It really isn’t that bad. In fact when it comes down to it, it can actually be great. The weather in Germany, that is. After all, the German Weather Service counted 1,600 hours of sunshine on average in 2014. Arkona on Rügen Island in the Baltic Sea even managed as many as 2,030 hours, so it can easily compete with the sunny and mild climate of Lake Garda. And then there was this summer of 2015: for weeks the sun was shining as though we were on the shores of the Adriatic or on Elafonissi beach. Weather that would be proudly signing autographs if we weren’t in Germany. Here, people didn’t enjoy all that sun on principle; instead of being grateful they preferred to complain whenever they could. “Too hot!”, “too dry!” – to say nothing of all the mosquitoes and wasps that multiplied so quickly in the heat. However hard the weather tried, it was the same old story: one big moaning match. Because if you listen to people talk there’s always something wrong with the weather. No matter how good it is: “We could have a barbecue if it was a bit warmer.” “Christmas isn’t Christmas” if it doesn’t snow precisely on 24th December. “We could do with some more rain for the garden” – but only at night, of course, when it doesn’t bother us so much. Even if it only rains three times in six weeks, people say it’s a “typical German summer!”
It seems that, as a matter of principle, the climate just can’t get it right – except as a great source of conversation. At least 70 percent of all small talk revolves around what the weather isn’t doing at the moment – and we find few things more interesting than wondering what the weather will be like tomorrow. So the weather forecast on German television is always the 60 seconds that gets the best viewer ratings: up to ten million people watch the TV weather map every evening to stock up with ammunition for the never-ending round of complaints. You might almost think we were all still living in trees and urgently needed to know whether we might get blown off our branch by a storm tomorrow. Instead of which we spend most of our time in insulated houses, air-conditioned offices, underground trains and shopping centres. And that’s how we want it to stay.
Which brings us to the second reason why we like to make bad-mouth the weather: so we can lazily stretch out in front of the TV set at home, rather than work off some calories in the open air by going for a cycle ride. At least 37 percent of Germans blame the weather when they say they “can’t go cycling today”. In short, we simply don’t want fantastic weather; that’s why we will never admit to it being good in any situation – no matter how great it is. Unfortunately, people who live abroad misunderstand the Germans’ weather pessimism, thinking it’s based on fact. As a result, when they come to Germany most visitors are braced for the worst, convinced they are in the middle of some extreme climate zone where you always have to expect the worst: sometimes torrential tropical rainfall, sometimes searing desert heat. But only in midsummer, of course.
In the other three seasons they seem to expect temperatures at which you could cut igloos from your breath. I once had some visitors (from Finland!) who had packed permafrost-proof underwear – in March (when it was 21° outside!) – to be on the safe side. Of course, after a few days visitors realize that the weather in Germany is far too good to complain about seriously. So then we beg them to keep this knowledge to themselves. After all, we don’t want our secret to get out. ▪
CONSTANZE KLEIS is a journalist and author who lives and works in Frankfurt am Main.