Colder on the Inside – Winter in Southern China

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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5 Ways to Stay Warm During Chinese Winter

Winter in China is NOT pretty. The humid coldness seeps right into your bones. Here’s tips on staying warm!

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.15302545_10154735471753134_2027014939_o

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. 15240204_10157801369900503_291167398_nKnitting 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!15310737_10157813124025503_1469442176_n

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!