I filled my car up recently with fuel. While waiting in the queue to pay, the man ahead of me had a quick dialogue with the woman behind the till, who then rummaged in a drawer and produced a furry hot water bottle to add to his bill.
I looked around the garage shop and couldn’t see any hot water bottles on display. Clearly this was such a stock item that all the locals knew about it and only had to ask. That’s England for you.
It’s a very different story in the US
Even though there are bitterly cold winters in some parts of the US, I still have never found a decent hot water bottle there. The only ones I’ve seen are half the size of English ones, made of flimsy rubber that doesn’t last very long, not safe to use with anything other than lukewarm water, and – worst of all – they are usually NAKED!
Here in the UK any self-respecting hot water bottle comes in a deliciously huggable cuddly cover, and you can buy them in any high street, most department stores, and — as I’ve just discovered — some service stations too. The latest trend is cute animal varieties.
Expat forums in the US are littered with comments at this time of year from mystified Brits wondering why on earth such a basic commodity should be so hard to find. My American friends have explained to me that they are simply not part of their culture.
Why would you use a hot water bottle, they ask, when you can flick a switch and keep your whole bed warm all night long with an electric blanket? Or better still, sleep in an electric under-and over-blanket sandwich? I’m not saying it’s unheard of here in the UK. Just that hot water bottles are so much more available this side of the pond that most homes have them, and many people still prefer this much healthier option.
Some facts about electric blankets you may not know
- Pregnant women should never use an electric blanket
- Studies have shown that children who use electric blankets are five time more likely to get leukemia
- Electric blankets can cause cramps
- The magnetic field of many types of electric blankets penetrates 15-18 cm (6-7 inches) into the body
- The wires of electric blankets are usually coated in PTFE, which emits toxic fumes when heated
- Electric blankets can cause restless sleep because they make you too hot (the optimum sleep temperature is 15-20 degrees Celsius or 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit)
Happily, I have some good news for all my American friends. Amazon.com now has a good selection of British standard hot water bottles, and some even have fairly decent looking covers. So if you’re looking for a healthier experience this winter, why not give one a try?
Copyright © Karen Kingston 2013