Sunday, 7 September 2014
Don't let the title put you off! It's just a little piece where I want to show how we are affected by preconceptions about the weather, with an intercultural twist. (Inspired, no doubt by the pretty ropey summer we've all been having.)
There are loads of myths and folksy believes attached to the weather any particular area has got (or is thought to be having.) Take Scotland, for example - most people will be associating one word here: RAIN. Yes, it rains a lot in Scotland but -after having spent a year there - I wouldn't say rain is the archetypal Scottish weather. In my books it is WIND. Whether it's sunny, or rainy, or just grey - one thing is empirically guaranteed: It will be windy. Yet RAIN will remain the salient first association when it comes to Scottish weather. Why? Because it goes with the complex image we all carry around with us: Cosy darkening afternoons with a cup of tea, a glowing fire, tartan blanket at the ready and a Victorian novel whilst the rain is lashing against the window pane. A nasty, bitingly cold wind when you walk up the Lothian Road? Not on anybody's favourite mental map of Sotland.
Or take Munich. At least within Germany, that's a town firmly associated with sunshine. Long hot summers, lasting well into the Oktoberfest season. Endless blue skies where you go rambling or rock-climbing in the neighbouring Alps. Or jump into one of the many lakes... tanned people frolicking in the Bavarian sunshine. The truth? There is more rain in Munich than in the allegedly perma-rained on northern town of Hamburg!
So what I'm trying to illustrate is that there is a real and actual weather - and then there's a weather of the mind: Psycho-Metereology. We have something in our mind, and stick a label on the object - regardless of the reality.
Another example is Paris - I noticed that it's an absolute trope amongst Americans to say how ever much they love "the city of light", it seems to get so much rain. I've been to Paris scores of times, but never noticed anything untoward about its weather. It seems to be standard central/Western European to me. So again, one's perceptions colour one's belief-structure. There are no absolutes - and people's preconceptions about the weather they associate with a particular place illustrate this beautifully.