There aren’t many places on Earth that experience the weather extremes seen in Changchun. Lots of places are hot. Lots of places are cold. There aren’t many that are both. Changchun’s record high is just over 39º C and its record low is just below -39º C. While that symmetry has a certain beauty to it, it does make life a bit uncomfortable.
And before all you Golden Gophers jump in to tell me that Minneapolis has seen both 40 and -40 in its history, yes, you are correct. But your average January day ranges from 24ºF down to 8ºF. Changchun’s typical January day is a high of 14ºF and a low of -4ºF. And both cities see an average July high of 83.
(Plus, your all-time records are from 1888 and 1936… Sadly, Changchun has very limited weather records from more than 50 years ago.)
So how do the locals cope?
Surprisingly well. In my time in Changchun, I have heard very little complaining about weather. Hot, cold, wet, dry, windy. The people of Dongbei have a patience for all of it. They do seem a little quick to grab an umbrella, as though they fear melting like Elphaba in the rain. Umbrella etiquette is a bit different from what you see in the U.S. Here, it is quite common to see a young lady holding an umbrella over her boyfriend. But it’s only fair, since in China it is usually the boyfriend’s responsibility to carry his girlfriend’s purse for her, no matter how small and girly it might be.
Umbrellas aside, the people of Changchun seem little fazed by the weather. On hot days, you’ll see lots of Chinese men with their shirts folded up to expose their bellies. Whether this actually makes them cooler or is purely psychological is debatable. But the practice is very common. Women are quick to don their shortest, gauziest dresses, and to carry umbrellas as parasols to get some shade.
The government sends water trucks to spray down the streets during the day. You see this in the early morning in New Orleans, to hose the nightly vomit into the gutter. But here in Changchun it is largely to knock the dust down, and to cool the street a bit. Strangely the trucks are fond of playing “It’s A Small World After All” as they patrol the city spraying water. Because China?