Why do Brits talk about the weather so much?

Why do Brits talk about the weather so much?

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More than nine in 10 Brits have talked about the weather in the last six hours. But is this unusual – and if so, is it their culture or the climate that makes them so obsessed?

The weather – and the British obsession with talking about it – has been puzzling outsiders for decades.

According to recent research, 94% of British respondents admit to having conversed about the weather in the past six hours, while 38% say they have in the past 60 minutes.

So why do the British do it? Is there something about the nation’s weather that makes it worthy of discussion, or is it simply a cultural foible? And do any other nationalities share this peculiar conversational trait?

Stormy skies

Several features of Britain’s geography make the weather the way it is: mild, changeable, and famously unpredictable.
Britain’s position at the edge of the Atlantic places it at the end of a storm track – relatively narrow zones over oceans that storms travel down, driven by the prevailing winds.

As the warm and cold air fly towards and over each other, the earth’s rotation creates cyclones – and the UK bears the tail end of them.

The Gulf Stream

Then there is the Gulf Stream, which makes the British climate milder than it should be, given its northern latitude, and the fact that the UK is made up of islands, meaning there is a lot of moisture in the air.

The variability means residents never know quite what to expect. Snow in summer? T-shirts in winter?


Coded conversation

In some situations, weather talk is an icebreaker. In others it’s used to fill awkward silences, or divert the conversation away from uncomfortable topics. Often it’s an excuse for a good old grumble, which can be a bonding experience in itself, but we can also use weather speak to gauge other people’s moods.


But there are certain unwritten rules that the British follow when conducting these weather-related conversations. Firstly, the topic will almost always be introduced as a form of question, even if only in the intonation. Secondly, the person answering must agree. Or at least if you disagree, you have to express it in terms of a sort of personal foible.

Positive or negative?

Of course, these kinds of purely social conversations also occur in other cultures. But both the nature of the conversation – and their content – will vary. Experts in language and impoliteness explain that in every culture, individuals tread a delicate balance. On the one hand, they want approval by other members of society and to forge closer bonds with others. On the other, they desire to be autonomous and left alone.

When it comes to small talk, countries that privilege positive face will choose personal topics, such as someone’s age, weight or what they do for a living, as an appropriate icebreaker. That explains why people from some cultures – including the Middle East, China, Southeast Asia, South America and the United States – will ask questions that British people might find rude at worst or a tad forward at best.

A country like Britain, on the other hand, will choose a safe and personally unobtrusive topic – such as the weather.
The Swiss and Finns, though, are not quite as obsessed, possibly because there’s less to talk about. In Finland, for example, you can bond with people simply by sitting and drinking with them; you don’t even have to talk much.

In Britain, on the other hand, we can be wrapped up against the elements on Saturday; picnicking in shorts and t-shirt on Sunday; and battling torrential rain on Monday. That’s just the way it is here.

Cold, isn’t it?

Source: BBC

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