One of the factors that influenced my choice of Shanghai over Beijing was the latter’s supposedly unbearable, frigid winters. Well, it was only after I arrived, and the temperatures began to drop, did I learn how indoor heating is distributed in China. Basically, houses south of the Yangtze River are not built with central heating, while those north of the River are. It’s not because “southern” provinces all have the luxury of a subtropical Hong Kong-style winter (in fact, those living one mile north and more mile south of the river likely experience identical weather year round), but rather that, as one of my teachers put it, if everyone in China had central heating at home, there would be no energy left for the rest of the world. So from an environmental perspective, this arrangement sorta makes sense…
But from a practical, on-the-ground perspective, this arrangement really sucks. It means that we southerners have to stay bundled up indoors and rely on portable heaters and air-conditioning units that double as warm air dispensers:
We have three of these in the apartment: one in each bedroom and one in the living room. On a single-digit-degree day, a setting of 24C on the remote makes the room just bearable. Unfortunately, there are also times when turning on the heater is not an option, whether due to neighbour complaints about dripping water or the electrical outlet losing power. Also, our kitchen and dining areas, which face north, are not equipped with a heating unit. Having endured one month without heat in a poorly insulated house in Philly last winter due to a crazy (Chinese) landlady, I should be used to sleeping in my overcoats, but I’m not. In fact, I’m more or less morbidly afraid of the cold.
Thankfully, I’ve found a few household additions that have greatly improved my quality of life during these heatless times.
I’ve also started wearing ridiculously high-waisted long-johns under my pajama pants, but we’ll skip the photo for that one.
And for the bathroom, probably most my worthwhile investment ever, at 4.9rmb (~0.7usd):
Lastly, a must-have for the outdoors, the face mask. I’d often wished for something like this the last few winters in the States, but never spotted them anywhere. More than a(n albeit crappy) protective shield against SARS and the flu, these things are great in the windy cold and, thankfully, are in fashion over here.
When all is said and done, though, it’s really my hands that suffer most in a cold apartment. If anyone could tell me where to get a pair of these without forking outrageous (or any) dough for shipping, I would be eternally grateful.