… is quite apparently not a word that can be directly translated into Cantonese, Mandarin or any other local language. Insulation or any other type of heating vocabulary or knowledge simply does not exist around here and this has become very apparent in the last month or so.
Before we moved to Hong Kong, one of the assurances that we received that particularly stuck in my mind was that we would spend around 10 months of the year in t-shirts. I therefore packed accordingly. Goodbye thick winter coats, jumpers, scarves, electric blankets and wool anything. They are all in storage back home and quite frankly I’ve totally forgotten what any of it even looks like anymore.
If we would be spending 10 months of the year in short sleeves, how cold could the other 2 months really get, I thought. So we packed our light jackets and a few cotton long sleeved tops and headed East! Well, apart from Dan who would still pack several fleeces even he was holidaying on the Sun. He’d had the last laugh now though…
Last winter wasn’t so bad. We possibly had 2 weeks when the temperature fell low enough for Dan to go out and buy a radiator for us but by English winter standards, it was short, not freezing and therefore didn’t affect us too much.
This winter, similar cold weather hit around mid-December. Now, when I say cold, I mean that perhaps the temperature dropped below 10C a few times but that is as cold as it gets here. Regardless of the fact that one house guest at that time spent most of their visit sitting on our one radiator, it really wasn’t so bad. Relentless rain and grey skies for about 10 days didn’t help matters but the worst part was of a Hong Kong winter was starting to get to me. This is the fact that when the cold weather hits, and hangs around, it becomes colder indoors than outdoors.
Being from the UK, winter has a simple formula. You expect it to get cold, it does, you wrap up appropriately when you go out and when you come home to your nice warm centrally heated home, you strip off the layers and appreciate the warmth.
Not so in Hong Kong. Nothing in Hong Kong is designed for cold weather. Apartments do not have carpet. Wooden, tiled or marbled floors are the norm. A freezing cold bathroom floor in the morning is really no fun. Neither do they have central heating. Air conditioning is the norm instead. For some reason that I will never understand, if I set my heating thermostat to 25C in London, my house will be lovely and warm but if I set my air conditioning unit to 25C in Hong Kong, it makes the apartment freezing. No clue.
External walls are all freezing and the draughty gaps around wall-mounted air conditioning units become all to obvious when they normally go unnoticed in hot weather. Nothing about Hong Kong living keeps people warm. It is extremely depressing to come in from the cold and to feel even colder!
The cold snap went after a few weeks and for most of January the weather was much brighter and warmer. We thought Winter was done. But then it returned. Cold day after cold day for at least the last month. Dan and I could only dream of the clothes we had left in London that we were desperate for. And it’s not so simple to just go out and buy another winter coat and whatever else we needed. Unless you are built like the Chinese – short, with small feet and around a 26″ waist, you won’t find any clothes or shoes around here! I may have had the proportions of a Chinese adult when I was about 10 years old but not since! So I just layered up like the Michelin Man for weeks whenever I went out, added more layers when I came home and got into a cold bed every night feeling homesick for my electric blanket.
One morning when Dan was taking Joshua down to catch his school bus, Joshua told him that the journey to and from school had been freezing for weeks because the driver doesn’t put the heating on. Dan was incensed and tried to communicate to the non-English speaking bus driver that he should put the heating on. To put it bluntly, most bus drivers and taxi drivers do not even know how to operate the heating controls in their vehicles as the need to use them is so rare. And they are obviously not taught how to use them when they learn to drive, or if they are, they forget quickly. So after unsuccessfully gesticulating to Joshua’s bus driver about turning the heating on and being met with a blank look, Dan climbed onto the bus, reached over, slid the dial from blue to red, whereupon obviously warm air started to come out. The driver looked at Dan in amazement as if he had just parted the Red Sea. He looked enlightened. No words.
Thankfully, Winter seems to be behind us and now at 21C at the end of February, I know I won’t get much sympathy from friends & family in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere but ho hum, if I want to moan, I will.