As a Brit living abroad for the last 16 years, I’ve had to get used to the heat.
While I’d never go so far as to say I like it, I have learnt to live with hot weather – and that’s thanks to picking up tips and tricks from the locals of countries where I’ve lived.
I spent four years in Vietnam, followed by nine years in Switzerland – which contrary to popular belief, is not all snow-topped mountains and snowfall. In the lowland areas it gets as hot as the south of France. I’m now into my third year in Tuscany, Italy.
What I’ve noticed is that my British friends and family really struggle with a sudden heatwave, or a visit to a warmer climate.
There are biological reasons for this. It takes about two weeks for the body to adapt to sudden changes in temperature.
However from what I’ve observed, there is also a mental adjustment that needs to take place. Brits don’t grow up in a culture that knows how to stay cool. We’ve never had the practice.
All that means that when it does get hot, we don’t know how to cope. We hurry to buy fans (which promptly sell out), drench ourselves in deodorant, and roll around in sweat-drenched beds at night, unable to sleep.
The good news: we can steal the techniques of those who know how to handle hot weather far better than us.
Here are some tips based on how people do it in Europe and the tropics.
Get smart about your windows and doors
First thing in the morning, opening up windows and doors allows cool air to circulate through your home.
As the day progresses, the temperature will rise. When it starts to near the point where it’s hotter outside than in, shut the windows and close the curtains to keep the cool in.
This may seem counterintuitive when we want fresh air, but it’s common practise in Europe.
Alas, in Britain there aren’t thick shutters to keep the heat out, but curtains or blinds can help. Leave them open a crack to allow a bit of light in.
Keep electric lighting to a minimum as the bulbs give off heat. It may seem a bit dreary being in the dark, but in the evening you will appreciate the cooler climate for sleeping.
Once the air cools you can let the windows open for a breeze.
Make the most of the cooler mornings and evenings
Make the most of the cool mornings and evenings – If you need to go out, or do the housework, plan your day around the heat.
If your schedule allows it, do as the Spanish do and have a siesta in the afternoon. The extra sleep means you may be able to get up earlier or stay up later, maximising your enjoyment of the cooler hours.
If your work schedule allows flexibility schedule meetings and trickier tasks in the cooler hours.
Use a fan – not aircon
Though you may be dreaming of aircon it is possible to stay cool without it. In-fact minimising exposure to airconned environments helps your body acclimatise.
A fan is an effective alternative. Invest in a good one. There is a lot of variation in quality. Check reviews and go for quiet, but powerful.
If you feel uncomfortable during the night, consider sleeping with the fan on. It takes some getting used to, but it is possible. There are solar-powered ones to keep the energy bills down.
Have a fan in every room, or move your fan from room to room as you go about your day. Have it on constantly if you can.
Change up your menu
Opting for salads and foods that are quick to warm up avoids adding extra heat to your home.
Don’t use the oven if possible, and whatever you choose to cook, have your fan on as you prepare.
Batch-cook, so you don’t have to use the heat each day, or opt for the microwave.
The heat causes lethargy and tiredness, but what I’ve noticed is that it’s actually feels worse if I haven’t exercised.
Yet who wants to run or do a hectic workout in the heat?
In Vietnam I got up with the locals to do Tai Chi in the park at 6am. People also gathered there to have dance classes in the evening after the sun went down.
Morning or evening is the perfect time for a stroll or an online workout at home.
Cycling is wonderful, even in the middle of the day, as you generate a cool breeze gliding through the air.
Or join the growing trend of wild swimmers for an ice cool dip.
Water is your friend
Put your hair under a tap as a cool head will make a big difference. Or wet a scarf and wrap it around your neck. Take a quick ice cold shower. Buy a mini fan which spritzes water. This was a life-saver for me when I experienced the ninth month of pregnancy in the height of summer in Switzerland. A large paddling pool, even for adults, is fun to relax.
Don’t rush around the place. Whatever you are doing, do it slower.
Walk slowly. Do the housework slowly. Don’t try to fight the heat, in a British ‘keep calm and carry on’ kind of attitude. Instead embrace a more ‘mañana’ type of perspective whenever you can.
Escape to aircon when you absolutely need to
If you just can’t bear it, then a visit to an airconned environment can help. A walk around a shopping centre, remote working in a air-conned cafe, or a visit to a cool gym can be like a mini holiday from the heat.
Suss out nearby places to visit for when it gets too much.
Schedule your day with care
Think like a heat-aware person. The old adage ‘only fools and Englishman go out in the midday sun’ still rings true.
I have an Irish friend In Italy who I once invited over ‘after lunch’. I was surprised when she finally turned up at 6pm! However after 20 years here, she had learnt it’s foolish to go out in the heat of the day. It was perfectly natural for an afternoon meet-up to occur at a time we Brits think of as evening.
So, don’t schedule a hike at midday. Choose cafes and bars with cool, shady areas, or aircon. Think of activities that will be enjoyable and make the heat bearable, not a challenge.
Change your perspective
A temperature of 34 degrees in the UK is abnormal and newsworthy. However, bear in mind that in many parts of the world, this is simply normal summer weather. Remind yourself that there are people around the globe who live and thrive under these conditions.
However, one of the key difference is that buildings and life in these places are designed around hot summers. There are swimming pools, aircon, cool stone floors and insulation designed to keep the heat out.
So if you’ve tried all these tips, and still find it hard to cope, then try to be kind to yourself.
This too will pass, and before you know it the autumn leaves will be falling, and you can snuggle up on the sofa with a warm mug of cocoa, complaining about the rain again.
Best products to help you beat the heat
Shopping: This factbox contains affiliate links. We will earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.
Please note that prices were correct at the time of writing, but may have since changed.
Dr Sam’s Flawless Daily Sunscreen
Buy it for £29 from Dr Sam’s
Stackable Ice Lolly Moulds
Get the set for £24.48 at Amazon.
Portable air conditioner
Get it for £43.99 at Amazon.
Pro Breeze Oscillating 40-inch Tower Fan
Reduced from £99.99 to £79.99 at Amazon now.
Elegear Cooling Blanket for Night Sweats
Get it for £32.99 at Amazon now.
Ergoflex 5G mattress
Buy it for £445, down from £809 from Ergoflex
Kookaburra Waterproof Garden Sun Shade Canopy
Reduced from £89.95 to £74.98 at Amazon now.
Black and Decker Portable 3-in-1 Air Conditioner, Dehumidifier, and Cooling Fan
Reduced from £399.99 to £372 at Amazon now.
SIMIYA 3 Pack Seamless Anti Chafing Boy Shorts
Reduced from £25.99 to £19.99 at Amazon now.
KLIM Wind Laptop Cooling Pad
Get it for £24.97 Amazon now.
4 in 1 Quiet Portable Air Cooler
Get it for £42.99 at Amazon now.
Luxear Cooling Pillowcases 2 Pack
Reduced from £16.99 to £12.99 at Amazon now.
RATEL USB Table Fan
Reduced from £19.99 to £15.99 at Amazon now.
Self-cooling mat for pets
Get it for £10.95 at Amazon.
Jumbo inflatable pool
Get it for £34.99 at Amazon.
Get a set of six towels for £20.99 at Amazon.
However, when the rising mercury becomes more irritating than enjoyable, reach for these items for some sweet relief.
Pro Breeze Turbo Desk Fan
Get it for £59.99 at Amazon.
Misting sports bottle
Get it for £16.37 at Amazon.
Retro Pineapple Ice Bucket
Get it for £29.93 at Amazon.
Chillmax Pillow cooling gel insert
Get it for £9.95 at Amazon.
Duronic ice cream maker
Get it for £33.99 at Amazon.
onaEz Cooling Sleep Mask
Get it for £15.99 at Amazon.
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