Wrap me up for the freezing English New Year

Wrap me up for the New Year

Sherry Chen

The trials and tribulations of a Chinese girl trying to survive the winter in Oxford

Having lived in Hong Kong for the past few years for my undergraduate studies, I have entirely lost the ability to survive wintertime. Waterproof jackets, faux fur coats, and thermal leggings-why would I ever need that stuff? If summer means one shirt, winter simply means two, right?

I did listen to warnings given by various friends and somehow managed to squeeze a pair of gloves into my suitcase, but I don’t think I really took their advice to heart. “Come on,” I thought, “hats, scarves and gloves are no more than ‘accessories’ for stylish people – you’d have to be really meticulous about how you present yourself to ‘go that far.’” I would love to look great every day, but picking a single dress to wear is hard enough; should I really spend more money on unnecessary stuff and spend more time trying to match the colours or styles? It transpires that the answer to this question was an emphatic YES.

In late September I landed at Heathrow Airport, confident that I was pretty well prepared for the English weather, but the winter chill went straight down my spine the moment I exited the aeroplane. I realised that the advice I had thought to be unnecessary was actually essential to my survival in this new country. So instead of coming home looking like a White Walker from Game of Thrones every day, I decided it was time to arm myself from head to toe for the coming winter.

But looking stylish still had to be rule number 1. I am quite a petite girl and sometimes people still mistake me for a teenager, so I know it’s a safe bet to play it cute. When it comes to hats, I went straight for animal-shapes: cat, rabbit, panda, provided it works well with everything else I’m wearing. Picking a scarf was tougher, simply because I’m always stumped as to how you’re supposed to tie it, and it inevitably makes me look like I have trouble breathing. Perhaps neckerchiefs would be more to my liking? They are lightweight and shorter (or at least not long enough to trip me up) but not as warm as a good old-fashioned woollen scarf. By the time I got to gloves, my brain had been fried and I couldn’t take any more winter-accessory related outfit conundrums. I dashed out of the store with a few dark suede options, hoping that no one would pay too close attention to my hands.

After living in Oxford for two months, I felt much more confident about my winter accessories. In my head, I was this lovely Asian girl wrapped up in cuteness with no fear of the cold weather.

But reality usually falls pretty short of the mark and my attempt at being stylish while keeping warm was no exception. During the last week of Michaelmas, I received a few gifts from my Secret Santas. Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly because I’ve complained so much about the cold weather on Facebook) I had been given a perfect collection of winter warmers: a hat that covers my ears, a scarf that reaches my ankles, and a pair of gloves with cosy fur inside.

To be warm or not to be warm – it’s not even a question; it’s essential. The struggle has been long and hard for me, and I have a lot to learn about striking a balance between warmth and style in the years to come. Hopefully this Chinese girl still has the potential to transform herself into an immaculately and delicately wrapped-up English Rose.