China is so big it contains every climate you can possible imagine. Where we live (near Shanghai) summers are scorching hot and winters are uniquely cold. It only gets down to around zero degrees but the humidity makes it feel so much colder. It’s like the coldness seeps into your soul – no exaggeration.
It’s hard to survive winter when you live in a badly insulated 20+ floor communist-style building full of freezing Chinese people. It’s even colder if you try to ride an e-bike any time from November until about February.
Luckily, there are five simple ways to keep from turning into an icicle!
1. Blanket your windows
Chinese apartments generally have thin sliding windows layered over sliding sheets that prevent bug infestations. Not only are they convenient, they are also a puzzle. It’s can be very fun to spend a good 15 minutes figuring out how to close the windows! But even once they’re closed, they won’t keep out the cold.
If a strong wind is blowing outside, expect a breeze to mess up your neatly organized
documents. A solution to this, if you trust your banister, is to hang a thick blanket over your window.
Your neighbors may think you’re a crazy, like those overly-paranoid people who newspaper their windows… but who cares as long as you feel warm!
2. Buy ALL the space heaters
If, like us, all you have is a flimsy air conditioner that occasionally manages to puff out a bit of hot air, you need a space heater. Or five. Space heaters are relatively cheap to buy but prepare for your electricity bill to skyrocket.
Space heaters are good for more than just preventing frost-bite. Like in most countries outside of the USA, clothes dryers are not common here. Unfortunately, humidity + coldness = wetness forever… so the Chinese invented a heated clothes hanger contraption! The again, you could just hand your clothes up in a closet, shove a space heater inside and sit next to it with a fire extinguisher until it’s dry.
3. Marry a sock-knitting man
Since I am a strong, modern, independent woman, I obviously leave the knitting, cooking and most of the cleaning to my husband. He knits while we watch TV and sometimes even on the bus while I pretend not to know him. Knitting husbands seem to be an endangered species but I promise you that men like this do exist.
Hint: try crashing a Walforf School Alumni party. You’re welcome.
Alternatively, you could knit your own socks or buy some in a store along with cute fluffy house slippers. If you’re still cold, prop up your fluffy, possibly animal-themed feet in front of a space heater. My husband and I call this a “foot-i-Q”, like a foot BBQ. Yes, we think we’re incredibly witty; deal with it.
4. Become a marshmallow
JD.com (basically Chinese Amazon) sells just about anything. November 11th is Singles Day in China which for some reason is like Cyber Monday (EVERYTHING is on sale). We took advantage of this and bought huge expensive queen sized blankets for a fraction of the price. They barely fit on the bed and make us look like giant marshmallows. It’s awesome!
You can “marshmallow” yourself on an e-bike too. They sell cheap fluffy blanket type things that you throw over the front of your bike and the handles. They look embarrassing but are wind resistant and keep your hands toasty.
If it’s raining, you’ll also need a plastic poncho or you’ll be soaked in minutes. Finally, wear earmuffs under your helmet.
Being warm is more important than looking good, right? Right?!?!
5. Eliminate any holes in your apartment
Yes, I said holes. As in large round holes in the wall that let winter sneak into your living room. These holes could have been made for air conditioners that were never installed for example. I had one under my desk that froze my feet even through several layers of socks. There was already some newspaper shoved into the hole, but I reinforced it with some bubble wrap which helped A LOT!