In Tianjin, we have “centralized heating” with Chinese characteristics. So do our neighbours and everyone else on our block. On Nov. 15, the local government fires up the coal stacks and the heat comes on. On March 15, it goes off. They use a network of pipes (above-ground in our neighbourhood) to heat the apartments, and you pay according to how many square meters your apartment is (in some of the older apartments you have your own stack of coal to burn yourself). Aside from phoning the heating place and complaining that they aren’t burning enough coal, you can’t turn up the temperature.
But it’s still October, so they haven’t turned the heat on yet, even though the temperature is down in single digits. The “Guide to Living in Tianjin” suggests that during these unheated cold weeks of the year, you can stuff cardboard in the window cracks, wear toques to bed, and imagine how hot and uncomfortable you’d be living in Singapore.
It’d be easy to go buy an electric heater, but most people just hold out for the heat to come on. During the day some students find coffee shops or other places to study, since their apartments are so cold. In the evenings, we curl up on the couches wearing multiple layers of clothes and a few blankets, sipping hot drinks and trying to write our Chinese homework. This is our first winter in Tianjin, so we’re gonna try and hold out ’til November 15th. Only two more weeks to go!