Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tips for the Wet and Cold Months in North Taiwan

Word to the wise. If you've been trying to keep up the same Western habits for winter that you had in your home country, you've been doing it all wrong!

Winters in Taiwan's north are pretty depressing and uncomfortable. Often overcast with drizzle and rain and ranging in temperature from 10C to 15C, winters are, in some ways, much worse than in some of our more frozen homelands. This is mainly due to the fact that winters in Taiwan are so wet and humid but also because there is no way to get in from the cold, so to speak. Taiwanese houses don't usually have interior heating save for rudimentary electric heaters that don't really project a lot of heat. When you get out of the cool and wet, you're often in a house that is also cool(er) and wet.

So when it comes to staying warm, people from other countries living in Taiwan are often ill-prepared. So, to better prepare everyone, I give you my top two tips for making your winter much more pleasant.

1) USE A STACK OF HAND TOWELS, not full sized ones. Due to the humidity and the cool inside and outside, big towels will not fully dry from day to day, even if hung. In fact, because they stay wet, if you use any towel for days on end, they are likely to get moldy. Either buy one (several) of those quick dry camping towels or buy a stack of hand towels. They tend to dry faster. I suggest using one hand towel per shower and then throwing it in the laundry right away. As they are smaller, they'll take up less of your laundry anyhow.

2) FLEECE IS YOUR FRIEND! I mean anything fleece: jackets, shirts, hats and bedding. Yes, bedding! I'm sure the properties of fleece are probably well known to you in terms of keeping dry. There are also some new kinds of fleece that are wind and sometimes water repellant. Some stores sell fleece bedding which has a real advantage in the winter in that, when you crawl into bed, you won't feel that your bedding is wet. Crawling into a damp bed in the cold is a terrible feeling (my wife used to resort to using a hairdryer to thoroughly warm up her side before getting in). Wet bedding also eventually causes molding as well which I'm sure you won't like sleeping in either. You won't need to wash your bedding (and have difficulty drying it) as often with fleece.

If you're asking where I got these ideas from then the answer is simple: Taiwanese themselves. My in-laws keep stacks of hand towels as bath towels. I always wondered why they used small ones and threw them in the laundry right after using them. They also use tons of fleece for bedding and blankets. Now I know why on both counts. And I'm definitely a convert to these ideas!

If you have any other tips about getting laundry dry, buying heaters or anything else related to Taiwan winters, feel free to post a comment.

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