That is certainly true about prices Jean - I agree. When I first moved to France 13 years ago, France was on average much cheaper than the USA for clothing and I got all my clothes here. Then after the Euro came in, it was about even for a few years. Now the dollar is very weak and the euro is strong, and clothes (and most everything) are definitely more expensive overall in France and most of Europe than in the USA. ...
But there are a few stores in France that will have things a bit cheaper than the average store here, and some do sell winter clothes. So, if where you live does not sell appropriate clothes for northern winters, then you might need to buy some in France.
- For relatively cheap warm clothing in the region I suggest you google for Quechua or Decathlon stores in the area of Grenoble where you will stay. These stores do have their own brand of coats, gloves, hats, scarfs and boots for cheaper than big brands like North Face, Millet or Salewa. For example you can get a pair of Quechua rubber boots with fleece liners (great for muddy/slushy/snowy streets) for around €15 and they come in all kinds of fun colours - I have had a pair for a couple of years now and they are still going strong. [original link];
- One of these stores is mentioned in a VT post here - [original VT link]
- In general, I suggest getting a few thin/lightweight long sleeved shirts for your bottom layer (synthetic material is usually better than cotton if you will be wearing them to move around outside such as for sport because cotton stays wet if you sweat, and this makes you cold as soon as you stop moving), and then what are called "fleece" shirts (long sleeve, and synthetic again) for a 2nd layer on top of that.
- Then many people in this region will wear a 2 part winter coat. Normally the first part is a heavier fleece layer with a front zip, and the 2nd part is a "shell" of water proof and wind proof material (gore-tex or similar water proof material) which is big enough to go over all of that, and which has a hood to put up in case of rain. If it is not so cold you wear only the fleece or just the shell if it is just chilly or rainy - and if it is very cold / snowing you wear both parts.
- For trousers, thick jeans or other long wool or thick cotton trousers are generally fine. Some people if they get really cold might wear a pair of cotton or synthetic tights under their trousers. I would not go crazy with this part to be honest, because if you wear too much and sit inside a classroom and sweat it is not pleasant ... just wear the 2nd trouser layer if you are going to be outdoors for an extended time. And a pair of thicker socks made of wool or synthetic material (not cotton) are also normal to wear in the boots.
- Now if you are a woman and you want to be fashionable - look for these kinds of fleece tops which are designed and cut for a women so you do not look like a sack of potatoes. ;-) There is a bit more of an art to being warm and fashionable and it is too long to go into here. If you see some people on the street you can get the idea. If you want to wear a skirt, you buy thick tights (available at most super market stores cheaper than if you go to a clothing store to get them) or even wear 2 pairs of tights layered, and find wool skirts or skirts which have 2 layers on them to stop the wind. And you do a lot of fast walking when it is cold - if you want to wear nice shoes, sometimes you carry them in your bag, and wear the boots to walk where you are going.
- Most times you will take your winter shoes off in people's homes anyhow because boots will be full of snow and get water and dirt on the floors ...
- For hats, wear what you think looks good on you - better if it covers your ears but you can make up for a lack of ear-cover with a long scarf, which is warm for your neck against the wind, and fashionable too for men and women.
- Gloves - if you are not outside for a long time, thinner ones are OK and more attractive but if you are outside for awhile, be sure to get insulated gloves or mittens. They say people lose 70% of their body heat by their head - so the hat and scarf are quite important.
- January is the coldest month in this region normally. By the time that April comes the weather gets a bit milder and you could see some warm days in May - this month can be actually hot sometimes or still mainly like the winter - it changes from year to year. Last year was cold in May and a couple years before that all the snow was melted and flowers were out early.
- Most people will wear something like light hiking boots or the Quechua plastic boots to walk around on snowy or slushy streets - the salt they use to melt snow on the side walks will actually ruin nice shoes (rinse them with water if salt gets on them or it will damage them) so a pair of winter boots is good to use when walking around between outside and inside.
- Grenoble is very close to many ski areas so you can always have fun in the snow by learning to do snow sports and when you enjoy something and have fun with friends, even if it is cold outside you do not notice as much. I imagine there will be other students making trips to do this and there are trains and buses that go on weekends to these places. Have fun.