From the Tropics to the UK

Adjusting to the colder temperatures of the UK

As we’ve entered December, I felt it appropriate to write on the changing temperature and staying comfortable. Back home in the Caribbean, the ‘Winter Season’ is generally around 24C and the sun sets around 5:15pm, so it has been an adjustment now living in the UK where the temperature changes more rapidly this time of year and the sun sets much earlier. We cannot control the weather around us but we can take steps to understand how that weather affects us and combat those affects.

Winter Time (and Autumn, if you’re coming from a Tropical Island!) is about layering and covering. It’s balancing staying warm with avoiding sweating alot due to that layering. The best first step, as I see it, is understanding how you personally get cold in this new environment. For example, I noticed as the temperature dropped, I felt most cold in my hands & feet so I paid more attention to keeping these parts of my body warm rather than focusing on my legs and chest. Though it varies between persons and their tolerances, generally we can group clothes based on temperature ranges.

For temperatures of 18C and up: T -shirts or Jumpers (light sweater) , Undershirts, Jeans/Leggings/etc, and light socks is generally enough.

For 10C to 18C: An outer layer of a Hoodie, with Long Sleeve T Shirts/ Fleece Jumpers/ heavier cotton Jumpers (sweaters) ,and Undershirts/T Shirts work well to keep you warm. If you notice you get cold at these temperatures in your legs wearing sweatpants or legging below Jeans/ below skirts /etc can solve this problem, as well as slightly thicker socks and ensuring you wear closed toed shoes.
For temperatures of 4C to 10C: Many of the same things as the previous section apply but now it may be best to replace hoodies with Fleece line hoodies and medium jackets. Often, the jackets in this section are categorized as lightweight and water proof jackets some are lined with cotton/ Fleece. Many of the jackets are considered by stores as Fall season Jackets. It really depends on your personal style and how cold you get. Personally I also prefer to wear light gloves at this stage.

Below 4C: Again many of the same things apply as the previous two sections, but we thicken each layer or use very thick outer layer to minimize the need for bulky inner layers. Generally you want to wear layers that have inner linings of cotton/Fleece/etc. This section is generally where ‘Winter’ Coats like Parkas and Down puffer jackets start to be needed and instead of leggings being the inner layer for leg wear, I’ve found using thermals below jeans to be more comfortable. In addition to gloves, scarfs are useful for keeping the lower face protected on windy days and even thicker socks may be needed for persons who get cold easier in their feet.


Clothing selection is the primary way to stay comfortable as the temperature drops but other habits help as well.
-Warm showers before going out for long periods or after coming home feeling cold, is an easy way to return your body temperature to a normal level.
-Having a warm drink while outdoors for extended periods of time. This one has become a personal habit; I’m amazed how much more I drink tea and coffee, than I did back home. Its mostly just as a quick boost to counter the cold, but I’ve also grown to just enjoy the various teas and coffee shops on campus and around the Guildford area.

-Preparation. Back home the temperature on any given day doesn’t change much, its generally the same from start to finish. In the UK its different, the High and Low temperature can vary quite a bit so its also important to keep up to date with the expected weather conditions and dress appropriately, its a challenge initially but as the first few weeks go by, you start to understand how to dress to fit your needs in most conditions and it becomes natural.

-Exposure. Cold isn’t magic; it takes time for your body temperature to drop and while the temperature plays a big part in this, I’ve found exposure matters too. If I’m walking from one building quickly to another, the outside temperature has less of an effect on me so If I take in to account how long I’ll be in the elements I can further prepare a good clothing selection.

– Manage your room’s Temperature. As things get colder you’ll need to manage how much you let in the outside weather. It’s a balancing act, you’ll want to have your room well ventilated and lit each day but also keep the room a comfortable temperature. This is a different balance for everyone but there are key things to note. Opening windows is important for getting fresh air and light; day time is the most warm so its best to try keeping windows open then. Heat can still be loss through windows, even when closed, closing curtains fully as well can trap extra heat and keep the room warm. Make use of your radiator, but remember it is a slow heating device, It will not heat a room rapidly. Try buying Duvets and thicker blankets, as they are an easy way to keep warm on chilly days.

Winter time can be as beautiful a season as any other, but as in all new things, we have to adjust to them and prepare ourselves to enjoy them to the fullest. The easiest way to approach the season is to have a prepared starter wardrobe and then evolve that wardrobe as you see how the temperature changes affect you. Autumn is a good preparation for winter to understand how you get cold and therefore how to stay warm. In terms of that starter pack, I’d suggest: a Scarf, Cotton Gloves, A hoodie, A water proof and warm jacket ( that isnt super bulky), A few Jumpers, leggings/sweatpants, thick socks and good closed toes shoes like sneakers (trainers) and a good umbrella.