Surviving winter

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:

Why does heat have to rise?

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 was this close to getting a pair of indoor rip-off UGGs, but settled for these instead.

Fleece housecoat. Wear over 3 layers for optimal effect.

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):

It makes a world of difference, trust me.

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.

Best worn sans glasses.

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.



Filed under SH living

4 responses to “Surviving winter

  1. Fiona

    I feel so bad for you! Can you just splurge on a couple of portable plug-in heaters? If you don’t pay electricity, just buy three and leave them all on when you’re home (says the environmentally conscious child).

    I gotta say though, your face mask is sehr fashionable.

    • Fiona

      PS. High-waisted long-johns are the best. I wear them tucked into my socks and my tank top tucked into them. My jeans go over the long-johns and my sweater over the jeans. I’m M.C. Escher, basically.

  2. Fiona

    I was so excited to find these:

    Such a steal at $9.13 + free shipping, but they’re sold out :(

  3. wooffs

    Haha. Unfortunately we do pay electricity, and I would feel uneasy leaving a portable heater on out of my sight, so we haven’t gotten one. Fortunately, though, we’ll be spending half of Feb in balmy HK so by the time we’re back the worst of winter will (hopefully) be done with! Let me know if you make any more headway on the usb-glove search…those are hypercute but the reviewers say the piggies don’t actually come with them? Cheats.

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