Generation Emigration

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens abroad

The weather where I am

The punishing heat of an Abu Dhabi summer, the freezing cold of a Canadian winter – it’s almost enough to make you long for home, this bunch of Irish emigrants told Ciara Kenny.

Fri, Jul 6, 2012, 08:24

   

The punishing heat of an Abu Dhabi summer, the freezing cold of a Canadian winter – it’s almost enough to make you long for home, this bunch of Irish emigrants told Ciara Kenny.

Catriona Doherty taking an after-work swim in Abu Dhabi

CATRIONA DOHERTY Abu Dhabi: ‘The locals thought I was lucky to be from Ireland where it rains all the time’

I arrived here in the middle of August in 2009, and the heat hit me in the face as soon as I stepped off the plane. It was close to 50 degrees. I had chosen the hottest time of the year to come to one of the hottest places in the world.

After a while my lifestyle adapted. I would teach in the morning at the school where I worked, come home for a few hours to sleep in the afternoon, and stay up late at night.

It is more than 40 degrees here at the moment but I am now used to it. In the summer, you can’t walk anywhere because of the heat, so most people stay indoors with the air conditioning blasting. You can have everything from groceries to laundry delivered to your door.

People laugh about the “Abu Dhabi stone” but it is true – most people put on weight here because it is hard to keep active. I work as a journalist now but when I was teaching I had to wear the traditional black abaya to school. It was unbearably hot.

We only get five days of rain a year here on average, and we’ve had only one wet day in 2012. The locals love the rain, and crowd at the windows to look out at it. It rained once when I was teaching, and the students in the class ran outside and took off their shoes to jump and splash around in it. They thought I was lucky to be from Ireland where it rains all the time.

I don’t miss the rain, but I am looking forward to going back to Donegal for a visit in August to escape the heat.

John Ó'Ríordán in Toronto

JOHN Ó’RÍORDÁN Toronto: ‘Friends from home have threatened to unfriend me if I put up any more sunny pictures’

A few weeks after I arrived here with my girlfriend in May last year, the area where I work just outside Toronto was hit by a tornado. I hopped into my Mazda3 and went tornado-chasing down the streets of Burlington. I realised it probably wasn’t the best idea when I felt the whole side of the car lift up, and had to seek shelter in an Irish bar until it passed. The wind can really pick up speed on the prairies, and that tornado pulled down trees.

The summers are amazing here. The air conditioning in our apartment block failed last week because everyone was running it at full throttle. It is 38 degrees now, and with the humidity it feels even hotter.

We went camping earlier in the summer when the weather was cool, and in a few weeks we’ll take a trip up to a friend’s cottage by the lakes. There’s a speedboat moored outside with jetskis, and a dock jutting out into the water that you can jump off when it gets too hot. It is idyllic.

When I came over first I wasn’t used to it being sunny all the time. I’d wake up at the weekend, sometimes hung over from the night before, and my Irish instinct would force me out of bed early to make the most of the sunshine while it lasted. But here it lasts and lasts. Some of my friends from home have threatened to unfriend me on Facebook if I put up any more sunny pictures or mention one more time how great the barbecues are by the lake.

I’m much more active here than I was at home. I’ve bought a mountain bike, and I go kayaking and skiing. You can just throw the gear into the car and head off into the countryside after work, confident that it is not going to start to rain when you’re 10 minutes down the road.

Canadians are more active during the colder months than in the summer, when it is too hot to do anything. I had never tried snowboarding before because of the expense, but here I can grab a board, drive for 30 minutes to the nearest hill and off I go.

Beach life in California

MICHAEL STORAN California: ‘Because people spend so much time on the beach here you’d be more inclined to look after yourself physically’

When I came here in 2008 I didn’t really think I was emigrating, but I would find it very hard to ever move back to Ireland now because of the weather here and the lifestyle that goes with it.

I always played sports when I was in school but now, at 27, I don’t think I would still be as active if I had stayed at home. I play beach volleyball, rugby, tag and American football, and sometimes play cricket on the beach with my Kiwi and English friends. Most mornings before work I get up early to go to crossfit or the gym. Because people spend so much time on the beach here you’d be more inclined to look after yourself physically.

I lived on Newport Beach for a year when I arrived first. I used to go down to the sea for a surf after work, to the envy of my brother who loves to surf at home in Ireland.

I play a lot more golf out here too than I did back home. The American guys I play with say they’d love to go on a golfing trip to Ireland, but I hated playing there because it was almost guaranteed to rain half-way around the course.

Ursula Halpin at the 12 Apostles in Victoria, Australia

URSULA HALPIN Adelaide: ‘The Tulka fires of 2001 destroyed the homes of many of Caoimhe’s friends, and Black Tuesday in 2005 took the lives of nine people’

I was living in a damp cottage in Co Clare when I decided to move to Australia with my two-year-old daughter, Caoimhe, in 1998. The climate was a definite draw. We lived in the outback in Port Lincoln, and experienced several small-scale bush fires between then and 2005. The Tulka fires of 2001 destroyed the homes of many of Caoimhe’s friends over four days, and Black Tuesday in 2005 took the lives of nine people, including two of Caoimhe’s school mates. That fire was the catalyst for us to move to Adelaide, where we have lived since.

Our social life here revolves around the outdoors. When people invite friends over, it is almost always for a barbecue, and all the cafes have outdoor tables for al fresco dining. We go camping quite often, especially in spring.

Caoimhe spent her childhood in the scouts, and would be off camping or hiking every weekend, regardless of the time of year. I work at a university, and on my lunchbreak I would often go to the beach for a quick dip in the sea, which is like lukewarm tea.

Adelaide has four or five large wineries. I’ve become quite a wine snob as a result, and when family and friends visit from home I always bring them on the wine tour.

Being so far away from Ireland, it is difficult to make regular trips home, and as the years go by the homesickness gets harder to deal with. I have found myself embracing the good weather and the outdoors lifestyle here more as time goes on, to make me feel like the distance from family is worthwhile.

The first time I smelled rain after living out in the bush, I was brought straight back to Ireland in my mind. I hadn’t realised that I had missed the rain. We’re in the middle of our winter now and have had a little rain, but it is still around 15 degrees. If I could move my family out here, life would be perfect.

Andrew Tuite in Switzerland

ANDREW TUITE Zurich: ‘Kids grow up wearing hiking boots here, and almost everyone has a set of skis or a snowboard’

There’s a world of difference between the lifestyle in Switzerland and Ireland. Kids grow up wearing hiking boots here, and almost everyone has a set of skis or a snowboard for the winter months. Heavy snow falls from December to March, but it doesn’t feel that cold because there isn’t that same dampness in the air that there is during the Irish winter. I tried snowboarding for the first time when I got here in 2010 and loved it.

In Zurich we are surrounded by mountains criss-crossed by Wanderwege, an extensive network of hiking and biking trails. Mountain biking is my real passion here. I go out my front door in the morning, cycle up the hill and onto the trail at the top of the street, and ride off-road almost to the door of the office where I work. It is a 17km cycle but the scenery is stunning.

Ireland gets a lot of rain, but I think it is a difference in attitude that makes people less likely to get out and enjoy the outdoors. When Irish people see the weather closing in on a Sunday, they would be inclined to cosy in and get the fire going. The Swiss have a more pragmatic attitude, and get on with things no matter what the weather is like.

John Power in South Korea

JOHN POWER Seoul: ‘In Seoul, you can experience a temperature range of more than 50 degrees over the course of a year’

In many ways, South Korea is a place of extremes. Koreans work the most among rich nations, are the thinnest and sleep the least; they are the authors of perhaps the world’s most astonishing economic-success story, but also suffers a major suicide problem.

Aptly enough, the country’s weather, too, veers into the extreme. When it is hot, it is scorching; when it’s cold, it’s practically Arctic. In Seoul, you can experience a temperature range of more than 50 degrees over the course of a year. Summers peak at about 35 degrees and feel all the hotter due to the punishing humidity. In January, the mercury regularly drops below minus 15 degrees. In July, the infrequent rain of most of the year becomes constant. Spring, which is cool, dry and regrettably brief, brings with it cherry blossoms that colour tree-lined avenues and parks a brilliant pink. Autumn is similarly pleasant.

Koreans take pride in the variety of their county’s climate, often telling foreigners about the four “distinct” seasons. This is a common source of amusement to westerners who are rather used to the idea of four seasons.

As any Irish person knows, having four seasons doesn’t mean any of the weather is any good. I would wager that most Irish would readily swap the dark, damp days of an Irish winter for a second summer (minus the inevitable showers). But Koreans? I am not so sure. What would be distinct about that?

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