Colder on the Inside – Winter in Southern China

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Winter mornings are always unpleasant. Unraveling those warm covers always fills me with dread. It takes me a few minutes to prepare for the plunge into the freezing air. I run to the bathroom to take a warm shower and brush my teeth, hopping up and down on my tows to keep my feet off the cold tiles. After that, I get dressed.

Layers are the key to surviving a humid winter. First, I put on thermal pants that make me look 5 kilos heavier (worth it). After that, I struggle to get my skinny jeans over the thick fluffy pants and somehow succeed, making a mental note not to bend over or they’ll burst. Then I put on a tank top, a t-shirt over that followed by a turtle neck pullover and finally I wrap a fluffy sweatshirt over everything.

Then come the final touches: two pairs of socks, fluffy boots, finger-less gloves, a scarf, obnoxious ear-muffs and a huge ski jacket. Once I’m ready, I sit down at my computer and turn on the space heater. What, you thought I was going outside? I wouldn’t need two layers of sweater for that… and I’d wear my nicer looking light jacket instead of the ski coat.

I live near Shanghai, where central heating is not considered necessary despite the cold winter temperatures. Numerically, it doesn’t even get that cold. During the months of December – February it only drops to about 0ºC (32ºF) at lowest. The culprit is humidity, which stays well over 50% year-long, making 0 feel more like -10!

Working from home has been less than pleasant during these cold winter months. The landlord came over once to check on something and told me to ventilate more. I was bundled up but not wearing a jacket, so when I complained that opening the windows was too cold, she shook her head disapprovingly at my attire. I should have been dressed warmer.

We’ve visited several Chinese homes since and realized that our landlord isn’t crazy. No one has central heating and few people bother with space heaters. The elderly watch TV dressed in skiing gear while young children play in poofy colorful coats. They aren’t bothered by the cold and are used to dressing up indoors.

There are many heating devices that can make life a little more bearable. First, there are essential electronic drying racks – without these, clothes would take weeks to dry in the cold humid air! Then there are heated blankets as well as foot and hand warmers. They simply plug into the wall and keep you toasty.

Unfortunately, people do share horror stories of waking up with burnt feet! Still, BBQ toes sounds a lot better than frost bite to me… Anyway, whether you live in Southern China or the tropics (I hate you), make sure to stay warm this winter!


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