russia (and even the cold!) more if you aren’t constantly fumbling around with clothes and warming accessories and lacing up your boots as if you are about to embark on the first Iditarod and deliver that serum to Nome, Alaska.

Just turn off the inner monologue about the weather, and go about your day.  And if you need a scarf or hat, just visit your local Sportmaster store.  And if you’re moving to a Russian village, I recommend packing heavy, but in the long term, you might do best to make friends with some of the local villagers and learn where they are doing their shopping.

Do you live in Russia?  I would be sincerely interested to hear from you.  Is there any piece of winter clothing that is not available here that you wish you had bought at home before coming?  Comment below.

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One comment

  1. Agreed, Andy! There’s no need to bring anything bulky or expensive. Even here in Chelyabinsk- which maybe counts as somewhat “out there”- you can easily find everything you need. I didn’t bring any winter outerwear and simply bought everything needed before the temperature dropped. I came here from Oregon and couldn’t believe that Columbia (from Oregon) is one of the top brands in this city! Small world 😉 It would have been so silly to lug something all the way across the planet when it costs about the same here.

    But, haha, I do have a bright pink ушанка with a big matryoshka and rhinestones. It’s totally obnoxious but I love it. Hope you’re enjoying winter in Moscow!

    Liked by 1 person

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