Monday, 3 June 2013

Bad weather? Surely not!

Here in Southern Bavaria, we've just been through what was possibly the worst weather period since records began. Two weeks of solid, uninterrupted sheet-rain. Plus wind. Plus single digit temperatures.

And this got me thinking as to how, not how they cope with the weather as such, but how they spin a narrative around it. A narrative that is rarely factual. Here in Bavaria for example, when the bad weather started, the media at first tried to play it down. Tomorrow, or the day after at the latest, they promised, the sun will return. Temperatures will climb. Yup, time to wipe the barbecue dry. (It seems nowadays good weather can only be experienced as such if you fire up the barbecue...) When it wouldn't get better, but got increasingly worse until there was serious flooding in several towns, the media changed tack again. They bigged it up."Worst ever", "Unbelievable..". "Bavaria worst affected.." A gigantic "look at us, we're even huge in our misery, when the weather is bad here, it's worse than anywhere else". Because Bavarians take great pride in their weather- and their summers in particular - being sunny and hot. So when it fails, it has to fail spectacularly, so that you can build a narrative round the event, prepare a future "Do you remember 2013, when we had this incredible..."

Change to Scotland, where I lived for a year before we moved to Munich.There's a different narrative spin at work there. In Scotland, it just doesn't do to remark that the weather is bad, it's raining cats and dogs or it's blowing a (Beaufort 8) gale. It maybe the case but it doesn't get remarked upon. On the rare occasions when the sun is out, however, absolutely everybody will make it their business to discuss the weather with you. Not just innocuously ("Nice day, isn't it") as could be suspected. But in an openly challenging way: "Hot enough for you?!" (~17°) "This heat is getting to me!", and of course the ubiquitous "Another [!] beautiful day in Edinburgh". This last remark you can easily verify on Twitter - just put in search term "Edinburgh" on any given day, it is always there. The fact that it may have only lasted 5 minutes will not be part of the narrative. Of course not, as relaying facts is not the issue. It's about proving a point and hammering it home - YOU may think the weather in Scotland is always bad, but I'm proving you wrong, wrong, wrong!!

So the narrative of how weather is spoken about is much more important than the actual metereological details. And it tells you a lot about how people see themselves and how they want to be seen.