One thing I’ve noticed about the kids in Beijing is that they are almost always overdressed. Not as if they’re dressed too fancy; no, they just wear too much.
It’s most obvious during the wintertime. One of the things my classmates might ask in January during school is, “How many pairs of pants are you wearing?” This I found hilarious the first time I heard it, and well, why shouldn’t I have? But I soon realized they were dead serious. “One,” I would answer. “How many are you wearing?” And the classmate would usually answer noncommittally, “Three.”
After I warmed up to the country a bit, I learned that this meant they were wearing two pairs of long underwear and one pair of outer pants. Similar conversations took place about sweaters and coats; “How many tops do you have on?” “Five.” I was a rare case, and half the time was considered crazy to not wear more.
I’ve also seen little kids being towed down the street by grandparents, bundled up like they were going to live in a freezer for the rest of their lives; bulging with layers and layers of clothes, their arms too stiff to do anything but stick out and their legs barely able to walk. But at least falling down doesn’t hurt as much when you’ve got 3 inches of padding.
This was not just the kids. My sister had a teacher who refused to turn on the air conditioning at any time, and did not allow her students to wear shorts until late June, explaining she “didn’t want the children to catch chills.” And when this teacher accompanied them in air-conditioned rooms, she wore thick coats and long pants, and constantly complained of being cold. My sister and her classmates spent the entire month of June melting slowly in the classroom.
It always makes me wonder why some of these Beijing parents don’t trust their own kids to know how much they themselves should wear.