Author: Ian Bishop
Now, I’m English. No people in the world talk about the weather as much as the English. That’s because we have so very much of it. In fact, look at the word I used. Other countries, regions, people talk about “climate”. England has “weather”. “Climate” implies an unchanging, or slowly changing set of conditions. “Weather” implies rapid change, unpredictability.
One reason why Britain, especially England, pioneered short-haul package holidays back in the 1950s was a serious need for sun and warmth for a few uninterrupted days every year. We loved, and still do love to head off to Spain, France, Turkey, or indeed anywhere with “climate”. Anywhere we can guarantee a week or so of uninterrupted warmth and sunshine.
Unfortunately, so great is the demand for holidays in the sun that we British tend to flood en masse to seaside holiday resorts where we spend all our time among other Brits, eating (mostly) British food, and getting (often) badly burned by the sun to which we are (largely) unaccustomed!
The reason why Britain seems to have such an obsession with the sun is easy to see when you look at a map of the world. First, we’re perched out on the western edge of Europe, exposed to the gales of the North Atlantic Ocean. Secondly, look how far north we are. London is in the deep south of England, and sits just above the 51o line of latitude. That’s a lot further north than Hokkaido, Japan’s northern main island, where they get monstrous snowfalls. It’s north of everywhere in the USA. The only reason why Britain doesn’t freeze in winter is that Atlantic currents bring warm water up from the Gulf of Mexico, and the westerly winds blow the warm air over us!
Small wonder, then, that one of the great joys of travel for a Brit is getting off a plane and feeling the heat and humidity of somewhere that enjoys “climate”. The baking dry heat of Egypt, or the moist heat of Indonesia. The exquisite blending of heat, blue sky and blue sea of Greece or Turkey.
We seldom think about what it feels like to make the journey in reverse. What does someone from Asia, for example, think when he or she gets off the plane in London, Amsterdam or Berlin, in winter? The combination of very short days, long nights, cold wind, rain? It must be a real shock to someone whose only real experience of cold is when the shopping mall has the air conditioning turned up too high!
I realise that I have brought day length into the discussion. At a latitude of 51o north we in the UK get 16-17 hours of daylight in mid-summer, and it never really gets very dark. Winter is different. In December we have daylight from around 9.00am to 4.00pm.
What kind of climate, or weather, to plan for is part of the joy of travel, or maybe is one of the problems of travel, depending on your point of view. Coming from, say, Indonesia to northern Europe I guess the problems would arise mostly in the European winters, where average temperatures drop so much below what Indonesians are used to. Actually the average temperatures even in summer (June, July and August) very rarely indeed get up anywhere near Indonesian levels. And it can always rain. And the rain is cold!
For an Indonesian going to work or study abroad the weather (or climate) has to be one of the things you need to plan for. You’ll need to learn to put lots of layers of clothing on, on the colder days in northern latitudes, maybe also a hat and gloves. You will definitely need heavier shoes than you are used to, and a waterproof/windproof coat for winter. My problem coming to Indonesia is which tee shirts and lightweight trousers to pack!
Whether you are going to northern Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand to stay for a while or just to visit, it’s essential that you think about the climate area you’re visiting, and the general weather over the period of your visit. Get yourself prepared for the changing seasons, the changing temperatures, the different lengths of day and night that you’ll experience.
And if you are fortunate enough to live in Jakarta, don’t forget that there’s a team of people at AIM, in Manggarai who can help you get ready for the weather where you’re going, at the same time as they help you with your English.
Ian manages Aim for English, a Jakarta-based language training provider. He also writes articles on education, business, and technology.