caricature about summer in Belarus

In summer in Belarus, there is a moment all people are waiting for, prepared for and, strangely, not afraid of. The moment when in the summer the hot water is turned off for 2 full weeks. All parts of Belarus need to take their turns to go through this severe procedure in different weeks. And the temperature outside is not taken into consideration. What surprises us most is the way Belarusians deal with this matter. Belarusians are apparently not bothered by any of this. And when asking them why this is happening they simply say with a smile ‘This is Belarus, Babe!’. Or ‘this happens every year’ – no argument, no sad faces, no shivers, nothing…

A foreigner might react to this quite differently. He may start to ask why is this happening to me? Why do I have to go through this torture? What is the reason for this and is there any escape? Well, we can’t really give you an escape plan, we would not even want to. Why? Because it actually has something unique about it. And we recommend going through this summer surprise and embracing it. At the end you will appreciate hot water so much more than you used to. And that’s a promise! But we surely can give you some answers on all your other questions.

First of all let us start by saying that this is definitely not personal. You just found yourself in the regional water system maintenance period. The hot water in most Belarusian cities and towns is centrally heated and then pumped to individual houses. In the summer in Belarus the government water officials must be working on maintaining and cleaning the hot water system. They do it to prepare the network for the winter season and make sure it will operate smoothly. During this maintenance the hot water is turned off 100%.

So what can we advise on how to deal with the summer surprise?

Basically you have several options, let’s start with the water boiling ritual. This one is for the ones who really don’t like a cold shower (most of us). And who want to experience the most common way Belarusians cleanse during this summer surprise. Tools you need are: minimum of one bucket, preferably two. A water cooker or a big pan where you can boil water in and a smaller pan.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Boil water: around 5 litres.
  2. Fill each bucket with 30% boiling water and 70% cold water.
  3. Mix the water using your hands
  4. Step into the shower or the bathtub and rinse yourself with the perfect mixture you just created using the small pan.
  5. Wash your body and hair. You may wish to wash your hair first, dry it and wash your body after that. However this is all optional and we recommend you to do what you feel like.

The more extreme option is to man up and shower with cold water. Yes! Remember the ice bucket challenge? Well, this is quite similar but now you have the chance to impress Mark Zuckerberg with your more frequent challenges. This is not recommended and you will be declared as a total fool by Belarusian as very cold water can cause some health problems. But if you really don’t have the time for the water boiling ritual, then a quick cold shower might be your only solution.

There are some tricks that can help you go through this one:

  1. Sing! Yes, singing loudly while entering the shower helps to mitigate the shock of first contact with cold water.
  2. Convince yourself that it’s actually not that cold and how proud you will be once this hell is over.
  3. Short showers and don’t take breaks.
  4. Keep your head and face for last. As these parts are the once you’ll dread the most, so save it till the end after you feel like your body temperature going down.
  5. If you have time do some exercise before, it might help making the cold shower experience feel like a relief instead of a shock (not guaranteed).

Of course there are always other options. For example you can choose the deodorant shower, however it is not guaranteed that the deodorant would cover two weeks odours your body produces. You can also ask a friend or a colleague that happens to live in another area of the city to visit his/her hot shower. Our favorite option is to deal with the cold water by going to a ‘Banya’, the typical Belarusian sauna. So, summer in Belarus is fun!

Another idea was given to us by a reader: