People, more often than not it’s the British themselves, relentlessly ask why an Aussie would choose to live in London. Often an expat from Down Under meets the question with some bemusement – the culture, the travel, the career opportunities, the nightlife!
But as winter in the northern hemisphere approaches, as an expat – especially if you are one who’s already survived the dark, cold months a few times – you could be forgiven for questioning the whole enterprise yourself.
When the clocks move back an hour in late October you experience your first pre-5 o’clock sunset. Considering the sun doesn’t rise till about 7 o’clock, then get you stuck on public transport for almost an hour and perhaps you eat lunch at your desk, and then it’s dark by the time you are back on the Tube, you might get slightly depressed at having been outside during overcast daylight for all of six minutes for the whole day.
The most disheartening thing about this is the fact that it isn’t even November yet and there are at least four months of darkness ahead. By 21 December, the shortest day of the year, you wont even have eight days of sunlight at your disposal… and that is only if it is not overcast, raining or snowing on that particular day.
Always look on the bright side, right?
In Australia, September and October were my favourite months for seasonal weather. In Brisbane, it is the time of year when it is just warm enough to take a dip in the ocean, but it is not yet hot enough for to be suffering and sweltering in uncomfortable, sticky humidity. If you have survived the plight of the nesting magpies, you will be able to raise your eyes to gaze at the bright blue skies and blossoming purple jacarandas. It is a beautiful time of the year!
So, as you would expect, on the other side of the world this time of the year is almost the opposite… but strangely beautiful and intriguing in its own way. The winds bring a cool breeze and light drizzling rain that can blot out the sky in a dismal grey for days at a time. The leaves on the trees start to change and the brown, gold and orange foliage litter the streets in a swirl of dramatic colour. In stark contrast, people start to shed their summer colours and adorn drab yet fashionable autumn coats of grey, black, khaki or camel.
But what bemuses me most about autumn in the UK is, year-on-year, it seems to come as a surprise. On any given cold day people at work, in the streets, at the train station, on the Tube, mutter to each other about the weather and how cold they expect it to get in the coming months. Articles appear in papers about the coming of “the worst winter in years” and fearmongering weather experts declare that we will all be snowed-in by Christmas. The catch phrase “Winter is coming!” is dramatically declared so many times that you would think the entire city of London are descendants of the Starks. Hang on… isn’t winter is an annual occurrence? Didn’t the same thing happen approximately 12 months ago?
Guess what, dear reader…all over the city there are clues of what is to come. Carved pumpkins with gruesome faces are appearing on doorsteps. Broken umbrella debris clutter rubbish bins and the sidewalks like crumpled metal spiders doused in bug spray. Colleagues are organising trips home to see their families and mini- breaks to recover from them. Stores are already decorating with Christmas lights and trees, preparing us for gift buying, overindulging and overspending. Emails from management about expected behaviour at this year’s office Christmas party are being ignored. Gloves, hats, beanies and thick coats are being pulled out of storage and dusted off.
Winter also means we feel better about treating ourselves to mouth watering hot dishes, stews and comfort food that are not calorie friendly. Delicious mulled wine and cinnamon flavoured ciders are creeping back on to menus in bars all over town and the ice rinks are taking bookings.
When you put it like that, winter doesn’t sound all that bad, does it?
But don’t be surprised. The days will be dark… the nights will be cold… winter is coming.
Read more of Jacquie’s experiences as an Aussie expat in the UK:
Also visit her website www.neverendinghoneymoon.net
IMAGE: By Bikeworldtravel via Shutterstock.com