Posted by: thelocaldialect | January 22, 2009

Let it Snow?

It is January 22nd and Beijing does not look like this:

nor does it look like this:

The wind is blowing quite hard right now, and my husband commented that maybe it was finally getting ready to snow. So I took a quick look at the 5 day forecast for Beijing. And saw five of these: Photobucket
While I like a clear, windy, cold day as much as the next person, we came to Beijing — the North — in hopes of seeing snow. Those hopes are slowly fading.

I’ve never lived in a place where snow was common. I started off my life in Georgia, then grew up in South Carolina, and then spent my young adulthood in Texas. After I graduated I moved to Kunming. These places don’t have a whole lot in common, but one trait they do share is the fact that snow in any one of those locales sends people into a panic. When it snowed about 6 inches one year when I was a child in Charleston, South Carolina, the newscasters called it “the winter blizzard of ’89” without a touch of irony. When we got a dusting of light snow we’d all rush outside and make pathetic snowmen that were about 2 feet tall. Kunming was more of the same, with a high altitude that would have ensured Denver-like conditions if not for the fact that we were about the same distance from the equator as Puerto Rico. We didn’t get much snow there either. In fact, my life to this point has been devoid of anything even remotely resembling a blizzard or a snowstorm.

So my husband and I, when we moved to Beijing last year, we were bracing ourselves for a long, cold winter. A winter with snow. We’d seen the pictures, and we’d heard from friends up north, and we thought we knew what to expect. Sometime around November we went out shopping and got the baby a snowsuit and a pair of woolly boots in anticipation. We felt a bit like we were preparing for a hurricane, stocking up for the winter ahead.

But the winter has been tame so far. Sure, it gets quite windy, and it does get quite cold. Right now the winds are about 35km/h, and the temperatures are between -6C and -18C, and that’s on a sunny day! This is colder than either of us have ever experienced, and yet, without snow, it feels somehow incomplete. In 10 days we’ll be heading down to Hainan Island, where there is zero chance of snow, to spend a week on the beach. When we come back, it’ll be almost mid-February, which feels to me, almost too late. So it had better start snowing sometime between now and the end of the month, because if we moved all the way up North without even getting a chance to build a proper snowman, I’ll feel a bit cheated to tell the truth.


  1. Wow, are the pictures Beijing but not now? The second one could be Japan but the first one? Those roads re twice as wide as we get!!

    Around here February is the big snow month so you may still have a chance!

    And the best thing about snow? It somehow feels warmer when there’s snow. Bizarre but true…

    I’ll swap you all the snow you can take for that trip to Hainan though! ;P

  2. You want snow? Come visit us in Niigata. You will get snow.

    Its not called 雪国 for nothing.

    Enjoy your vacation to the beach!

  3. fuka — those pictures are indeed Beijing (although I didn’t take them, thanks google images). The first one with the wide streets is pretty typical actually. There are some very wide streets around here. Changan avenue, the big street that runs right in front of The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square is HUGE. I think it is something like 8 lanes wide? Like a freeway, but not!

    Sara — I bet Niigata is quite the “snow country.” I’m trying to get my husband to warm to the idea of visiting Japan, so you never know! I’d love to see that kind of snow, I saw your pictures from last winter and it looked so pretty.

  4. It’s been cold here the past couple of weeks, but today’s the first time we’re getting any “real” snow. DC rarely gets snow, though – like you, I’ve never lived in an area where it snowed a significant amount each winter.

    I don’t think I’d like shoveling snow. I prefer for it to stick up in the mountains where I can visit upon occasion. Although snow is better than just freezing cold days.

  5. In Linyi (eastern part of Shandong Province) it gets really cold, but hardly ever snows. After living in Toronto for 3 years, that was a relief. But I have to admit I love how a blanket of fresh white snow beautifies the normally cold and gray winter. Unfortunately, when we lived in Shijiazhuang, the lovely white snow quickly turned a dismal gray. I’m pretty sure the snow in Beijing would also become a mess!

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