We came to China knowing that we would have winter here. We were actually looking forwards to having seasons again after the year long relentless heat and humidity levels in Thailand. Don’t get me wrong, the heat was lovely but sometimes a bit much especially when you have to work in it!
Anyway, we knew that it would get cold here but then again, we’re British. Weather is our thing. We have done cold before. We will be ok. Obviously we needed our winter togs and we managed to dig some jumpers etc out of storage and schlep them over here at Christmas, which was great We had to invest in new coats though but that’s ok. The fake market here had loads on offer.
We actually like a bit of cold weather and have traveled to Iceland before now and with the right kit you can wrap up, keep warm and venture out into any weather. We’re British after all? We do all sorts of weather all the time!
And what did we find when we got here? Yes it does get cold, the temperatures do drop and sometimes to zero. Yesterday it was 6 and today it is forecast to be 3 degrees all day.
It is a nice crisp cold, not the infernal dampness that characterized our stay in the north west at Christmas. Although it can and does rain here. It’s not the pervasive depressing damp of home.
But… and it is a big BUT, the cold is great as long as you can get out of it. One thing which China doesn’t do very well is central heating!!!!! Or at least not in our building. We have a two-bedroom flat which is quite spacious by Shanghai standards with only one heater and a blower at that!!!
This behemoth of a machine is both air conditioner in the summer and heating in the winter. There are no draught excluders round the door and no double glazing; do you get the picture?
Now you would think that a country capable of building bullet trains which travel in comfort at 400 kph could also put timers on their heaters…but no. Something as simple as being able to have the heating come on for half an hour before you get up in the morning to take the chill off the air just DOESN’T HAPPEN. Some of the luxury housing complexes here do have underfloor heating but not us.
So this means that we wake up to perishing cold. We sprint across freezing floors and jig around waiting the 7 minutes for the warm water to come through in the shower. It’s tough, like living in pre-war conditions. And we are so not used to that (1st world problems!).
The Chinese are ‘hard’, their attitude is to put more clothes on! And I guess that the rest of the world should be grateful that the vast population here is not burning fuel and discharging even more CO2 into the atmosphere with winter heating.
On the plus side the monster heater does heat the main room up quite well and if we leave the bedroom door open it warms everything evenly. We have just had to invest in extra blankets for the night times.
It makes me laugh though when we do venture outside and see all the scooters. Here people don’t wear leathers for winter biking. Instead they wrap themselves in special Biker duvets. These come in quite a range of colours and designs.
This one is very colour co-ordinated
At the start of winter in ancient China, the Emperor would take a shower and eat no meat before performing the ‘welcoming winter’ ceremony with his court.
Legend has it that at the end of the Eastern Han dynasty (AD25-220) “medical saint” Zhang Zhongjing saves many people from a typhoid epidemic and their wars from being frost-bitten at the start of winter. He cooked mutton, hot peppers and herbs to dispel the cold and to increase body heat. He wrapped these ingredients into a dough skin and made them into an ear shape. Since the, people have learned to make the food which became known as a ‘dumpling’. Today in China there is still a saying “eat dumplings on the start of winter or your ears will be frost-bitten”. Personally I am happy to eat dumplings all year round as they are delicious.
Technically spring is due to arrive at the end of March this year but traditionally the Chinese New Year festival, which is happening next week, also known as the Spring Festival, heralds the first day of spring on New Year’s Day. We are skeptical about that but looking forwards to the start of the warmer weather soon.