Summer has arrived in Shanghai, how do I know this? Because it's hot, frigging hot! Various other signs also tell me summer has arrived.
Firstly all the female population forget their clothes in the morning, not that i am complaining, but "daisy dukes" should be renamed "Xiangs Wangs" or similar, as they have become the Chinese national dress for the summer. Shorts so short that you don't need to remove them to go to the bathroom! If women across the world dressed the same as Chinese women in the summer, there would be a lot more traffic accidents - but not in China, despite wearing handkerchiefs around each buttock, or a see-through lace napkin dress with black underwear - nobody looks twice or blinks an eyelid, the men are all too busy rolling up their shirts just under their 'moobs' (This is called ‘Bang Ye’ which directly translates as ‘exposing grandfathers’).
Any doctors reading this please take note it you have a patient who is suffering from overheating, just roll his shirt up to just under his nipples - he will be as right as rain in an instant!
Secondly, the temperature means that the locals are sleeping more. Someone once told me that stamp collecting (philately) is the most popular hobby in China, it is in fact sleeping. If you ask someone what they did on their day off, they will say "Just rested”, “Had a quiet day" or "Not much" what they mean is they slept for 18 hours. The Chinese will take any opportunity to sleep, and go to sleep wherever they can. I will always remember at the MG factory in Nanjing the line workers used to remove the parts from the stores racking and sleep on the metal framework, it looked like a Chinese concentration camp with tier after tier of skinny Chinese worker piled on top of each other. Most factories will turn to a 2 hour lunch break from the beginning of June, this gives the workers 3 minutes for food (another favourite hobby) and 117 minutes of sleep, even the office workers get in on the act, but at least they have a desk to fall forward onto.
Thirdly, the sun wakes you up at 4.00am. For a reason beyond any that I can work out, the powers that be decided that China wouldn't follow the rest of the world and adjust the time for the summer, it would also ignore the fact that there is some 5500 km from North to South, 5000 km from East to West, it covers a latitude range of between 18° to 53° N, longitude from about 74° to 135° E, and crosses 5 separate international time zones, however it would keep to just one time zone centred on Beijing time. This all leads to Shanghai being at least 2 hours away from where it should be - in the summer dawn is at 4.00am and dusk around 7pm, which all makes for sleep deprivation in the morning and crap summer evenings - although it’s too bloody hot to stand in a garden, beer garden or not.
Finally and here is the only good news. The 'ExPrats' leave Shanghai, and journey back to Wisconsin, Seoul, and Abergavenny or wherever they call home. In a mass exodus they leave their pampered pouch with the ayi, and have their abused drivers carry them to Pudong airport. As soon as little Johnny and Mildred have finished school they pack up and 'summer' out of China, citing the heat as a good reason for their departure. I love it; the restaurants are devoid of fake everything; tans, blonde hair and Gucci sunglasses, the roads are clear of blue/silver Buick's and the streets are spared of lanky kids bouncing basketballs against my head for 8 hours a day when I’m trying to get a Sunday afternoon nap - SHUTUP!
Citing the weather is as good a reason as any to leave China, so I am not going to deride them for this, however despite the obvious, I never really understood why it felt so hot in Shanghai, was it the latitude? Its location on the coast? The pollution? but before I go into explaining why it feels so hot, I thought I would try and explain how it feels. If you imagine how you might dress on a freezing winters day, snuggled in your favourite woolly jumper, along with a thick coat, thermal socks, gloves, scarf and a hat, and then put yourself in a sauna set on max, pour some more water onto the glowing coals and lock the door. The humidity causes paper and people to droop, flowers and any animal not already dead to wilt. The air is so damp in a previous office I had a portable air conditioner in a room of about 15-20 sqm, it drained the moisture it extracted from the air into a 10litre bucket, which I need to empty every 2 hours. In the morning I open the front door to get to my car, a distance of probably 9 feet, by the 2nd step i feel like I have hit a wall of water, by the time I sit in the car I may have well gone swimming in my clothes, and that’s how it is for the best part of 4 months. Your clothes are permanently stuck to your skin, which is probably why so many decide not to bother with them.
So why does it feel like swimming in hot soup every time you escape the comfort or air-conditioning. Well I guess Shanghai's same latitude position as Marrakech and Alexandria may give it some clues. But that’s only half the story, it’s on the coast so were enjoying moisture from the sea, and probably the main reason is that we are trapped under our very own greenhouse made of pollution. As I understand it the 20-25million inhabitants and our associated cars, need for cheap electricity generated by coal fired power stations, and smoking ;), are basically creating a Shanghai micro-climate, something called an ‘Urban Heat Island’, which due to the lack of vegetation, the abundance of tall concrete buildings trapping short wave radiation from the sun, which can get in, but can’t get out – (that’s as technical as this blog gets), basically we are all living in a microwave - with a big bowl of water to add some steam, so no wonder its frigging hot!