Let’s Talk About The Weather – How Weather Affects The Immigrant’s Way Of Life

For an American “southern boy” who has developed a serious allergy to heat and humidity, moving to Ireland has been a godsend.  To say that the Irish look at me like my head is on fire when I tell them I love their weather is a gross understatement.  Nevertheless, they do, when I do.  Looking back on it, I’d have to say that the weather has had a far greater impact on our “immigrant experience” than I ever imagined possible.  And, I’d say that anyone moving overseas is well advised to do their research, and, if possible, make that oh-so-important scouting trip to experience local conditions firsthand.

Everyone knows that Ireland is wet.  It’s cold, rainy, and damp.  Then again, that’s why it’s so green.  That part of the weather is obvious, clear, and well established.  What people fail to tell you about Irish weather is that it’s really windy too.  Perhaps it’s like the mythical giant man-eating rats in South America that Tim Cahill (one of my travel writing heroes) refers to – they’re so obvious and well established that no one thinks to warn you about them.  Regardless, it’s safe to say that the wind in Ireland blindsided me, and meant that our May 2011 scouting trip was a decidedly underdressed affair.  Then again, underplaying the weather seems to be a favorite Irish past time.

The Irish attitude towards its weather is a near perfect symbol of the Irish national attitude about damn near everything.  It might be a bit rough around the edges, and can be harsh and unforgiving at times, but, by God, it’s ours, and soon enough it’ll break and turn nice again…then shite…then nice…then… Overall, the Irish tend to be upbeat (at least in public) and pessimistic at the same time, so they often think the weather is just about to turn. That said, if you catch them in a “mood” and it’s just entering the “awful season”, you’re sure to get an ear full.  But the weather in Ireland is not just mindless banter to fill the awkward silences when you meet someone on the street.

In Ireland, where the state of the weather can change in a minute, and may mean the difference between enjoying the day outside and drying your clothes for free, or being stuck indoors, and paying to run the dryer which you can ill afford, talk of the weather is serious business.  Weather here affects everything, as it does in many other places.  For that reason it must be considered carefully before deciding where to live overseas.

For anyone whose mood goes in the dumper when winter overcast rolls in, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a serious condition that should rule out countries with protracted winters.  Likewise, countries with extremes of daylight (in either direction) should be avoided, as sunlight (or the lack of it) represents a clear and present health concern.  Here in Ireland, people get tested regularly for vitamin D levels. If your levels are on the edge, they recommend mega doses.  I guess that’s how they stay so cheerful even in January.

Other areas of your life that will be affected by the weather in a new country are:

  • Heating/Cooling bills

  • Place of Work – Can you commute on public transport, walk or bike, or will you need to drive (buy a car, scooter, or motor bike)?
  • Wardrobe – Will you need new clothes, lighter/heavier, extra layers, or different work clothes?
  • Housing – Will you need a bigger house (or can you get by with less) because kids can’t/can play outside all year long?
  • Pets – Is it safe, or reasonable for children and pets to be indoor/outdoor?
  • Pest Control – Will there be more creepy crawlies, or less?
  • Allergies – If a family member is particularly prone to allergies, what are the local allergens?
  • Hobbies – There’s no outdoor tennis six months a year in Greenland.  That’s okay; you can’t see the balls outside six months a year anyway.

While these may seem like minor issues, they can all weigh on you and affect your emotions, lifestyle, and finances.  At a time when you are adjusting to a new life in a myriad of other stressful ways, the last thing you need is additional unanticipated stress.

Fortunately, this is an easy problem to dismiss. Think ahead, and plan ahead.  Visit your proposed country if you can, and check shops for clothing, etc. while you’re there.  Ask about seasonal clothing.  If you can’t visit, use the Internet to look up local shops and check their inventory online.  Become an online weather geek and check the weather in your proposed new home every day.

Do this now. You’ll have to live with it every day when you move.  Believe me, it’s better to find out now.

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:

Elections From The Other Side

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
This entry was posted in Dublin Life, Home & A Sense of Place, Immigration & Emigration, International Moving, Irish Life & Society, Modern Life, Pets and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Let’s Talk About The Weather – How Weather Affects The Immigrant’s Way Of Life

  1. Fin says:

    Ha! I’m Irish and have to say you’ve summed up the weather pretty well. Though I wouldn’t have said it was all that windy… Certainly windy days, but wouldn’t have called it a windy country.
    Anyway, I cycle to work nearly every day (in Dublin) 6km each way. It’s very rarely that I get wet, though I never go without wet gear.
    And who are these Irish that get tested regularly for Vit D levels???? I’m 39 and never heard of anyone getting tested… (Though they do recommend supplements for babies and pregnant women)
    Still enjoying the blog – keep it up!

  2. pasicalle says:

    Hello, if you’re in Dublin city centre and getting very cold, drop into the library bar upstairs in the central hotel on exchequer street for a hot port. It’s got a lovely roaring fire and is easily one of the nicest places to while a way an evening in Dublin. Just don’t get too relaxed there…you might fall asleep

  3. usagal says:

    Whenever my fellow american friends ask me if they can come visit me.. I warn them about the irish weather. My advice to them is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst ! One minute sunny and clear 2.5 seconds later a monsoon !! It definitely keeps you on your toes and I suspect the unpredictable weather is one reason why the Irish seem so laid back when things go ” pear-shaped”.

  4. Rowena says:

    I’m planning on taking a sort of sabbatical from the US for a year. Having visited many different areas of Continental Europe, (I’m choosing Ireland. My Italian friend is going to be my eyes and ears when he travels there.)
    In terms of weather, I live in the Portland, Oregon area (Vancouver, Wa) where we get a lot of rain. Winter can bring Columbia Gorge winds and freezing ice. What concerns me about Dublin, isn’t the rain, but the wind. Naturally, it being an island, we should expect wind. And being above the 50 parallel, that wind could be brutally cold.
    My question is, just how severe is the wind? In the winter, does it bring with it ice and freezing rain? Is the wind perennial; always blowing?
    Thank you,
    rowena

    • Rowena,

      You’re absolutely right to be worried about the wind in Dublin/Ireland. That’s the one thing I was unprepared for. It’s not too brutal, but it is persistent and can get very gusty (40-50 mph). We had a protracted period ( 7-10 days) of harsh blowing wind in late January/early February 2013 that was odd even for Ireland. The wind can be strong, but it’s usually not usually ice/snow laden.

      Actually we have good friends who live in Salem, Oregon, and both my wife and I think that Ireland is a lot like Oregon ( when we’ve visited). The difference is that it get neither as cold nor as hot here as it does in Portland. We don’t get the extremes.

  5. Mary says:

    Hi Glenn,
    I started reading your posts (all of them) about 2 days ago and am almost caught up. I will be starting my Masters at UCD in the fall. The one thing that makes me nervous is deciding what clothes to pack. I live in Missouri – half the time in the north and the other half in the center. Lots of sweaters and jeans – no shorts? Any help would be appreciated.

    • Mary,

      Layers, and a good windbreaker. Nobody told us how windy it can get here. Bring the shorts anyway. Spain, Portugal, and Italy can be warm, and they’re not far away. Perfect long weekend distance.

  6. Thilo says:

    Hi Glenn,

    just catching up on your posts – great stuff. As a fellow photographer (and US expat) in Dublin, I’m surprised you didn’t mention another aspect of the weather here: it makes for a sometimes quite magical quality of light, which is a blessing for any landscape photographer. (The wind – not so much). I’ve been here for two years and am still regularly stunned by the beauty of sunsets after a stormy day, or the light in the Wicklow Mountains when the clouds move in.

  7. Rowena says:

    Pardon for the intrusion on “Ireland’s Weather,” but I couldn’t find posts on where best to rent a home. I’m using “deft.it” and hear the south side of Dublin may be suitable.
    How did you, Glenn, find a home for your family?
    My friend from Italy is visiting Dublin in May, and he needs some guidance to look at typical rentals. He won’t have a car, but would real estate agents be willing to show him a few homes, apartments, etc?
    Thanks for this great website. It’s been very helpful.
    Rowena

  8. Kevin says:

    Thanks so much for writing this blog and this article in particular. As an American who has lived in sunny Southern California / Los Angeles, the weather in Dublin and Ireland as a whole has always concerned me. Though my first and recent visit in early May was extremely fortuitous, as we had sunlight almost the entire time we were there (with a brief light drizzle).

    Again as a young working professional looking at the prospect of relocating to Dublin, this Blog is wonderfully insightful, thanks again for your hard work. Keep it up good sir!

    • Kevin,

      Thanks. I’m glad you find the blog useful.

      My greatest wish for the blog is to inspire and empower people to live outside their home country, and experience other cultures.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    The weather here is highly dependent on your location. Cork, partly due to the Gulf Stream, is much warmer than other parts, but the winds can get annoying even when the rest of the country is not as windy, but during storms (rain and snow) Cork is often spared the worst. Wicklow (mountainous area) however, gets hit pretty bad during those times. You might see kids in the southern side in their PE gear for their football practice while Wicklow is covered in snow. The midlands are probably the least windy.

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