Today we went out to lunch with a couple of friends. We were planning to go on a walk in the park afterwards, but when we walked out of the restaurant, it was raining very lightly...with very heavy winds. So we walked ourselves over to the nearest mall for some coffee and highly caloric coffee shop desserts. That was almost as healthy of an option, right?
As the cold and the winds start to set in in Astana, I've been thinking a lot about clothing and how to dress around here. Before we came out here, I thought I had it all figured out: The warmer, the better, no exceptions. After all, I had read that Astana is the second coldest capital city in the world.
But here was the problem I didn't anticipate: The weather is certainly very cold outside in the winter (as well as large swaths of the fall and spring), but the temperatures inside, at least where we live and work, are almost always suffocatingly hot. Scott and I spent a good number of weekend days last winter wearing shorts and t-shirts inside our apartment, with the window open. And if anything, I tend to be more sensitive to the cold than the heat. In past workplaces, I always kept a sweater on hand. (On a related note, did anyone else read about how office thermostats are often set with men in mind?)
So, with that in mind, here are the lessons I learned last year about what types of clothing are useful--and what types are not--for this most fascinating climatic situation.
Useful: Silk long johns. Some days are cold enough that I, at least, need extra layers for my legs. Silk provides extra warmth while outdoors, without still feeling cool to the touch indoors.
Not useful: Synthetic long johns. Way too warm indoors. Ugh.
Useful: Jackets or sweaters than can be layered under a winter coat, but are not an integral part of an outfit. Layering is key some days to survive the short walk to work. But it's good to be able to peel off a lot of those layers once you're in the office.
Not useful: Heavy blazers or cardigans that are meant to "dress up" an outfit, and therefore be worn all day. I was so proud of myself when I found a wool sweater blazer on sale, too!
On a related note, lighter weight tops that are reputable enough looking on their own to not need a blazer on top are extremely useful.
Useful: Pants with enough room to layer long johns underneath if need be.
Not useful: Flannel-lined jeans. These are probably useful to winter sports enthusiasts, but they are way too hot indoors.
Useful: Work-out shorts. I have never worked out in such a hot gym in my life.
Not useful: Work-out pants. This is assuming, of course, that you don't have to go outside to access your gym.
Useful: Really warm winter boots.
Not useful: Very thick socks to wear with them. Admittedly, this will depend a lot on your boots. I bought myself a new pair of snow boots before coming out here, having had the same pair since college. My new snow boots are down-filled, and amazingly, were warm enough to wear all winter with just tights or trouser socks underneath. This is fine, since all of my super thick socks also date from college, so (a) I didn't spend money on them recently, (b) they're getting pretty floppy and not much fun to wear, and (c) it's easier to just change shoes at the office without also having to change socks.
Useful: A heavy duty hat that can't be blown off your head. I wasn't really sure what to do about hats before coming out here, but it quickly became clear that the hats I had brought out here were woefully insufficient. I ordered a down-filled hat with earflaps that fastens under my chin. It won't win any points for style, but it was a game changer in terms of my winter comfort.
Useful: A long coat with room to layer underneath. I'm not going to try to weigh in on which brands are best, but I think in this sort of climate, you do want something that covers a wide swath of your legs.
Useful: A balaclava or scarf you can wrap around your nose and mouth. Alas.
Useful: Heavy gloves or mittens. This probably goes without saying, but thin fleece gloves often won't cut it.
Useful: Yaktrax. They were a little bit of a nuisance, but I didn't fall once last winter!
Wishing everyone moderate, pleasant climates that don't require any clothing analysis!