Melting, melting … top tips for any newly arrived northern europeans on surviving this heat wave

Melbourne heat wave

Northern europeans (and English people who don’t see themselves as European), hear me. You may think you know what it’s like to experience hot weather … but you would be wrong. Until you have lived through consecutive multiple 40C + days, you will not have a true understanding of the horror that awaits you! So with the benefit of my years of living here in Melbourne, I give you my top tips to surviving this week’s heat wave.


  • Fill all the ice cube trays you own.
  • Put bottles of water and face cloths in the freezer.
  • Stock up on food, preferably things that don’t need to be heated up such as salad items, yoghurt, etc. And a box of icy poles (or super dupers as Aussies call them) would not go astray either.
  • TOP TIP – grapes are great frozen, and very refreshing. Bung a bunch in the freezer.
  • Close all the blinds and curtains in your house and make sure all windows are shut tight.
  • Buy a freestanding oscillating fan, if you don’t already own one (or more).

During the heat wave:

  • DO NOT OPEN WINDOWS “to let the cool air/breeze in.” There is none, this is an English fallacy.  All it will do is make your house even hotter.
  • Do not open the curtains/blinds, unless its nighttime. They need to stay closed until the heatwave is over.
  • Soak a towel or tea towel in cold water and drape over the fan (making sure it won’t get trapped in the blades).
  • Fill a tub with cold water and put ice cubes in there (remembering to top up your ice cube trays afterwards, you don’t want to run out of ice!) and stick your feet in there. Or have a cold bath if you have a bathtub (lucky you).
  • There is no such thing as too many cold showers. And definitely have one before you go to bed.
  • Spray your bedsheets with water using a trigger spray bottle and have a cold shower before you go to bed (and if you are wearing some sort of night cover like a t-shirt, soak that in water too).
  • Sleep in the ‘coolest’ or rather, ‘least hot’, room in the house. This is not the time to get all precious about where you sleep.
  • Don’t create any additional heat in the house that you don’t have to. That means no hairdryers, ovens, stovetops, irons, etc.
  • Do not leave the house unless you have to. It is always hotter outside and don’t underestimate how difficult it is to get about in this weather.

Of course, if you have air con, you are laughing.  Unless it isn’t in your bedroom, in which case you will be dragging your mattress into the room that does have the air con and camping out there so ha ha back.

Out and about:

Obviously you will only be leaving the house if you are (a) mad or (b) don’t have air con and live in a concrete box; otherwise you will be hunkered down as per my advice above.

  • Seek out free/cheap places that have air con: Your car; cinemas; shopping malls; work (!); bowling alleys, libraries, museums.
  • Try not to be outside between 12pm and 6pm, this is the hottest part of the day.
  • Wear a hat, loose clothing and carry at least one 500ml water bottle, preferably two.
  • Walk SLOWLY and in the shade (dur) and if you don’t feel stupid, use an umbrella to keep the heat off your head.

That’s it really. All common sense stuff but I didn’t do half of it my first summer here so I thought it was worth sharing!

Oh and my ‘glass half full’ take on Melbourne heat waves… Every heat wave (eventually) leads to a cool change. Which are brilliant! The thermostat can drop up to 18C in 30 minutes. Bliss!