You are looking at archived content. The hot new stuff is happening at Veerle's blog 3.0. You should check it out!

Apr 22

Is it a global conversation starter?

2005 at 01.13 am posted by Veerle Pieters

The last days a thought crossed my mind about conversation topics in shops. Don’t know how it is where you are living but here in Belgium not all shopping is done in large outlets.

We have a lot of little shops where you can buy meat, bread, groceries etc. While waiting my turn I’ve noticed that almost 90% of the time people talk about the weather. So I can imagine that the owner must know a lot about it since he hears it several times a day :-)

Now on to my question that has been in my head for the last day or two. Is this a global thingy? I’m asking because I have a hard time picturing such conversation in a country where the sun always shines. Let’s say that we have a rather bizarre climate, for example 2 weekends ago I woke up in a snowed landscape. And the week before we had a light summer breeze. So plenty to talk about! A light topic to get into the weekend ;-)




permalink this comment Matthew Pennell Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 02.12 am

According to the ‘Building Relationships’ course I did a few years ago, yes it is. Apparently there are three stages to building a relationship, and they apply even in the very short-term relationship you have with the person standing next to you in the queue.

Stage 1 is formal, where you talk about the weather and the traffic - subjects that cannot cause offence and that everyone will know about.

Stage 2 is then more personal; and Stage 3 is religion and politics. ;)



permalink this comment Lance Willett Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 02.13 am

Believe it or not, even in a place where we have 360 days of sunshine a year the weather is the main topic of conversation.  With strangers in line at a store, with colleagues, anything.  Here in Arizona the conversation goes about like this:
“Wow, it’s hot out!”
“Yeah, but at least there’s a breeze”.
“Hope it rains sometime soon.”
So, don’t worry, I think it is a universal topic, especially in climates where the weather changes a lot and often.



permalink this comment VeRtigO Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 02.18 am

Hi Veerle, Im from the Canary Islands. Well, here the weather never change dramatically, but you can figure out that people when go shopping always talk about weather. I think this is a ice-breaking strategy for start a conversation about something.



permalink this comment MichaelD Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 02.23 am

Being Belgian too, I’d have to agree with your observations, of course.
What I’ve noticed over the years is that -more and more- people don’t start TALKING about the weather as such - they start COMPLAINING about it!
It’s either too hot, too wet, too cold, too ANYTHING… just never quite the way they want it…



permalink this comment Simon Davies Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 02.23 am

I’m in the UK, and this is slightly off-topic but I thought this was worthy of a mention!

I’m getting fed up of old ladies in the bus stops waiting for a bus moaning about how long the buses take, how crap the weather is and all of the other small talk moaning stuff.

“ooooh, me luvvvver, why don’t they just get some more drivers…”

Also, very off-topic, anyone done the Pixel Triva competition over at Firewheel Design ? Some taxing questions seeing as I’m not a mac-man.



permalink this comment Zakky Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 02.36 am

Hey Veerle..

I come from Indonesia, where there are only two weathers there. Raining or not raining. And yes, weather talk is still goin on there. For example,

“Why is it so cold?” (By cold it means 20-25 °C, LOL)
“Because there was a heavy rain last night..”
“Wow, I must have been sound asleep. Because I didnt notice it.”

And later on the day, the rain talk will come up once or twice.

But for me, weather talk in Indonesia is boring. Because as I told you before, there are only raining and not raining. :D Unlike here in Germany where I had raining, snowing, storming, windy, sunny, cloudy, etc. etc.

So I think weather talk is going on everywhere eventhough maybe in some places it is more interesting than others. It is a safe topic where you know that the person that you are talking to understand, and had experienced it. Unlike politics, for example. Whoops, Matthew had wrapped it up.



permalink this comment Vaken Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 02.44 am

I’m from Belgium too, but being a radio-amateur and thus being able to talk to people from almost everywhere on this planet, I can say that, apart from the technical chats, the main topic is the weather (the WX in our vocabulary ; this abbreviation comes from the morse talks).



permalink this comment lazymouse Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 03.21 am

All I can say is that the weather has been nice and sunny here since Monday (Of course it was wet and miserable on Sunday) and it must be Friday today because they are forecasting wet weather tomorrow, so it must be Saturday tomorrow!!

Never mind, cos it’ll be fine on Monday, just in time for the working week again!

AAAAGGHH NowI’m moaning about the weather, UK style, see what you’ve done now! :¬(



permalink this comment Dave Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 03.54 am

Yes, very universal. I live in Erie PA, USA. We’re on the south shores of Lake Erie. Shallowest great lake and prone to lake effect snows. I think we average over 120 inches of snow and over 250 cloudy days a year.

I always thought weather was a subject here because of the comraderie angle… we all have to suffer through it!



permalink this comment Colly Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 04.14 am

Ah, it drives me mad. The British are definitely obsessed with the weather.

On one hand, it’s a nice conversation starter, but then again, I just don’t get it.

“Hello mate, nice weather.”
“Is it? I hadn’t noticed at all. I am a cyborg from planet Brerp and thus cannot see or feel. I had no idea it was a nice day. (Pause) Oh actually, yes I had noticed. Infact, I KNOW IT’S A NICE DAY. I HAVE EYES AND UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUNNY AND RAINY, COLD AND HOT. SHUT THE F*** UP AND TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE PLEASE!!!!”

Obviously, I usually just politely agree with whatever the other person says about the weather. Nobody likes an angry person.



permalink this comment Raven Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 05.01 am

Normal conversations about the weather have turned into moaning/whining/complaining sessions. People start with the weather and before you know it, they don’t like the government, the Pope, Bush, Postal Service is always late, buses and subways are crowded, all other drivers are bad, etc. We are becoming a self-centered complaining society. Where have all the nice people gone ? Oops, now I’m complaining…



permalink this comment seba 909 Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 05.14 am

Maybe we can talk about design matters or something while waiting for our minced meat or pork chops? It would be cool don’t you think?



permalink this comment Eileen Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 05.56 am

We have four seasons which don’t always behave as expected.  We live by the phrase, “If you don’t like the weather in New England…wait a minute.”

Yes, weather is a big topic here.

I sometimes wonder what it will be like when I’m 80 and am still having the same conversation, saying the same things and recalling the “Big Storm of ‘O5.”



permalink this comment Peter Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 06.53 am

Reminds me of some articles on social networking, focused on the idea that people don’t get together for the sake of it. They get together because they share common material bonds due to shared lifestyle patterns. Living in the same region produces one of the most common bonds, an experience with the environment. It’s always something to relate to, at the most basic level.



permalink this comment j.D. Myers Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 07.03 am

Being from the Washington, DC are, I mostly get weather and traffic conversations while waiting in line. Unless I have my 1 year old with me and then people seem to comment on him and I can avoid the weather.



permalink this comment Rafal Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 07.41 am

Hi, man is it nice outside today, I heard it will be 24 degrees, can’t wait…

Recently I don’t talk about the weather when meeting people. Why? Because it’s too short of a talk, like how long can you talk about it. Rainy or not rainy, sunny or not sunny, warm or cold, etc. What I do is I started talking about the news. I just ask have you heard about this and that, and if they haven’t and it’s something interesting I just tell them about it. Then they look at me funny and I ask them what did you hear today?



permalink this comment nikki Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 07.48 am

You guys have all got it easy! At least, if you’re lucky, it’s just a converstion starter and then you can move onto something else.

3 years ago I innocently began an art project on the subject of the weather [imaginitively called theweatherproject - guess I excelled in my creative skills there then ;) ] but it went on to mutate into this all-consuming Big Thing that, for some reason, people continued to want to get involved with.

Suffice to say that I now get things like home weather stations for birthday presents; am known as Nikki-who-does-the-jars; and, yes, somehow people just want to keep on talking about the weather!




permalink this comment Ben Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 08.37 am

Interesting isn’t it.

We have a saying here in Montana:  “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes!”



permalink this comment Kim Siever Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 08.52 am

Ben, your northern neighbours have the same saying. :) I’m from Lethbridge, and people say that all the time here.

It’s 20°C right now, but two weeks ago we had a freak snow storm. I rode my bike to work and had to ride home in the snow.



permalink this comment AkaXakA Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 09.19 am

Yes. Weather is indeed an universal subject.

Traffic is a good runner up though..especially in a country with a lot of congestion.



permalink this comment Tim Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 09.20 am

“It is commonly observed, that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather; they are in haste to tell each other, what each must already know, that it is hot or cold, bright or cloudy, windy or calm.”

—Samuel Johnson



permalink this comment John Athayde Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 11.21 am

Washington DC is the anti-climate. It’s what happens when you build a city on a swamp. But certain vendors ALWAYS say something abotu the weather. Not sure why. I just say “uh huh” a lot.

But I never notice it when i’m out in LA. Probably because it’s always sunny.



permalink this comment Thun Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 12.20 pm

Well, I’m Dutch, and like Belgians, we always talk about the weather. It’s something everyone has to deal with and a very dynamic thing.

Todays weather was nice by the way, all sunny and stuff, no cloud in the sky, beautiful. It’s finally spring o/



permalink this comment Jackie Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 03.50 pm

...yes being from D.C., too we experience cycles that go from really hot to really cold in a matter of just a day or two.  I guess there must be something to that global warming!  It has actually been a bit too cold here this spring, though, but hopefully summer is just around the corner. 



permalink this comment Adrian Fri Apr 22, 2005 at 04.58 pm

Before moving to North-Central Wisconsin I spent nearly 12 years in the Falkland Islands. The weather was a popular topic of conversation there, most likely because there was little else. On the occasional days when the wind slowed down to gale force, people were forced to talk about other things such as Penguins, Sheep, 4X4 Vehicles and most importantly, beer! On the other 350+ days it was always “Kinda breezy today, ain’t it?” “Sorry, can’t hear you, that bloody wind is whistling in my ears! Fairly strong today isn’t it?” “Eh?”

Now I live in a place with 2 seasons: Winter and Roadworks! All through the winter, born and bred Wisconsinites (possible a made up word) love to tell me how cold it is but that it is nothing like it used to be. It is almost as if they think that I have no sense of temperature and need updating! During Roadworks they’ll discuss temperature and humidity for hours and always love to point out “Don’t worry about this heat, it will soon be winter again.”



permalink this comment Frank Amand Sat Apr 23, 2005 at 03.09 am

belgian too…

I think most of us know that weather does influence our moods, that’s something that works unconsciously. But when you say consciously to yourself “all right it’s rainy and cloudy, but I’m not gonna let it affect my mood” it really helps in feeling better.
So let’s use the weather topic as a conversation starter, but not to complain about it (like old ladies), but rather to create positive emotions :-)

especially with changing, windy weathers, I believe you can prevent irritation with e.g. your spouse, by pointing to the real culprit: the weather! :-)



permalink this comment Veerle Sat Apr 23, 2005 at 05.19 am

Waaaooow! Surprised about the fact that weather is such a global thing. Very interesting to read all those different kinds of conversations. It’s great stuff, like Zakky’s or Adrian’s comment for instance. Didn’t know Washington DC was build on a swamp. Aren’t blogs great! :-)

@Matthew Pennell, well analyzed!

@MichaelD, yes I hate when people complain like this… It’s good living here, nothing to complain about ... well ok except for the weather sometimes… But people should either shut-up or talk about something positive instead of nagging like old ladies like Simon Davis mentions ;-)

@lazymouze, LOL funny as always :-)

@Colly, again LOL! Love the sci-fi factor, love the genre… Engage! ;-)

Thanks everyone!



permalink this comment Jan Geirnaert Sat Apr 23, 2005 at 06.33 pm

Well, you seem to have gotten everybody’s interest. I am a Belgian living in Malaysia where the temparature is always between 30 and 40 degrees. The concept of summer/winter/autumn/spring is unknown here to kids below 12. We have rainseasons over here. There is a huge amount of roadstalls and “Pasa Malam” (eveningmarkets) open till about 22.00pm in the evening. Shoppingcentra are also a good place to be since window-shopping with free aircon is a favorite hobby of most Malaysians (chinese,indian,malay,others). And of course you got chinatown (in KL). Not sure what people talk about in general, since I don’t understand chinese or malay (yet).



permalink this comment nerdcool Sun Apr 24, 2005 at 05.46 pm

Wow, great topic.  Judging by the number of comments already, talking about talking about weather is an even better conversation starter.

I live in Perth, Australia.  I heard once that if you predict it will be fine every day, you will get it right more often than the local bureau of meteorology.  I hope this is more to do with the number of fine days we have than the innaccuracy of the bureau!



permalink this comment noah Tue Apr 26, 2005 at 05.30 am

Huh? I’m a belgian living in Belgium and I never talk about the weather whem I am in a shop. Am I strange now? Or is it because I wear my iPod? :-)



permalink this comment kat Wed Apr 27, 2005 at 10.40 pm

It’s great reading everyone’s different comments and experiences of the weather. Here in Adelaide, South Australia - the weather is mostly sunny and dry, but still we talk about the weather. The people in the city want it to be nice and sunny, but we still want the rain at the right times so that the farmers can produce good crops. Right now, it’s the dryest April in 88 years. Summer weather continuing right into what is supposed to be Autumn. One week until Winter, and it’s 31C. Weird. There is always much talk of El Ninio or the Greenhouse effect since our seasons started changing…



permalink this comment Brimmy Fri Apr 29, 2005 at 01.04 pm

People say we only have 2 seasons in Northern Ontario, Winter and Road Construction.



permalink this comment nikki-who-does-the-jars Sun May 1, 2005 at 07.21 am

Since it’s gone 2pm GMT on May 1st I can officially tell you the weatherproject website has now been CSS Rebooted:

It’s still a bit ropey but there’s definitely lots of weather there!

(Maybe not as much as here though; what a great response!)  :)

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.


buy something from my Amazon wishlist