Wednesday, 31 October 2012

What's the Weather Like in Germany?


I've always been interested in the weather - the actual as well as what people say about it. You can learn a lot that way.You can also learn something by listening to people's perception of the weather in other countries.

Take Germany. What would an ordinary English person say when asked about the climate in Germany? Probably something like this:

"Oooh, don't know really. Probably quite cold. They do have those Christmas markets there, don't they... there's always quite a bit of snow there ... and mulled wine!"

And there you have it in  a nutshell.
Germany is associated with winter, with cold, and childrens' book Xmas markets. Germany is THE EAST. A land of frost, cold, snow. There are sinister looking fairytale castles with spooky turrets, dark dark forests, and a general atmosphere of darkness and cold. All ever so spooky and sinister. Medieaval markets surrounded by half-timbered houses.Only occasionally lit by the orange glow of flickering candle light, or a macabre flash of lightning.

Associating it so directly - and totally falsely, it is far more of a hot country!- with "cold" has a more sinister side stll. Where there aren't any spooky but cosy Christmas markets, turrety castles etc. there is "tundra". An Eastern sounding word for a void. That void isn't actually there - there is neither tundra, nor emptiness in Germany. But it stands for the lack of geographical knowledge. Cold, empty, Eastern. Snowy planes, where far away on the horizon there might be  the odd "ruthlessly efficient" (another core term in popular Germany-parlance) industrial plant where faceless workers produce something mechanical and complicated. Machinery, or cars -something hard, and metallic - cold.

There you are - a whole prejudicial image cluster comes alive via a talk about the weather. I find this ethnographic way of analysing and deconstructing a concept quite fascinating.

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