Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

Weather and South African patriotism

South Africans with no stated intention of leaving South Africa will be pleased to know that the weather in Sydney has been absolutely bloody awful for the past week, and has no prospects of improvement.

Since Sunday, it’s been grey skies, persistent rain and winds strong enough to blow the crappy little umbrella I picked up from Franklins inside out. On the eighth floor of the apartment block where I live, the sound of the howling gale outside is loud enough to wake me during the night, with the result, that I stagger in a daze through the day, fantasising about caffeine drips.

As it turns out, this is unusual: the first five days of June have received more than half the average rainfall for the month. In contrast, all that Joburgers have to deal with at this time of the year is frost, while Durban is positively balmy. (Cape Town is another story; my husband tells me that London has better weather than Cape Town in winter.)

The weather matters because, well, weather, especially good weather involving sunshine, is a matter of national pride. When now sadly defunct kugel bible Style magazine started exploring the issue of emigration in the early 90s, the weather was cited as a major reason to stay in South Africa. (Other reasons included sunsets, the bush and Mrs Ball’s chutney.) I’ve lost count of the number of discussions I’ve had with people, both online and in the flesh, where the weather is listed as the number one thing they like about South Africa, and why they would never move.

I strongly suspect that the weather is the major reason that emigrants to Australia are far less likely to return to South Africa than those who move to the UK. Simply put, Australian weather is very similar to South African weather, making it less likely that South Africans will become homesick. And they do drive on the same side of the road. And speak more or less the same language. That helps too.

Prior to this week’s distinctly anglophile drizzle and leaden skies, the weather here in Sydney was beautiful: bracing mornings, mellow afternoons, brilliant winter sunshine. Very similar to Joburg, in fact, without being quite so cold at night (you’re looking at a minimum of around 8, with temperatures typically ranging from 14 to 21).

It does rain here though, as I have discovered. In fact, Sydney receives more rain than London (it’s true! It was a question in the company quiz evening a month ago). So if you live in South Africa and you encounter a friend or a relative who expresses the desire to move to Sydney, you can pass them that little nugget. Then they’ll move to Perth instead.

  • DoctorWu

    I’ve been told that the humidity levels in Sydney are Durbs-horrid.

  • Brad

    It’s good to know Sydney is getting a fair share of H20 as they have had a pretty bad drought for a good few years now.

  • Michael du Plooy

    Yeah, really looks like a Shoprite franchise!
    Mmm…what does Mr. Ackerman have up his sleave?

  • Alisdair Budd

    In the UK we have lovely gardens, due to it being wet and the most Tornadoes on average per year per square mile.

    However most SA I know go home because they cant get decent Boerewors.:

  • Immortal

    And where is thought leading in this article? Australia this! Australia that! Can’t we get someone who is going to write articles that will stimulate debate on critical issues (and there are plenty) affecting South Africa?

  • Siphiwo Qangani with kangaroos

    They said Liberal party delivered drought for 11 long years (what a popular statement), high interest rates, policies encouraging less security at work, etc.
    The awful weather you’re talking about is nothing compared to an unpredictable PE weather, at least in Sydney you can be rest assured that if cold it’d likely to stay cold throughout the day. You don’t have to carry sunglasses, flip-flops on the other hand have jacket & scarfs for the same day ride. I heard that Melbourne’s weather is as dreary as PE one.
    I asked one of my friends whether he heard such a fiery and blowy rain endures on Wednesday & Thursday nights, he said he couldn’t hear a thing because he resides just behind the airport. The noise of planes taking off and landing is as loud as was the weather, what a pity!

  • Jon

    Sydney isn’t humid like Durban, but Brisbane is. Rung around with sugar-cane fields too.

  • Jay Vincento

    Wow – fancy that …..

    A torched Toyota, rent a bit more than you really wanted to pay – and now the weather is no good for you.

    You are becoming to sound like a bloody wingeing pommie, but spluttering in Afrikaans – so why not be a good little saffer and go back to Jo’berg – where all you have to worry about is more corruption, more break and enters, more rapes, more ATM bombings, more illegal immigrants, more “xenophobic” (read racism) and more murders…..

  • Vlad

    It’s early summer here on a hot sunny sunday in provincial England. The kids are in the garden, playing in the stream. They’ve been out there all day, and we’ll probably have a hard time getting them in before it starts to get dark around 9pm…A far cry from the Cape when they were reluctant to go out of the back door after mid-morning, into the scorching sun and the howling winds.

  • mundundu

    you lot are weather wimps. try the caribbean or brazil in the summer time. let’s put it this way: there’s a reason people there have such beautiful skin. year-round high humidity [the case in the caribbean] will do that to you. i moved to cape town for the cooler, less humid, summer weather, among other reasons.

  • Really

    You should try Brisbane for all year round good weather (even though a little hot and humid in summer). More and more Australians are moving to Brisbane / Gold Coast for this reason. Whats more, you can actually swim in the sea all year round as opposed to icy cold Cape Town waters.

  • Po

    We all seem to be obsessed with weather. It seems a paltry concern compared with crime, mad politicians, lack of electricity and all the other major problems back home.

    But weather is surprisingly important, at least to me. I have terrible circulation and cannot tolerate cold. Growing up in Durbs did not help. I lived an active outdoor life in SA,climbing all over the mountains. Here in the UK I feel paralysed because I never go outside, because I get too cold and too miserable. It seems such a trivial thing, but when the sun comes out I feel ecstasy.

  • Craig

    You know you have got over the ‘weather thing’ when you find yourself going out for a walk with your wife in the grey rain and the wind, and catch yourself saying “it’s quite pleasant out isn’t it?”…and meaning it :)

  • history

    Well highest rape, murder and assault rates in the world, but at least South Africa has nice weather! The weather is always there when your looking for a positive in a negative. Perhaps that is why there is some animosity towards Australia. Australia has the lower crime rates and the nice weather. Unlike Britain (a popular haunt for Saffer expats) it cannot be dismissed as grey island. But it was the sun-drenched nation of South Africa that won the rugby world cup last year, so that can be mentioned for a little while longer too!

  • Bernard

    Yeah come to balmy Perth and experience a summer we had in 1991 with the temperature staying above 40 degrees for 10 days with an all time record of 46.9 degrees. This is even hotter than Goodhouse on the lower Orange River.Today (2008:07:06) we a minimum temperature of 2 degrees this morning.Thank goodness it was a Sunday.Here in Perth the local “Fremantle Doctor” is a quack compared to Kaapstad’s Cape Doctor.

  • Steven

    Just picking up on a few points as to why SA’s leave. First a thanks to Oz for having SA’s. Apologies for the one’s complaining about OZ!

    IMHO I think that most SA’s get home sick as they don’t have someone to do all the dirty work (Cheap Labour). Clean the house, garden etc. Perhaps they also long for the Yebo Baas and can’t face the fact that are now a small fish in a big pond.