An Unexpected Downside of Living in Southern China

You’d think an area that’s hitting 80 degrees or above 8 months out of the year would be a great place to live. For all intents and purposes, Shenzhen is 100% better than what I’d experienced in Beijing; beaches and ocean breezes, cleaner air and better weather than Northern China (not counting the occasional Typhoon of course), greenery and wildlife infiltrating every street, overall higher wages in the ESL industry, and a close proximity to Hong Kong and Macau that ensures some awesome weekend adventures while also guaranteeing a higher degree of civility and manners in the people.

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Shenzhen is an incredibly modern city, and compared to the rest of China it’s more progressive, polite and adaptive. Shenzhen’s rapid growth from a small fishing port of roughly 80,000 people in the 80’s to the 12 million plus metropolis that it is now has had some great advantages, allowing it to have been designed from the ground up and built based on modern ideologies and efficiency, rather than as a reaction to time and growth like so many of the other major cities in China; Beijing is constantly being torn down and rebuilt as it attempts to keep up with the 21st century, trapping the city in a continuous state of half splendor and half dilapidation. For how well Shenzhen’s design and expansion had been planned out, nobody had ever thought to include heating systems in the buildings. But for a city that’s more southern than Florida, you wouldn’t think that it’d be an issue… right? Fuck that. Wrong.

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Look at those beautiful, heaterless buildings

It’s mid February and tonight my apartment is 35 degrees. I’m wrapped in blankets as I write this, shivering and letting out a visible mist with every breath. The toilet had resembled a cauldron when I peed earlier, steam literally rising out of it. Even though the summers here are sweltering and dance around triple digit temperatures everyday, and even though three quarters of the year is T-shirt and shorts weather, what nobody tells you about South China is that 2 months of that same year are bone chillingly cold. Those ocean breezes are no longer your friend, and the combination of low temperatures, lack of heating and high humidity will cut through any clothing and burrow deep into your muscles until they ache. There couldn’t have been a worse way of finding all of this out than having just flown back from touring the balmy South East of Asia. I’d had no way of preparing for this either; nobody packing for the South ever includes winter clothing! To their credit, my Chinese coworkers had tried to warn me it would get cold down here, but because they wear coats when it’s 70 degrees outside, naturally I had ignored everything they said. Since there isn’t a knob or dial in my apartment that raises the heat like anywhere else I’ve ever lived, my only option is to invest in one of the few space heaters that hasn’t sold out yet… if, of course, I can find a way to stomach the price gouging of an item that will be irrelevant by the end of this month. Can I just go back to Thailand?

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Instead of a picture of my steaming toilet, I’ll show you where the frigid death blows in from

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