***NOTE: This post is from my personal experience in Daegu, South Korea, but these tips can be used anywhere in the world to help alleviate some of the struggles of summer heat. ***
Daegu is very well known for the one of the, if not the, hottest city in South Korea. The heat and humidity begins rising around the end of May and doesn’t go away for a while. The locals literally nicknamed it Daefrica (Daegu + Africa) because of the heat. Literally, as I am writing this, it is 36º(C) (approximately 97º(F)) with a humidity of 47%. Therefore, the overall temperature feeling is approximately 42º(C) (approximately 108º(F))…. It’s hot! And to top it all off, it’s also the rainy season. Typhoons are frequently forming, and it rains a lot, which causes the humidity to rise even more to make it extra unbearable.
*Screenshot provided by The Weather Channel Mobile Application*
Before I moved to Daegu, I had lived in the state of Georgia in the United States, and I had even spent 5 years of my undergraduate and early career experience near Savannah, Georgia, where just walking out of your door would immediately cause you to sweat. I thought to myself, It can’t be worse than that. Well… I was wrong. I don’t even have to leave my apartment to feel the sweat already begin to form. The thing about Korean apartments, at least the ones I’ve been in, do not have an electric ventilation system; there are only windows to open if you want air circulation throughout the apartment. So, it is very difficult to be able to cool off the entire apartment with one air con, unless you have a single room apartment. Because of this fact, and because heat rises and I live on the fourth floor, it’s pretty tough to keep cool without spending extra money to run the air con all night.
So, here are a few tips I have picked up so far this summer to help beat the heat in Daegu while hopefully saving some money.
1. Floor Fans
Floor fans are easy to find, not super expensive, and produce a good about of wind, air circulation, and cooling air while providing a cheaper solution to keeping cool compared to running an air con all day. Though they’re probably not going to produce the ideal cooling like you can receive from air conditioning, they use significantly less energy than typical air conditioning, which will save you money each money.
** Extra Tip: Place a bowl of ice or some frozen water jugs/bottles in front of the fan to help create a cooler breeze. **
2. Portable/Hand-held Fans
I see these everywhere, and for good reason. These small, portable fans will help you keep cool while walking around the city. I consider two types of portable/hand-held fans in this post. One is the typical fan that unfolds, and the other is a hand-held electric fan.
Hand-held Electric Fan (left)
Unfolded Traditional Hand-held Fan (right)
Most of the folded fans can cost as little as 1,000 Won and increase based on design and materials (quality). The hand-held fans can be found for around 5,000 Won (~ $4.00). These are great and cheap things to use while walking to lunch or just hanging out with friends.
3. Public Transportation
Even though the heat can be tough to deal with at times, don’t let that stop you from living your life and enjoying time away from your place. The subway stations, trains, buses, and taxis are all air-conditioned. So, instead of walking, take public transportation at a very low price, and as a bonus you can get to your destination a lot quicker.
4. Ice Packs and Towels
We’re used to using ice packs on injuries and towels to wipe off sweat, but they are also extremely effective in cooling body temperature down in general during hot days and nights. I have an awesome friend that helped me realize this fact. She visited me and left ice packs at my house. One night, it was too hot for me to sleep, so I had the idea of placing the ice pack (wrapped in a cloth) under my pillow case so it would be cool when my neck touched the pillow. It was a lifesaver. It helped cool my body down enough to be able to fall asleep. Essentially the same thing can be done with a wet towel, but I don’t know if it would be as effective considering that’s extra moisture that will be one your skin during the already humid atmosphere. If anyone has tried both, feel free to comment below to say whether one worked better than the other!
5. UV Blocking Umbrellas
Many times while in Korea, you will see women carrying well-designed umbrellas when there is no rain clouds in sight. That’s because they aren’t protecting themselves from potential rain; they’re protecting themselves from the sun. These… These umbrellas are truly one of the best inventions I have ever had the pleasure of using. These umbrellas have a special dark lining on the inside to completely block the sun from coming through the umbrella, essentially giving you an awesome shaded spot wherever you go. Of course, it doesn’t completely save you from the heat, but it will help a bit while also blocking direct contact between the UV rays and your skin. This helps a lot, because the UV rays are very strong and will most likely cause a sunburn very quickly, especially for fairer skinned people. I honestly can’t express enough about how much I love these things!
6. Relax at a Café
Cafés, particularly chain cafés like Starbucks and Ediya Coffee, always have air conditioning on of their customers. Instead of hanging out with friends or working in your apartment, go to a local café and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while working. It’s always relaxing to be able to sip on a cup of tea, put on some soft piano or lo-fi beats, and work away from home.
7. Use Interior Design to Your Advantage
As many of us know, darker colors absorb light and lighter colors reflect light. Absorbing light also means things tend to get hotter, and the opposite it true for lighter colors. If your landlord allows you to hang curtains, or you already have curtains, make sure they’re lighter colored curtains. Using light-colored curtains will work double-time in reflecting the sun’s rays away from the house. It will also generally blocking the sunlight from entering the house, which will help to keep your home cooler.
8. Wear the Appropriate Clothing
Make sure you wear light colored, loose-fitting clothing while outside. This is actually some advice I should be implementing more myself. We already talked about the different ways the color of items or fabric can affect how hot the fabric can become and effectiveness of blocking the sun in the previous point. While that is a very important aspect to keep in mind, you also want to think about how tight or loose your clothes are. By wearing loose clothing, you are allowing sweat and moisture to naturally evaporate back into the air instead of allowing it to soak into your clothing, creating a physically (dampness of clothing) and mentally (the appearance of the areas of sweat) uncomfortable situation. So, make sure to wear lightly colored, loose-fitted clothing while out in the summer heat to help keep as much of the sun’s extra heat away from you.
9. Use Timers
Let’s be real, sometimes it’s extremely difficult to be comfortable in the heat and need air-conditioning. If you are to that point and want to run the air con, but also afraid of costs (me most of the time), use a timer. All of the air cons I have seen so far have a timer setting. Set the timer to a time you think is appropriate and let it turn off automatically. I normally use this in the event of leaving the house and forgetting to turn it off or before bed to keep a small enough gap between falling asleep and waking up where I won’t get too hot and wake up during the night. Unfortunately, running both make it too cold, but only running the floor fan isn’t cool enough. So, using the timer is a nice medium.
10. Stay Hydrated
The single most important thing you can do in the summer is to stay hydrated. With the heat and losing water through sweating all day, dehydration can be a huge issue. Make sure to pair liquid consumption with cold beverages to help lower your body temperature and stay cooler throughout the day. The best possible drink to help with this is the King/Queen of the beverage kingdom, H2O (water). Water is not only vital to our body’s internal function, it is also free of other ingredients, that could hinder optimal hydration. So, make sure to carry a water bottle around to keep yourself hydrated, and don’t worry about finding a place to refill. Most stations, stores, or restaurants have access to water for their customers; you can just fill your empty bottle there.
These are just some of the ways I have kept cool while I’ve been living in Korea. Luckily, this advice can be followed regardless of your location. It for have any other tips on surviving hot/humid summers, please comment below and let’s help everyone out who is dealing with the same problems.