The word I chose today is
供暖系统 / 供暖系統 (pinyin: gōngnuǎn xìtǒng): heating system
One of the most difficult things for expats living in Southern China, Hong Kong or Taiwan is to get used to the weather – hot, humid, unstable, it can be challenging for some people, as it has been for me. However, there is also something else we as expats must learn to cope with – the fact that homes have no heating system.
I guess that most of us are accustomed to having a heating system at home. When I lived in Germany the winters may have been long and cold, but every building had a heating system that created a warm, comfortable ambience. In Europe, you may freeze outside, but you will feel comfortable inside. As a German once put it, feeling cold in Germany is like a series of intervals between going out and getting into the car, getting out of the car and going inside a building etc.
Southern China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have a short, not very cold winter. Here in Taiwan, the average temperature ranges between 15 and 20, sometimes it drops to around 12. I certainly wouldn’t describe this as a harsh winter.
As far as Taipei is concerned, the challenge lies elsewhere: in the sudden and short-term temperature and humidity fluctuations. For example, two weeks ago the temperature dropped from around 30 degrees to 12-15 degrees. It felt quite cold, not only because of the humidity, but also because the change was abrupt, from summer to winter overnight The weather remained like this for a few days, and then it changed again, with temperatures rising to 22 degrees and more. Yesterday, it was still relatively cool. But today, it felt like summer, and I had to take off my jacket. I must admit that these constant and unpredictable variations drive me crazy.
Because warm and cold alternate, people apparently don’t feel the need to install an expensive heating system, which in Europe makes the energy bill soar every winter. People prefer to endure a relatively limited number of cold days and freeze at home. This makes the atmosphere quite gloomy. In Europe, I enjoy the winter evenings, when I can watch TV, drink a tea or chocolate, talk with friends etc. In Taiwan, I just want to go to bed, because it’s so cold. My home even has huge windows at the two ends of the flat that cannot be closed at all, and the other windows are not insulated. I always have the feeling that a piece of my flat is kind of ‘outside’.
The word ‘heating system’ is an important and helpful one. However, you won’t have many chances to use it unless you want to complain about the lack of it.