I spent most of my childhood cold.
In Saint Petersburg, when December hit and there was barely three hours of sunlight a day, I bundled deep into my fur coat, fur hat, and snow pants, because that was the only way to get from a place to another place in the blistering cold (in these situations, you inevitable break into a sweat the second you enter a building, which makes going outside decidedly less pleasant)
In Massachusetts, my parents – in the tradition of all New England families – insisted that we keep our house at the toasty (for them) temperature of 68ºF, while I clung for dear life to the lone space heater in my room. I remember stealing the other space heater, and using both to read books with two space heaters – one at my feet and one behind my back, forming a makeshift convection oven (BAKE AT 350ºF for five chapters).
So where am I going with this? Well, in China of all places, for the first time in my life, I am living at the temperature I feel most comfortable indoors: 26ºC.
Heating in China is an interesting phenomenon. Shanghai is just below the cutoff for government-mandated indoor heating, and as a result, we get drafty walls, barely covered windows, and air conditioners that double as heating units. Many places that aren’t apartments just don’t heat in the winter at all, so I’ll often end up wearing my winter coat to dinner, or else insisting on only eating hot pot. Shanghai apartments also lose heat at an alarming rate. Every night, I close the door to our bedroom, and every morning, my first alarm is to venture into the tundra of the living room and crank up the heat, so the morning becomes a degree of bearable. Luckily, heating an apartment to what in most countries is an unreasonably warm temperature is incredibly cheap, for which my toes are eternally thankful.
I spent my last Christmas in Shanghai, but this Christmas, I will be able to go home to family. I’m looking forward to seeing my mom and the two birthday cakes that have already been promised on my arrival home. What I’m not looking forward to are more nights spooning my space heater, but somehow I think I’ll deal.