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.