Tag Archives: ventilation

Why Korea Feels Colder than Canada

In general, I like cold. I grew up in Newfoundland, in northeastern Canada, where the daytime temperature during the winter is around -10 Celsius, dropping down to about -20 at night. At times, it can get down to around -40. It’s no fun waiting for the school bus in that, let me tell you.

In Newfoundland, we call this May. [Source]

In Newfoundland, we call this May. [Photo]

In Korea, it’s not nearly as cold. Wikipedia shows the average temperature in January to be between 4 and -6 degrees. Cold, but not crazy cold. Houses here are heated by a system of under floor heating called ondol. It’s wonderful to walk around on, or just lie on, although you have to remember not to leave any chocolate or meltables on the floor.

Public buildings, including schools, however, are not heated that way. Some are not heated at all. Many small schools use nothing but space heaters to heat the classrooms. The students and teachers both where their coats all day long.

The bathrooms also are not heated and most don’t have hot water. Also, the hallways aren’t heated and usually the doors of the school are open all day long.

Korean school door

This is the front door of my main school. Most schools keep their doors open like this all year long.

Why on earth would you keep the door open all day in winter? It’s not masochism, I swear. The reason is ventilation. Koreans love ventilation more than heat, it seems. I had a class once in the library, which was in the back building and didn’t get any sunlight anyway. The principal would come in in the mornings and open all the windows in the middle of winter. It took about 3 hours to get it back to a liveable temperature.

When I was growing up, I never really felt cold, unless I was outside for hours and hours and my gloves got wet. But in Korea, I’m cold most of the day in the winter. I used to like winter a lot more too. I realized that cold is only fun if you can get warm afterwards. Nobody wants to go from cold outside to cold inside. And that is why Korea feels colder than Canada.

(P.S. One unexpected thing that Korea does have a lot of is heated toilet seats. That at least mitigates things a bit when you have to wash your hands with cold water.)


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