Surviving the Siberian winter

Losing my Floridian identity, ~a journey~

One of the main concerns I had moving to Siberia was the freezing temperatures. Living in Florida, I would think it was “cold” when temperatures occasionally dropped to maybe 40°F. I thought, how in the world would I manage -40°C/F?

But, I had always wanted to live in a drastically colder climate and to truly understand what it’s like. All I had ever known was Floridian’s year-round fairly-balanced weather. Surviving the Siberian winter seemed pretty badass.

I have been living here for one month now, and I can safely say that I’ve basically become the cold. You learn quickly enough that it’s not “cold” unless it’s below -25°C.

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I used to prefer warmer weather. My favorite thing to do was wake up early, ride my bike to the beach and sit in my hammock to watch the sunrise. Florida’s hot and humid weather is nice year around, but as long as you wear the right attire, it’s quite nice to spend time outside here too!

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On the other hand, when it’s -40°C/F degrees, it’s not especially comfortable. My hair turns white, eyelashes can freeze, and you are one with the cold. My nose constantly runs, my face gets red, and my face goes numb. I don’t think I will ever feel super amazing in these temperatures, but let’s be real, who does? The people here definitely complain about the cold.

“Oh! It’s -15°C/5°F outside..”, you hear from around the corner, “..what a beautiful warm day we’re having!” I used to think -15°C was horrible and crazy. How naïve.

Who have I become?

Who is /r/Floridaman anymore?

What do people wear in Novosibirsk? / What should I wear when I come visit you, Bianca?

Ah! I’m so glad you asked.

I had no idea what to pack when moving to Novosibirsk. I went to some stores in the USA and would ask the salesperson questions on what I should buy. “What temperatures do you need this for?/Where are you going?” “SIBERIA?” Oh no honey. You need this, and they would pull out these massive crazy shoes that I don’t think a single person in Novosibirsk would touch with a 5 foot pole. I mean like army boots made to live outside in the snow in a trench for weeks on end.. “Do you really think I’ll need this?” I would ask in disbelief. Of course, these items were all way too expensive so I never considered any of the suggested items. Instead, I looked at some articles online and found out that the most important thing to do in cold climates, is to layer up!

Me when it’s -40 outside vs. me when it’s not -40 :)

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When you start walking in this Siberian weather, and fast, like me, who is always running late for things, your body tends to warm up pretty quickly. Of course, a shot of vodka acts as an additional layer if you feel necessary! За здоровье!

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It’s also very fashionable to wear fur coats here, and many people do, although they are expensive to buy.

I overheard one of the other teachers, where I work, saying she was saving money up to buy a fur coat and when we made eye contact she exclaims “haha sorry Bianca, it’s not vegetarian!” And then something along the lines of “Bianca you will never survive Siberian winter with no meat!” But I’m pretty motivated here. On a side note, I did meet another vegetarian living in Siberia. It’s possible!

I had a lesson last week, with my students, on endangered species and I remember asking them, “do you think it’s important we save these endangered species? (like tigers, gorillas, etc.) Why do you think it’s important? Etc. The students responded in unison: “Yes it’s important….!” I start to smile “…so we can breed them and make fur coats with them!!” I smiled too soon.

Worst thing about winter?

Having to de-clothe every time you enter a building! It is a very time consuming activity and not a fun one.

Does it snow often?

YES. The ground is covered in heaps of snow everywhere all of the time. People are constantly working to chip away and shovel the snow. It snows faster than people can remove it from the ground. Truck drivers pick up loads of unwanted snow everyday (not sure it makes a difference really) and they bring out of the city. Somewhere. We don’t know where. A land with all of the unwanted Novosibirsk snow. Let your imagination take you.

There must be such a large demand for people to just remove the snow. So if you need a job in Novosibirsk, they probably got you.

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There are blizzards every once in awhile, but it’s also pretty sunny here! The weather will often change from sunny to snowy to a blizzard and back to blue skies. It’s also not too windy which makes the cold more bearable. When people talk about other cities like St. Petersburg, they say it’s a different cold, because it’s near the ocean. It’s always very windy and cloudy outside, which can intensify the cold.

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Also, the frozen snow can be slippery!! I’ve seen many people slip on the pathways and I had some near-fall experiences myself. phew At least I know it happens to the locals too.

Do you like the winter?

Yes, I truly like the weather here. It’s so different, beautiful, and uncommon to me. I never thought I would enjoy the cold like I do now. Plus, there are lots of winter sports like ice skating, snowboarding/skiing, jumping into the icy river, and play in the snow. Don’t these all sound exciting?

One of my students, in her letter to Santa said, “I want snow for Christmas.” I asked her, “More snow?!” (like Siberia doesn’t have enough…) And she said “yes, I love the snow! I want more!” I thought this was only a Floridian’s wish!

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