Weather Talk


After reading “Weather Talk” in Kate Fox’s Watching the English I grew a bit skeptical of her claims on the unusual extent to which people in England talk about the weather. I’m from Houston where people talk (or rather complain) about the weather at least as much as people talk about the weather here in London. People in Houston are constantly complaining about the heat- during the summer it can easily get over 100 degrees, and it was even 90 degrees on Christmas this year. People in Houston also complain about the rain- it might not rain as constantly throughout the day as it does here in London; however, torrential down pouring is common in Houston. Both this summer and last summer Houston has suffered from flash flooding. I’ve been in Europe and haven’t been home yet this summer; however, I have seen many snap chats and pictures of friends from home in inner tubes floating down their streets that have turned into rivers due to the immense amount of rain.

I didn’t understand how “weather talk” in London was different from anywhere else until this past week. While people complain about the weather a lot in Houston, it does not serve the same social function that it does here in England. A few days ago at work my boss had a guest in to interview for the video portion of the company’s website. His cameraman used me as a stand-in to test the camera angles, and he also asked me to test out the sound equipment. Handing me one of the microphones on set, he told me to “start talking.” I stood there awkwardly for a few seconds holding the microphone in my hand unsure of what to immediately start talking about. The cameraman could tell I was caught off guard and saved me from my awkward silence my jumping into conversation about the weather despite the fact that the weather that day was only slightly drizzly- nothing out of the ordinary for a summer afternoon in London. As Kate Fox discusses in Watching the English, the English use the weather as a conversation starter. They jump to talking about the weather in those awkward lulls in conversation, just like the cameraman did with me. The next morning on my walk to work from the tube station, I ran into my boss on the street. We were forced to make awkward small talk with each other, and my boss immediately delved into conversation about the weather, further reinforcing Kate Fox’s claim that the English use the weather as a conversation starter. So while the English might complain about the weather to a similar extent as many other cultures, I have come to realize the distinctive social purpose that it serves here in England.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

  • I also assumed Kate Fox exaggerated the amount people talked about the weather here because people complain about the heat and humidity just as much in Atlanta. I agree with you that the difference is the social reason people discuss it here. At home people complain about the weather because the damp, humid air and lack of breeze that drenches us all in sweat the minute we leave our house. We all crank our AC to near freezing temperatures once May hits, so it is only natural to complain about this unifying torture.
    Here, the weather serves more as a conversation opener or way to avoid awkward silences. My job forces me to meet new people weekly, so I have caught myself commenting on the weather much more than I used to. It also is an easy go to conversation opener because anyone can talk about it. Working with people ranging from age 3-60, I have to find something to talk about with all of them and often I start with the weather.

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