With the weather getting colder in China, and across the rest of the northern hemisphere, it’s time to prepare for winter.
While the temperatures of the seasons in Beijing aren’t too different from my hometown in the US, for some reason I find the winters in China more unbearable. Maybe it’s the wind, maybe it’s the poor central heating systems, or maybe winter is just a time when I get a little more homesick as the holidays come and go. But despite the similar temperatures, I definitely had to adapt to the winters in China.
Here’s my list of necessities for surviving the cold:
This is essential for surviving the winter months, especially in Beijing where the skyscrapers create a wind-tunnel effect, and you’re likely to get blown over just walking down the street. I made it to the end of November my first winter here, before I finally caved and bought a down jacket. The flimsy North Face coat I’d brought with me from the US was no match for the Beijing winter. For extra protection against the cold, make sure you get one that has a nice big hood, and goes down to your knees or past. The fact that it covers your butt and legs really helps keep you warm.
This is good to have throughout the year when the pollution is bad, but I find it has three purposes in the winter. First, it blocks out the pollution, which increases when they turn the heaters on. Second, it protects you from everyone coughing and sneezing and spreading their winter germs around. And third, it helps keep your face warmer and blocks the wind.
Beijing is the driest place I’ve ever lived. And in winter it gets worse. Keep some lotion with you at all times to avoid cracked hands and dry skin.
My throat and nose always get so dry in the winter, especially when sleeping. The humidifier adds moisture to the air and makes it easier to breathe. Even if the city you live in doesn’t have a super dry climate, a humidifier is still a good idea.
Thermos/Insulated Water Bottle
One of the things you’ll always hear when you’re in China is: Drink hot water! Even in the middle of summer heat, Chinese people will be drinking hot water. I don’t take it that far, but it is great advice in the winter. You can fill up a thermos with hot water in the morning, and it will stay hot almost all day. I like to squeeze some lemon juice for hot lemon water, or you can add some tea for flavor.
I’m not talking about the kind you get in the US, that you wear around the house to lounge in or that are super thin. I’m talking about the really thick, really warm, really comfy ones they have in China. They have soft fake fur inside, with little loops that attach to the heel of your foot so they don’t ride up your legs. They’re perfect because they keep you warm if you want to wear dresses and skirts, or you can just wear them as pants.
I will never go back to not wearing thermal pants underneath my jeans. I remember as a kid wearing them when I played in the snow, but not on a daily basis. But with the strong winds and walking around in Beijing, they help keep your legs warm.
My feet and hands are ALWAYS cold. So having a pair of warm shoes is important for me. My feet stay toasty, and it helps keep the rest of my body warm too.
As you can see, my essentials mostly include clothing items. Coming from America where the public transportation is mostly terrible, and many people live in the suburbs and drive everywhere, I never really need to bundle up when going outside in winter. I usually go from my house to my car, drive to my destination with the heater on, and then get out and walk the few hundred meters to the store, where it’s warm inside. But after living in China I’ve realized how important it is to prepare for winter.
So, what’s the climate like in winter where you are? What are your essentials for surviving the cold?