Winter is rough in the UK –there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dreary, and you start to see why the British people are always complaining about the weather. Even though by now, you think maybe, they might have gotten used to it…?
But I digress. The point is that winter here is intense, especially when you’ve just arrived, fresh from California, ready to start your study abroad experience, and are thrown into it full force! Although not much can shake the magic of your first couple of weeks abroad, as you discover the city, make new friends and jet off to Paris on the weekends, bad weather and being so far from home can definitely still get you down from time to time. To be honest, I’m no different – the greyness can get to you! Lately, I’ve been experiencing some of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and homesickness first hand, so I thought it would be nice to write down some of the remedies I’ve taken in order to counteract those symptoms. You know, a ‘lil something to take the edge off…
First things first – sunlight. We love it, we need it, and if you were raised in sunny Southern California like me, you probably take it for granted, just like I did. Well, no more. As I’ve recently gleaned from the NHS website, ‘during autumn and winter (from October until the end of March) the sun isn’t strong enough in the UK to produce Vitamin D.’ When I saw this, my first reaction was, WOT. THERE IS NO SUN. I WILL WITHER AND DIE. Then, I picked myself up by my bootstraps, went over to Sainsbury’s on my lunch break, and picked myself up a bottle of Vitamin D supplements. Problem solved, minus a short bout of minor hysteria.
You may think you’ll be fine without the sun until April or next August, or whenever the English sun decides to make a triumphant comeback, but a deficiency in Vitamin D can have a negative effect on your mood. Serotonin, the brain hormone that makes you feel in a good mood, increases when you’re in a brightly lit environment, and so decreases when you’re out of the sun’s reach. Like when you’re in England. In winter. AKA right now. And who needs that? Nobody! So get yourself your own bottle of Vitamin D supplements, because they’ll help you beat the blues and have an even better time while abroad.
Let’s be real, this is what we all miss the most about home. As someone who’s half Mexican and half Chinese, I miss my grandmother’s cooking especially, because you can get dumplings here by the dozen, but good Mexican food is a bit harder to find.
You may not be able to get carne asada fries on this side of the pond, but are a few joints around London that I don’t think are totally terrible. My favourite restaurant for Mexican food that I’ve tried so far is Lupita, just up the road from Embankment Tube Station. They have it all, tortas, carnitas, and fresh guac they’ll make at your table if you want! I nearly wept when I went and had their taquitos and fresh horchata. It was amazing. I also recommend Benito’s Hat – it’s a more fast food style chain, but their burritos are actually really good!
Eating out can also be expensive, especially on a student budget. Luckily, you can still make your own Mexican food at home, which can be a great way to bond with your fellow Californians abroad, or to show your new British friends what real Mexican cuisine is like! I’ve just found out about this Mexican market in West London called La Tiendita, and I’m soo excited to go and buy literally everything they have. Fresh tamales, tamarind candy, Tajín, corn tortillas, you name it, they got it!
Mexican food has been gaining as one of the newest trends to hit the UK food scene, and there are Mexican restaurants popping up all around Britain, not just London. Let me know if you have unearthed any great burrito places in your host university – I’d love to see what the rest of the country has got to offer. Go forth and find tacos. ¡Vamos!
Let’s take a minute to take about bacon. Real bacon. Not the pieces of ham these Brits try to pass off as bacon, but the crispy, fried pieces of deliciousness I’ve been craving since I left the States. Although I do adore a traditional English fry-up, I know something I miss about home is a real American diner breakfast. Say, a Grand Slam at Denny’s or unlimited pancakes at iHop. Buttermilk pancakes are also quite hard to find, so if you do, treasure it!!
One of my favourite places to get my morning Americana fix is the Breakfast Club, which has locations all around London. Be warned though, queues get wild on a Saturday or Sunday morning! Plus, at one of their locations, which you’ll have to find out yourself, boasts a secret speakeasy downstairs. You have to walk through a refrigerator to get there!
However, the Brits do have a whole holiday to celebrate pancakes! Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is on February 28th, and you can partake by eating as many pancakes as you can. London restaurant The Diner, is another great place to get tonnes of different American foods, including breakfast, and for Pancake Tuesday they’re offering chocolate chip pancakes, Reese’s Pieces covered pancakes, and bacon and banana pancakes!
And don’t worry, I didn’t forget about all of you who live outside of the capital. Here’s an amazing list of the 50 best places to get breakfast all over the entire United Kingdom! If you hit up any of these places, or go hard for Pancake Day, don’t forget to post pictures and tag us on Instagram @ukiuceap. Let us live through you!
These are just a few of my favourite things – do you have any tips on battling homesickness or surviving a harsh winter? I’m happy to hear what you’ve got to say! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.