18 Nov

The last two weeks the temperature in Shanghai has taken a nose dive.  I have gone through and found my winter coats, started looking for socks and even pulled out some of my sweaters.  It is not at the sub-zero stage yet, but at night it will get into the mid to upper 40s and I also have even turned on my heaters at certain points during the day.

Talking to my co-workers and friends, this is colder than it should be this time of year so I’m hoping that we’ll have a mild December to balance it out.

To compound the cold weather outside my hot water heater broke this week.

The original heater, after the leak, before replacement

Living in an apartment, my hot water is “on demand” – there is an instant hot water heater located in my kitchen that will pump the hot water to the correct faucet.  I initially noticed some water on the counter after my cleaning lady left on Monday morning, but didn’t think much of it and wiped it up.

Getting home late Monday night though (after yoga), the water was still there.  I started looking more closely and realized that it was dripping from underneath the hot water heater.  Not what I wanted to find, especially as I hadn’t showered at the yoga studio and was ready to take a shower and relax.

Instead after several calls and a visit from the local maintenance man it was concluded that one of the connections inside the hot water heater had broken and that I was very lucky that it hadn’t exploded.  My landlord said he would get someone to fix it the following day – and I took a cold shower.  Brrrr….

Tuesday morning the landlord changed his mind and said that he would like to buy a new one – it seem that he had fixed the hot water heater before and didn’t want to pay to fix it again.  I had a mid-day trip home to give him the model number and he ordered it – but it wasn’t going to be delivered until Thursday.

I added another yoga class to my schedule (got to stay warm somehow) – more for their shower facilities than my dedication to the sport.

Thursday I worked from home and waited for the new water heater to arrive.  My landlord came as well and supervised the work.  He’s a very nice man – not a penny pincher and I was lucky that he was in town as he tends to travel a lot.

We got into a discussion about product quality, talking about that the former hot water heater was only 5 years old, but they don’t make it or repair it any more.  He asked me how things were done in the US and explained to me why people normally rip everything out of an apartment when they move in is because they can’t trust the quality of what the former owner put in.  The lack of testing and building codes really are going to eventually put a cramp on the Chinese economy.  People are looking for high quality products, but it seems as though they just don’t exist.

Finally – after over an hour, the new heater was in, the old heater was gone and I again have hot water.

The new hot water heater (slightly smaller than the original)

I have had another experience with a broken hot water heater right when I first arrived in China, just over five years ago.  My very first apartment’s water heater didn’t work either.  At the time I couldn’t speak any Chinese and had to use my friend Mike to help translate.  The temporary solution he came up with was that I should go to my landlord’s house to take a shower.  I poked around and found the link to that post (Nov 5, 2007), so take a look at how things have changed over the last five years!

Even though this was an inconvenient event, it does remind me how far I’ve come.  I can now explain a problem and understand the solution in Mandarin – even about something far away from my day to day routine (like plumbing).

So – in this week of Thanksgiving – I hope you all stay warm and would love to hear if you’ve had any “cold spells” recently.


15 Responses to “Cold”

  1. abc in shanghai November 18, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    if the replacement is a chinese brand, it will likely break again sooner than an import. be proud of the your learned ability with hanyu … one i hope will get there on day.

    • gkm2011 November 18, 2012 at 9:51 am #

      I thought it was Japanese, but my landlord corrected me and said it was a Chinese brand with a Japanese name! I don’t doubt it will break sooner than a foreign brand, but then that’s not my bill to pay!

  2. roomaomao November 18, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    it did seem to get cold really quick this late October/early November (though today is beautiful in the sunlight). I guess that goes along with the seemingly not so brutally hot summer. Good thing you got it fixed so fast. I’m not too pleased with my landlord in regards to his efficiency , speed , or skill. Things in my apartment are constantly breaking and the landlord refuses to buy new things. He gets someone to fix it , wait a month , and fix it again. He showed up Saturday , today , and will be back tomorrow! Woo hoo! Seems like you got luckier than me .

    • gkm2011 November 18, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

      It appears that I have thus far, good luck with your landlord situation. Though – it appears that I will test him again. I turned on the oven this morning and a cloud of black smoke puffed out of it. I turned it off and am going to ignore it for a day or two before I decide how I want to proceed.

      • roomaomao November 18, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

        Hahahahaha! That’s never good! Ah the apartment joys! Keep warm. A Shanghai favorite is sipping on Gluhwein . Tis’ the season!

  3. Naomi Baltuck November 19, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    You are lucky to have such a good landlord. Glad things are back on track. I love a happy ending!

    • gkm2011 November 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

      Yes – thus far, going pretty well. Need to make sure that it continue to work!

  4. sarahinguangzhou November 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    Reminds me of the first winter I spent in China, where I joined the gym mainly to have somewhere to go for a hot shower. My landlord refused to accept that the hot water didn’t work and concluded that the idiot foreigners didn’t know how to use it properly.
    Everything is always patched up using the cheapest parts and labour available. I never got the impression any of them were looking for better quality equipment, but rather were looking to spend the least amount of money possible, regardless of whether this was a false economy.

    • gkm2011 November 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

      Yes, I know that there are many landlords like that – and I can also relate to the showering at the gym. I remember that at the first gym I was a member at (5 years ago) I saw a rat run through the showers. Almost enough to take a cold shower at home!

  5. Kristin November 20, 2012 at 4:15 am #

    I am always impressed by how you and other expats in Asia overcome the language issues! Well done!
    Another thing that always amazes me is how similar life in China sounds to life in Mexico (at least in the part where we live). Here, it is also almost impossible to get good quality, everything breaks soon after being installed.
    I hope you water heater is good now for a while…!

    • gkm2011 November 20, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

      Me too! Though I would bet you could have a language barrier where you are as well.

  6. Expat Alien November 21, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    No hot water is not fun. In Moscow they turned off the hot water every summer to clean the pipes and we would spend 4to6 weeks heating water in the kettle. At least it wasn’t cold out! Stay warm!

    • gkm2011 November 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

      Yes, summer cold is not quite as bad. I’ve actually heard that said about Moscow before. I wonder if that still happens?

      • Expat Alien November 21, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

        I’m sure it does, it is a centralized system so major infrastructure would have to change in order for that to go away. I think most expats have their own in-apartment heaters like yours, tho.


  1. Baking again… « 中国 Jumble - January 17, 2013

    […] with I had just had the issue with the hot water heater, I decided to wait a couple of days before calling my […]

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