Sunday, June 7, 2015

Weather showdown: Alabama versus France

I have heard a lot of well-meaning French people tell me it was hot this week.  I just have to laugh.  And if my fellow American teacher is around at work, also from the hot and humid southeastern US, we happily gang up on any students and tell them, naw, this is just warm.  And pleasant.

Terrace cafés: the good weather place to be!
It just goes to show how much your perception of weather depends on where you are from.  I experienced the scorchingly hot summers of Alabama for the first 28 years of my life.  I never liked that much heat, and since my ancestors are mostly Scotch-Irish and I'm a strawberry blonde, my skin didn't like the summer either.  I can recall many a summer weather forecast from Alabama where the highs were 98-99 or over a hundred every day (between 37 and 38°C).

And then I moved to France.  The northeastern corner of France, to be precise.  This week my region made it to about 33°C or 91°F.  And it made the news.  As in the first story.  And the fact that all of France had warm sunny weather at the same time also made national news.  The next day it was stormy, because apparently this part of France can't go more than a day and a half with that much heat without exploding.  And that also made the news.

 So it's no wonder that how you speak about the weather can change depending on your culture and where you live.  Here's a crash course on weather chat in France versus Alabama.

Describing heat:
Alabama-speak: "Hot enough for ya?"
Like most Americans, we Alabamians like a little saracasm and teasing.  That's why on a particularly hot day you'll hear this friendly jibe. 

French-speak: "Il faut trop chaud d'un coup." (It's too hot all of a sudden.)
The French are very practical sometimes. Too practical.  You're having a nice warm day and they start saying it's too hot for the season and it won't last long ("Ca ne va pas durer").  Come on, people, let me bask in the warmth!
Dressed for extreme heat in France?

Describing extreme heat:
Alabama-speak: "It's a scorcher out there."
We have so many great words for hot weather. One of my English teaching podcasts (Real Deal English) even goes over all these words, like "sizzling".

French-speak: "Il (ne) fait pas froid." (It's not cold.)
Ah, the French love understatement.  Instead of saying, it's hot (which they do say, too), they like this subtle mind trick. This phrase would usually be accompanied with an exasperated look and maybe a "pheww!" sound.
Describing upcoming rain:
Alabama-speak: "Ah, thank God it's gonna rain this afternoon!"
After a "scorcher" (over 98°F/37°C), we look forward to those "pop-up" storms on a summer afternoon to cool things down. 

French-speak: "Ca va claquer. Il va faire de l'orage." (We're going to have a thunderstorm.)
I was just getting my warm on (91°F/31°C), and once again the French like to rain on my parade, literally. It's warm and pleasant, and they're already anticipating a storm.  And the worst thing is, they're usually right about that forecast.

Describing pleasant weather:
Alabama-speak: "Football weather is around the corner."
In Alabama at the end of summer when we dip under 24°C/75°F, we start thinking about the fall and tailgating (barbecues out of the back of your car).  Ok, not me, but other Alabamians say this.  It signals the start of fall and temperatures you can breathe in.  

French-speak: "Ca fait du bien. On profite." (This feels good. We're enjoying it.)
For the French, those same temps, 24°C/75°F, combined with sun, means it's time to get out the garden chair and relax or head to the beach (before that storm comes!).
20°C/68°F in France at noon. Break out the shorts!

At any rate, today was a pleasant day (24°C/75°F) with fluffy clouds and a light breeze.  Hope it was a nice one for you, too.  As my favorite group Crowded House said, "everywhere you go/you always take the weather with you."

What expressions do you have in your country or region about the weather?


Jenenz said...

The weather is a big thing in San Francisco, especially with our micro climates in a 7 x 7 mile area. Summer in San Francisco means foggy cold Julys on the west side of SF, while sun and warm weather on the east side. I can't thing of a saying, but, I will offer that we have @KarltheFog on Twitter. If you want to know about SF weather, follow @KarlTheFog.

Unknown said...

Ha, this could have been describing England vs Canada :p I don't know how I will cope to go back to a British summer!

Lindle said...

Ahhhh, how I long for the French "summer heat." Divine compared to what we swelter under here in Alabama. I recall having to wear a sweater in August.

As for expressions that describe the heat, you know we often hear (and have seen demonstrated on TV) that "It's hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk."

And then, of course, "It's not the heat. It's the humidity!"