Novelty woolly jumpers a must for London KiwisALANA DIXON
There is one rule in London's Kiwi expat community. You don't have to clock in two months behind a bar somewhere in Shepherds Bush. (Bonus points, though. Especially if you give mates rates.)
You don't have to perform - badly - drunken haka at parties.
(Although, again, the law of probabilities suggests you will.)
You don't even have to pretend to like Lorde, if that's not your bag. (Somebody somewhere is buying Miley Cyrus.)
The one thing, the one thing you simply must do as a Kiwi in London, is embrace the yuletide cheer and don a tacky Christmas jumper - a tacky expat novelty sweater (TENS), if you will.
Red-nosed reindeer are traditional favourites. But you could make like my flatmate Helen, who opted for a bright green jersey with Rudolph's image emblazoned across the front - and a secret button that turns on flashing multicoloured lights encircling his face.
Another flatmate, Matt, wasn't speedy enough last year, and missed out. (Christmas 2012 marked a novelty jumper shortage, apparently.)
Armed with nothing more than innovative spirit and possibly a glue gun, he transformed the last woolly sweater he could find in his size.
I haven't actually seen this creation yet. He needs to check nothing's fallen off since last year, apparently.
Without Christmas jumpers of our own, Mark and I felt something was missing - so we braved the crowds of pre- Christmas gluttony and commercialism.
(Oh, how cynical of me! Bah humbug!) Several hours later, we arrived back in Chiswick exhausted but triumphant.
After modelling our purchases for a rapturous crowd, it was time to mosey down the high street to choose our Christmas tree.
Matt assured me people did wear their Christmas jumpers in public, but I wasn't buying it - something about his expression told me this was like when you tell one friend that the party you're going to is fancy dress: the girls are dressing like guys, and the guys are dressing like girls.
It's all fun and games until somebody turns up in drag. Especially in a Southland winter.
Speaking of, when I looked outside at the chilly LDN weather, and felt the warmth of my bulky TENS, I decided fashion be damned - and simply zipped my coat over my 3D snowman.
We picked a beaut of a tree - particular care paid to proportion and bushiness of the top branch - arranged for its delivery the next morning, and looked at each other.
"Has anybody eaten? I'm keen for Vietnamese if anybody else is . . ." Hannah said.
It wasn't until I was about to sit down, menu in hand, that I realised eating dinner in a restaurant meant I would have to take off hat . . . and my coat.
I spent the next hour eating banh mi while a 4-year-old girl stared incredulously at me. Or possibly the poking-out, highlighter orange wool carrot- nose of my new friend.
After momentary self-consciousness, I shrugged and kept slurping down my lychee bubble tea.
As we were walking home, Hannah and I agreed we were content calling it a night after some egg nog fro-yo, but the boys were keen to meet my final flatmate, James, at the pub for some pool.
So off they went, Mark among them. To a bar. A bar playing classic rock.
(Or, as he described it to me later, "Big Kahuna Jim's Akka Dakka back in black put another brick in the wall".)
Wearing a woolly jumper with a Christmas pudding on it.
Far from being embarrassed, though, the next morning I was regaled by the boys, who told me my darling other half was leading the charge to get people raving out on the dance floor, and was even told by some old bloke he made his night.
He's a brave soul, that one.
It got me thinking about how I could exploit this, much like those people who insist on owning those awful dogs you keep seeing in the news.
So the next person who barges into me with their trolley at Sainsbury's, sending me flying into the veggie stand and raising a purple bruise on my shin instantaneously: consider yourself warned.
The Christmas Pudding will be coming for you.
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