Breaking Down Cultural Barriers In Seoul South Korea

How To Stay Warm During Winter In South Korea

No Heat & No Flannel Pajamas!  Lesson Learned.

Since, the weather keeps reverting, rain and snow in some parts of the United States when it should be getting warmer outside, I want to go back to something that happened during my first Winter at Hankuk University dormitory I forgot to post.

My heart went out inside my dorm room.  At first, I thought I just needed to let the room heat up.  The ondol floor heating typically takes four hours to warm a room, which is still something to this day I don’t like, but its customary tradition, so I understand.  After waking up in the middle of the night and it was still extremely cold inside the dorm, I realized something was wrong.

Where was my heat?

I went and took a look at the pipes underneath my bathroom sink.  I watched a YouTube video on floor heaters in Korea and it suggested to check the pipes before you call the building maintenance.  Everything looked normal to me, except I’m not a plumber so I couldn’t tell even if there was something wrong.  I turned one of the knobs in the opposite directions because I thought, hoped, prayed, that maybe somehow it had gotten moved while I was taking a shower.

The travel clinic nurse warning of Tdap briefly replayed in my head as I touched the faucets and sink.  I walked back into the room and place my hand on the floor.  I didn’t feel anything different.  I decided to wait an hour and see if the heat circulation improved.

After snuggling back into the covers I forgot about the heat and fell asleep.  This turned out to be a larger problem than I first believed when I woke up the next day, and the heat was still out.  I wasn’t sure what the problem was, I hoped the pipes didn’t freeze.

Before I researched ondol floor heating I didn’t know you should always leave your floor heating turned on, (low setting) so that your pipes don’t freeze.  Since I’m not from the east coast, I’m a California girl for those of you who don’t know, and I’ve never experienced a real Winter I didn’t understand the rules.  I had turned off my heater one day when my downstairs neighbor had the floors feeling like I was stepping on hot coals.

I sent an email to the campus administrative office and received no reply.  Frustrated I posted a Facebook rant to one of my living in Korea group’s asking what I should do?  After many opinions and comments, some not so helpful, I was left with only having posted a rant with no real solution to my problem.

I called my cousin and asked his opinion and he told me to go ask the next door neighbor.  The only problem was that my next door neighbors were two girls from China.  They didn’t speak any English and I hadn’t made friends with them.  In fact, I didn’t speak to any of the other residents living in the dorm.  I did know a girl who was in my first Korean language program class before I was transferred, but I wasn’t in the class long enough for us to become friends.

I gathered up the courage to go ask my next door neighbor?  She stared at me and waved her hand back and forth.  I didn’t know if she meant no she didn’t have heat, or no she didn’t understand what I was asking.  After typing my question into Google translate and her finally understanding what I was trying to ask, we both concluded that neither of us had heat.

It wasn’t anything that I had done or anything that I could fix.  In total, my heat was out almost the entire month of February.  It turns out that it was incredibly bad timing and the building heater broke.

In case anyone is interested here are some of the helpful tips that I received from my post on Facebook and also what I incorporated into my weekend routine to stay warm.

Helpful Tips:

A common practice other expats suggested is to purchase extra thick blankets during the Winter, buy wool socks, and wear flannel pajamas.

Keep with the Korean tradition and sleep on the heated floors.  Tip: For use when your heat is working.

Buy hand warmers and hot packs, place them in your pockets to keep warm.

Eat soup of any kind for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (my favorite is the beef porridge soup).

Go to your nearest coffee shop or cafe and hang out for a couple of hours and enjoy the free heat and wi-fi.

Truly, the most helpful tip I believe is learning how your heating system operates before it becomes a dire situation and you’re posting a message on Facebook.

Let me know in the comments what are some techniques that you use to stay warm during the winter?

If this post is helpful check out my other posts on South Korea School System Pt. 2 and South Korea School System.

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How To Stay Warm During Winter In South Korea

 

 

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