Let’s get two things straight: a British heatwave is horrible. the buildings here are built to keep people warm rather than breathing, and yes, yes, you are always very cool. But. Knowing how to stay cool during a British heatwave is an expat survival level that you hit once you’ve been here for a few years.
It’s a secret expat level masked by all those jokes about incessant rain.
The last few years we seem to get a face melting week or two here in England. Anything over 30°C is actually hotter than the surface of the sun. I’ve travelled to Singapore & the Middle East when the temps hit 40°C. They are PREPARED for the heat. We are not.
Turn your Hot Water Bottle into a Freezy™
Half fill your hot water bottle and cast it into the freezer (at least) a few hours before you go to bed. Once you’re settling in for the night pop it between the sheets around your knee level. Thank me later.
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This is a Very Important Step. Make sure your gin has tonic, your coffee has ice cubes and you sling a bottle or two of water into the fridge. Hate water? Get some sparkling water, add lemon or cucumber, use some squash – whatever it takes to stay hydrated. Alternate alcoholic beverages with H2O (you can choose whether you pronounce it Haitch-two-oh or aitch-two-oh).
Reorganise your day around the temperature changes
The world has gone feral. Walk early in the mornings, take a siesta between 3 & 4.30, use any excuse possible to run errands in air conditioned supermarkets or trains or take meetings at clients offices. A trick I often used pre-pandemic was to work in the coffee shops deep underneath Canary Wharf. It felt weird going to suit-central as a Mac-wielding millenial… until that cool cool robotic breeze hit my flushed face.
DO NOT TURN YOUR OVEN ON.
We are in a strict cold or pan cooked items of food only system. For extra points, call it a British style “picky tea”.
Relocate your desk
I actually bought a second desk (during one of the Covid lockdowns) that folds for easy storage and moving into the kitchen/garden during heatwaves. I wish I was kidding, but I’m completely serious. When the thermometer hits 30°C+ my desk and I relocate. The cat often travels with me – she knows. It also works so well on balmy days for soaking up a little extra Vitamin D.
Don’t Open your Curtains
Open the windows for a little air flow, but don’t open your curtains during the day. Trust me on this one – it’s a game changer.
Sunscreen, sunscreen and do another sunscreen application.
Trust me. You’re going from London blue to off-white. You need to be sun smart and slather on factor 50+. It doesn’t matter that years ago when you travelled to Italy for two weeks you literally used no sunscreen at all. Times have most definitely changed (and remember, hydrated skin is less wrinkly.)
Complain about the heat
The more you moan, the more local you’ll seem.
Run away to the beach
Just go. Remember to take your windbreak (essential British tool), drinks & snacks, and please please pick up your rubbish.
Don’t Forget Your Pets
From air tunnels to freezing paper towels, we can help our fur coated four-legged friends out too. We add a little extra water to our cat’s meat, pull out her cooling mat to sleep on and include her in any fanning.
What’s your favourite heatwave hack?
[Pin for next year]