On English Weather

Sunny Window

First off, let me apologize.  I can’t believe we haven’t discussed this already.

Now that that’s over: whoever said that the most remarkable thing about English weather was that there’s not much of it was right.  Crazy, right?  After all, this is a country in which rain is practically an every day occurrence, but sun and snow cause a commotion.  Perhaps no other culture is as reputed for talking incessantly about the weather.  Once you live here, however, you realize that it just doesn’t change.

I certainly didn’t anticipate to despise English weather quite so much when I first started university.  Like most things, it seemed that it would take some getting adjusted to, but after a few months it would be normal.  How much can weather vary, anyway?

A lot it turns out.  If I had to give one reason why I might leave England after university, the answer is the weather, hands down.

One of the first things the visitor to England will notice after arriving in their hotel room and squealing about the accents on the BBC is that, during the forecast, they show the spots of sun instead of the patches of rain.  This is a country for which clouds are the default and sun comes in every now and then as a much welcome visitor. It’s amusing, it’s hilarious and you don’t think much of it.

Bristol Harbourside

Then it rains one day and your shoes get a bit wet. They’re uncomfortable, but you figure they will dry over night and be fine tomorrow. Except, they don’t dry over night because the air is so damp.  You put them on, still slightly soggy and hope they will dry during the day.  A noble wish, but impossible as the cloud coverage is so thick and the air is so moist that nothing can dry. It’s a process that gets repeated until you find that your skin always feels slightly damp, despite the fact that it hasn’t rained in days.

The clouds are to blame, especially if you’re in the west country.  It’s not that England is so rainy, in fact Paris gets more rain fall per year than the British Isles, but rather that it’s not sunny.  One or two grey days are fine, they provide a nice break and an excuse to stay indoors.  When the clouds pile on top of each other for days on end, it begins to feel as if you’re living in a bubble insulated from the rest of the world with crazy cloud coverage.

Whenever I talk to English people about the weather, they seem resigned to it.  Some even take pride in the fact that it always seems just slightly drizzly.  After all, what better weather for a cup of tea and a biscuit?  Actually, I can’t think of to which those two comforts are better suited.

Coming from New York, where rainy days are the aberration, the weather pattern is jarring.  You need to change your idea of what a normal day is and find new motivation beyond sun and gorgeous weather to get yourself up and out of bed, into the great outdoors.  I still haven’t quite found it yet.

If English weather has taught me anything, it’s to enjoy every last drop of sun and warmth that comes my way.  After winters where it gets dark at 4:30, earlier even if the clouds are really thick, I am always looking for ways to spend a lot of time outdoors.  I enjoy long walks in good temperature, I enjoy spending time connecting with the world.

While the jury is still debating whether or not weather actually impacts mood, weather impacts culture and how different cultures interact with their space.  New York in the rain is different from Bristol is different from Milan.  English weather may take on a tone of monotony for someone used to more marked seasons, but may an exhilirating shift for someone from, say, southern California.  Weather may be a universal that we all deal with, but it’s surprising how each culture deals with it in their own way.

Sunny, cloudy, foggy or snow; what’s your favorite type of weather?


7 thoughts on “On English Weather

  1. Settit

    That’s one of the things I despise most about living in London, as for me it is an almost perfect city. I just miss seeing blue when you look up. Even abroad I’ve noticed when it’s overcast there’s still a hell of a lot more light than we have in London.

    1. Emilia Post author

      It’s always nice to hear that other people miss seeing blue in the sky. English clouds do seem to be lower in the sky. Sometimes I just wish there were taller buildings to make the sky seem further away, even in London they can feel quite close 🙂

  2. NaiveTest

    Living in the Pacific Northwest of America, the rain is standard until the summer time comes through. As you mentioned, perfect weather for tea! Of course, I’m going off on a road trip soon to enjoy all the other states winter weathers. I’m looking forward to Utah and Arizona. I love your window photo on top of the post!

    1. Emilia Post author

      Yes! I always forget that the Pacific Northwest has similar weather to England, but I imagine it’s quite difficult there as well. Enjoy your trip! I hope you see some very different and interesting reactions to weather. 🙂

    1. Emilia Post author

      Haha! I definitely agree with the skin part, though as someone with curly hair, I must say that my lock prefer low humidity 🙂

  3. Virginia Stuart-Taylor

    “Resigned” to the terrible weather would be the right word for it. We Brits have unlimited optimism come summer, even despite previous experience, but ultimately we have resigned ourselves to the weather and just get on with it. Although we do love talking about the weather…. And Emilia – I’m off to New York today! Just sat in the airport waiting for my flight!


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