Once again, a mantle of gray clouds the heavens, which have been steadily “weeping” all day, dispelling thoughts of hiking or picnics.
Yes, we’ve entered southern China’s monsoon season, that time of year when the humidity reaches 100 percent under a curtain of rain as everything from hiking to even hanging laundry out to dry becomes impossible. And don’t even get me started about the mold that creeps into the corners of your rooms and closets indoors.
So how can you survive?
As someone who has experienced many years of monsoon seasons south of China’s Yangtze River, I would like to share some of the ways I’ve learned to adapt and even thrive:
#1: Never Rent a First-Floor Apartment
If you ever travel between northern and southern China by train, you might perceive a noticeable shift in the rural architectural landscape — from cozy one-story brick homes up north, to airy three- and four-story houses down south.
Why do southerners build upwards? Because they live in a wet climate and understand a basic truth about moisture–that it accumulates closest to the ground. So if you want your laundry to dry or your bedding not to resemble a used dishrag, you’d better have a second, third or even fourth floor to dwell within.
In fact, if you look closer at the first floor of these rural homes, it often serves as a kitchen, dining room, garage and/or living room for guests, and not an actual residential space for the family.
If rural families avoid living on the first floor, you should too when it comes to looking for an apartment.
Don’t be distracted by charming patios, central air conditioning or the gleaming new appliances in the kitchen — if it’s an apartment on the first floor, it will likely be dank and damp come the monsoon season. Yikes!
#2: Ventilation Is Your Friend
The concept of ventilation runs so deep in the culture of southern China that people open the windows even when it’s close to zero degrees outside and on the cusp of a winter snow.
Ventilation doesn’t just welcome fresh air into your home — it can also free moisture trapped indoors.
Of course, the efficacy of ventilation depends on the number of windows in your home and the level of humidity outside. While you should probably keep the windows shut during a downpour, opening the windows in lighter rain or mist can alleviate some moisture indoors.
And think of ventilation when you’re seeking a new place to live. We’ve vetoed potential apartments simply because the spaces with the most moisture in the home — such as the kitchen and bathroom — had no windows to open. Without proper ventilation, a kitchen or bathroom will become a giant petri dish for a most unwelcome houseguest: mold.
#3: Say Yes to Air Conditioning
On those sweltering summer days, you will have another reason to love that air conditioning: It also lowers the humidity in the air indoors.
While that’s great to ward off mold, it also comes in handy for something else — your laundry. See, when it rains every single day, whether a mist or downpour, moisture will stubbornly cling to the clothing you hung out on your balcony.
Instead, just move your washed items to a clothing rack in an air conditioned room, where it will magically dry overnight.
#4: Invest in a Dryer for Laundry
Most apartments in China only come with washing machines. While the A/C can rescue your laundry in a pinch during the monsoon, it still can’t compare to the convenience of tossing your washed clothes into a dryer.
If your budget allows it, consider investing in this helpful laundry appliance, and never again worry about how the monsoon will force you to wait too long for your clothing to dry.
#5: Embrace a Whole New (Moist) World
In northern China, the parched landscape demands slathering on the moisturizer, often daily. Once in the chill of a Beijing winter, I neglected to bring my hand lotion while running an errand, and paid for it in split and cracked skin that was so chapped it even bled a little.
However, in southern China it’s a whole new (moist) world, where nourishing rains and higher humidity mean I can skip the moisturizer and not worry about my skin.
Learning to love this climate has helped me see the sunshine in the monsoon, on those days when I’d rather catch a few rays outdoors.
Have you ever experienced a monsoon season? How do you survive?