Cliff Buddle
SCMP Columnist
Cliff Buddle
Cliff Buddle

Moving to the UK to escape Hong Kong heat? Climate change has made British summers hot, full of nasty wasps … and good English wine

  • Escaping the heat of Hong Kong by moving to Britain may seem like a good idea, but climate change has caused temperatures to rise, and there’s typically no AC
  • Open the windows, though, and in comes the pollen. Cue hay fever. Then there are the pesky English wasps. On the other hand, vines, olive and fig trees flourish

Escaping Hong Kong’s hot and humid summer was one of the benefits I was looking forward to when moving back to Britain.

I used to enjoy the arrival of summer in Hong Kong, with its new sounds and smells. Even the oppressive heat had novelty value.

But as time went by, I tired of hot weather warnings and sweat-soaked clothes. By the time I left for England, in August, I was desperate for a respite. Britain is famous for its bad weather – and I wanted some of that. Cold, wet, windy, I didn’t mind.

But I was disappointed. I arrived in sunny Kent during England’s hottest summer on record. Temperatures didn’t quite reach the record 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) experienced in July. But it was pushing 30 at times. A drought was declared and a hosepipe ban imposed.

2022 was one of the UK’s hottest summers on record, with the heat causing mass droughts. Photo: Getty Images

Naturally, my first instinct was to take refuge in the air conditioning. Except there isn’t any. Even at night, it was uncomfortably hot. All that could be done was to open the windows and doors. But that creates other problems – such as letting the pollen in.

How could I forget I suffered from hay fever! I have unhappy childhood memories of constant sneezing and itchy eyes. It wasn’t a problem in urban Hong Kong, but back in the English countryside, I felt the full force. The National Health Service’s advice is to close all the windows and doors.

Wasps in Britain tend to be more aggressive than those in Hong Kong. Photo: Shutterstock

Pollen was not the only unwelcome invader. I’d also forgotten about British wasps. The wasps I encountered in Hong Kong looked big and scary but tended to leave you alone. They had a sense of decency. Not so here.

British wasps are terrors. They hover menacingly in front of your face and waving them away only annoys them. My wife told me to sit calmly and let them do their thing. Unfortunately, “their thing” is to insert themselves into glasses of wine and bowls of avocado dip. Best to eat indoors.

I had better get used to the heat. Climate change will, no doubt, ensure hotter summers in Britain. This, of course, is not good news for the farming community. The fields were bone dry and riven with cracks when I arrived. The drought took its toll on crops.

An olive tree growing in a back garden in rural England. Photo: Shutterstock

But there is a positive side. I was amazed to find olive and fig trees in this part of Kent. Gardeners are experimenting with avocados and watermelons. One is even growing yuzu! And there are vineyards all around. The English wine industry is growing rapidly with the weather doing a good imitation of Burgundy.

The heat continued into September, although temperatures have finally cooled. Before long, I’ll be shivering in an English winter and complaining about the cold.

Moaning about the weather, I suspect, is one English trait that I have not lost.

A vineyard in Kent, England. Photo: Getty Images