Beijing's winter has developed a split personality in recent years. It likes to lull people into a false sense of comfort and security – that feeling you get when it's early December and you can still go outside without wearing long underwear – but wham! Like a pubescent teenager with too many raging hormones running through the bloodstream, Beijing's winter can whip you in the face in an instant with its sudden Arctic winds. And if it's not the temperature that gets to you, it's those horrendous subway rides with people hurling their germs from all directions with their incessant coughing and reeking breaths. That, together with that potentially hazardous, grey smog, can make winter in Beijing a depressing time. But it's not all doom and gloom; here are some tips that when followed, are guaranteed to keep you healthier and happier.
1) Wrap up tight…
Look the part this winter with a pair of irresistible long johns!
Most long-term Beijing residents know how to dress the part by now, but for those of us new to this country, some basic, yet crucial advice may be in order. From about November onwards, virtually every Beijing local buys themselves a pair of "qiu ku" (秋裤, literally meaning "Autumn pants"). These are essentially a pair of long johns for both him and her, and can be bought with a matching top for under your clothes. You'll find these in any major Chinese supermarket such as Carrefour, and they'll set you back anything from around 100-300 RMB. These are an essential part of winter life in Beijing, and you'll be much, much colder happier with them on!
These little gems can make a huge difference this winter!
Another great little "winter accessory" you'll find at almost any market or even street corner, are packs of woolly in-soles (鞋垫). These come in a variety of types and sizes such as lamb wool, rabbit hair etc. They should cost you no more than 1 RMB and are a really cosy addition to your footwear.
Finally, as you will probably have noticed yourself, people just love to wear those plastic looking, bubbly bomber jackets in winter. If, however, you don't want to look like 90% of the population and want to go for something, let's say, more stylish, then why not head to one of the city's many H&Ms or Zara's, Yashow, the Silk Market or even the markets at Beijing Zoo. There, you're guaranteed to find tonnes of jackets and coats in a variety of styles and sizes for a reasonable price (if you bargain hard enough).
2) Take a deep breath…
With many of Beijing's residential buildings being heated solely by fossil fuels, the airborne particulate count – which is already high all year round – goes through the roof (no pun intended) during the winter time. Pollution plays a great part in detracting from respiratory health for many Beijing residents during the colder months and the sight of people walking the streets or on the subway wearing surgical style masks is very common. Although these masks act as a barrier aiding the reduction of transmission of viruses and germs, what's unknown to many is that they do very little to stop people breathing in the microscopic nasties that are floating in the air.
Available online and also at the World Health Store in CBD are Respro masks (www.respro.com) which are designed specifically for athletes and city commuters; they filter out much of the unwanted pollutants. For those not wishing to go about their household chores wearing a mask reminiscent of Darth Vader (as beautiful as they are), there are also air purification options such as the IQAir (www.iqair.com) which is a great option for filtering the air in your home making it a healthier environment. And if that's too expensive, head on over to the Laitai Flower Market near the US Embassy and bombard your flat with plants instead.
3) …and relax
Avoiding stress is an important factor in avoiding illness. It is a commonly known fact that an immune system under stress is a compromised and weak immune system. A good way to reduce stress on the weekend or after a hard working day is to take a massage. Luckily for the Beijing expat, the options are broad and begin at humble massage centres to be found in every xiao qu (living area), often staffed with blind masseurs who sometimes have an uncanny knack for identifying health problems or sore points, these places normally have massage services beginning at around 40 or 50 RMB for an hour long back or foot massage. Finding a good masseur however can be a process of trial and error. For a list of some tried and tested massage places read this article.
4) Get busy
Exercise and fitness play a major role in maintaining a healthy immune system just as much as relaxation does. Around town there a number venues and clubs which help in providing great outlets for pent up energy that a sedentary job can often leave you with. Yoga is a great way to relax and exercise, increasing flexibility and promoting better breathing. Beijing has a number of great yoga clubs. Fine Yoga is great for small classes and is based in Guomao. It provides an intimate setting in which to receive yoga instruction. Other well-known yoga centres include Bikram Hot Yoga Club and Yoga Yard (http://www.yogayard.com/).
Beijing is also home to dozens of different sports clubs, from soccer, hockey, basketball and Gaelic football, to golf, tennis cycling, dancing and much, much more. If you're lacking motivation to go to the gym, then these social sports clubs might just give you the kick you need to start getting active. For a rough idea of what's out there, read this article.
5) Wisdom of the ancients
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has many remedies for dealing with winter ailments. These range from the simple advice of soaking your feet in a bowl of steaming water, helping you to sweat out your cold to drinking boiling hot water and tea in the place of sugar and additive laden beverages such as cola.
One common pearl of wisdom often dispensed by Chinese medical practitioners (which sounds like common sense, but is not always strictly observed by many) is to eat more vegetables. Of course, maintaining nutritional balance is an integral part of a healthy winter lifestyle. Sanyuanli Market meets all of your vegetable and exotic grocery shopping needs. The market offers a wide variety of produce, some of it not at all available in standard supermarkets. It is perfect for finding exotic items such as avocados and artichokes – important for brightening up the dinner table and a must for many foreign cuisines.
For those wishing to find in-depth TCM treatment there are a number of special clinics around the city. Amongst the most famous is Guo Jia Chinese Medicine Clinic which uses Chinese medicine and Buddhist philosophy in their treatment of ailing visitors.
Guo Jia Chinese Medicine Clinic 国嘉中医诊所View In Map
Add: Rm. 23A, 23/F, Tower B, Zhonghai Zijing Haoting, 30 Dongsanhuan Beilu, Chaoyang District, Beijing (across from the Jingguang Center)
地址: 北京市朝阳区东三环北路30号中海紫荆豪庭B座23A (京广中心对面)
Tel: 010 85980423
Opening hours: 09:00-18:00
6) Hot Liquid Reinforcements
Finally, what is winter without soothing hot drinks? We like to believe that indulging in the occasional hot alcoholic beverage is not considered a vice, but "fuel for the soul". It seems as though Beijing is developing a fondness for mulled wine as more and more venues are jumping on the glühwein bandwagon. Popular Nanluoguxiang hangouts Salud and 12 SQM are both serving mulled wine this year, the latter also serving egg nog and a drink called "hot apple pie" with whiskey, apples and cinnamon (yum!). In fact, bars across the city are offering, deliciously hot cocktail alternatives throughout the winter season.
Finally, what better way to instantly get warm and energized than by sipping on piping hot soup? Virtually every Chinese restaurants serves soup, our personal favourite being geda tang (疙瘩汤)—a thick, tomatoe and egg soup enriched with bits of dough. For only a couple of kuai, this is an inexpensive, yet tasty way to get full and snug.
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Keywords: Beijing winter advice how to survive Beijing Winter how to stay healthy Beijing Winter
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