Surviving Shenyang’s Siberian Winter: Preparing for the Cold

Surviving Shenyang’s Siberian Winter: Preparing for the Cold
By Duncan Muir ,

In Shenyang the seasons are distinctive and change quickly – when the Siberian anticyclone shifts, the hot air you’d been basking in all summer disappears and is replaced by winds streaming down from the Arctic. December through February, the temperature rarely makes it above 0°C and when winter really begins to bite, lows of -30°C are not uncommon. But the winter isn’t just cold, it’s dry too and after the first snowfalls in November most days are crisp and cloudless, albeit fairly smoggy. But, don’t let all of this worry you too much. Provided you’re prepared, the Shenyang winter need not be a frigid fiasco. If you have the right clothing and winter gear and are able to keep a positive outlook, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy winter in Shenyang as much as you enjoy the summer.

1)  Staying warm
The first key to beating the arctic chill is to have the right wardrobe. By layering your clothes and investing in a good-quality winter coat, you should be able to brave Shenyang’s coldest days without too much discomfort. Local Shenyangese own both a pair of summer trousers and a pair of winter trousers, and the winter trousers are a couple of sizes bigger. This isn’t because everyone piles on the pounds in the winter like a bear getting ready for hibernation, rather it’s to make room for the thermal underwear, or qiuku (秋裤). In Shenyang you can buy some of the most serious thermal undies you’ve ever seen in your life, and they come in many varieties – some woollen, some brushed cotton, some plain, others with the hilarious patterns of snowflakes and reindeer. Although you might think that there’s something distinctly unsexy about long underwear, when it’s thirty below outside you’ll be happy to be wearing them. You can pick these up in any shopping mall, major supermarket, or the fashion underground at Taiyuan Jie. Prices tend to vary from 50 RMB to 300 RMB for a set.

2)  Happy feet
The first snowfall of the year is always beautiful, burying the city streets in a blanket of pure-white powder. But this is a city of 8 million people so it doesn’t take long for the deep drifts to be trampled into thick layers of compacted dirty ice. One day you’re walking to work, but the next day, you may be skating unless you have some serious shoes to grip the icy ground. Wu’ai Market is a great place to go shoe shopping; the ground floor has more shoes than you’re ever likely to see together in one place. You can pick up some fur-lined boots fairly cheap, provided you’re prepared to bargain hard.

If you already have a good pair of boots with a healthy tread, then you should invest in some furry insoles, or xiedian (鞋垫). They’re only about 1 RMB a pair and should keep your toes cosy if you’re going to be outdoors for any substantial length of time. You can pick these up at most local markets, street vendors and at some local shops too.

3)  Breathing easy
Though most winter days in Shenyang are clear and cloudless, the city is actually much smoggier during this time of year. The local central heating is mainly coal fuelled, and the smokestacks that have lain dormant all summer in the yards of almost every block are fired into life belching out their own addition to the car pollution and dust that plagues the city year round. More and more locals wear facemasks in the winter for this very reason. Although basic facemasks are good for keeping your face cosy in a cold wind (and for preventing you catching a cold from the person coughing next to you on the subway), they’re not very effective when it comes to filtering out the microscopic particles floating in the city’s polluted air. If you want to avoid a rasping cough this winter it’s best to invest in something designed for the purpose. Respro ( are the market leader in commuting masks, and they offer a range of products that will help you breathe easy all winter long. They even offer free shipping anywhere in the world.

4)  Keeping active
Looking after yourself in winter isn’t just a case of wearing the right clothes and having the right equipment. When the air outside is biting cold, it’s more difficult to work up the energy to get up, get out and keep active, which can lead to lethargy, loneliness and boredom. In fact, this time of year many people gain weight and some even cocoon themselves in their apartments waiting for spring to come. But this is the worst thing to do and can lead to general unhappiness and depression. In winter, it’s more important to keep active and it’s no secret that exercising releases endorphins in the brain that keep your mind optimistic and happy. Shenyang has plenty of gyms and fitness clubs with great facilities and competitive memberships. But if slogging it out on a treadmill isn’t your thing then why not try some yoga, belly dancing or street dancing, or better yet, learn some traditional Chinese dance. There are also countless badminton halls in the city, some are enormous multi-sport facilities such as Siwei Badminton Club in Tiexi District, which also has tennis courts and indoor football pitches; others are smaller and prices can vary. The most important thing is to find somewhere close by, so you don’t need to brave the cold too long to get there.

Siwei Badminton Club  四维羽毛球馆 View In Map
Add: 39 Beier Zhong Lu, Tiexi District, Shenyang
Tel: 024 2565 0033 
Price: 10 RMB per person in the morning; 20-65 RMB in the evening

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Keywords: Surviving Shenyang winter staying warm in Shenyang Shenyang Siberian temperatures Shenyang artic chill


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