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