How to survive a Russian winter

The Met Office is forecasting chilly weather in the UK this week. Or, as the Guardian subs nicely put it, expect temperatures colder than Kiev.

After spending 2 winters Moscow – a properly cold place – I feel qualified to dish out some advice on how to keep warm when the temperature drops.


A Zara coat ‘lined’ with a Primark cardigan is not going to cut it. The trouble with buying a coat in the UK is that you’ll either:

  • look ok and be freezing or
  • be warm but look like you’re about to go skiing.

There’s no mid point.

If you are travelling for a length of time somewhere chilly, spend some cash on a decent outer layer when you arrive. Believe it of not, fashion designers in cold countries have worked out the sweet spot in the ‘looks nice- is warm’ Venn diagram.


Leather gloves look cool but unless you spend serious money, they are rubbish at keeping warm.

Mittens are much warmer and you can wear normal gloves underneath if you need an extra layer.

A plain cashmere scarf (Marks and Spencers, £30ish) will last ages, won’t go out of fashion and will actually keep you warm. Avoid chunky acrylic knits if you value your neck.

Furry hats trap air, which we all know is a great insulator. And they look super cool when they get frosty.


Sorry, I’m not going to endorse a diet of vodka. Instead, grab a tea or coffee for the walk to and from the bus stop and make sure you pop the kettle on when you get inside.


Dripping on toast should be your bar snack of choice.


Allow extra time to get dressed and take off your layers.

Don’t try to walk quickly or nip across roads. It’ll end in tears. And a head wound.


Moisturise all over. Every day. From October to April. Otherwise you’ll grow scales.


Russian women wear stilettos year round. The heel acts like a pick axe on icy pavements apparently.

I never saw any heeled ladies fall over. So maybe it’s true.

How do you survive the cold?


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