Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cross Cultural Climate Confusion

After my brain blurt here, a couple of the comments precipitated a thought in my head: it is a rather elusive notion that’s come to me several times in Bangkok, but I’ve never stopped long enough to pin it down. Sheepish said: “And thinking about Christmas already oh dear, is it really only 7 weeks away?” And Angie asked: “Can you believe [Christmas is] sneaking up already?!”

Well, no, actually, I can’t.

I’ve had this problem since arriving here: I never know where I am in the year. I mean, instinctively I don’t have a sense of time of the year. I have to think consciously ‘which month is this?’ This didn’t happen to me in the UK – I always just knew roughly what month it was. I’ve tried to work out what it is that grounded me in a sense of time and place and all I can deduce is that it’s down to climate: the seasonal variation that I knew in the UK, gave me an awareness of where in the calendar year I was.

I worried slightly about moving to a place with no distinct seasons. No seasons that I, as a Brit, understand anyway. Thailand does have seasons: the three seasons are ‘hot’, ‘really hot’ and ‘hot and wet’ – that’s the technical explanation, anyway. But these seasons aren’t sufficiently different to give you an intuitive sense of where you are in the year.

The visual stimulus in the materialistic world also gives us the idea that Christmas is approaching, or Easter is on its way, but those visual triggers occur in Bangkok too, (see the Halloween mall pictures) and I still have no intrinsic sense of whether it’s May, August or December. Perhaps it’s the lack of crocuses, daffodils or bluebells in my natural environment?

We live less than ever in a life that’s dictated to by the seasons. We can buy strawberries all year round and even the seasons themselves are blurry thanks to global warming, but perhaps I am more in tune with nature than I realised.


Pacha said...

Husband is used to hot Christmas'. Which is bizarre because in Argentina you still decorate trees with tinsel, fake snow and have a Father Christmas' in thick clothing. Obviously, of course, thats the way it is! But it doesn't make sense to me since in Argentina you need to be naked to be able to survive the summer (and just seeing a Father Chrismas doll in all his gear makes you sweat buckets)!

Husband has been in Europe now for 5 years and he still says that it doesn't feel right having a cold Christmas!

I imagine that there are some things you will never completely get used to!

hellojed said...

Interesting post - I never thought about how weird it would be to live in a country with no cold. It's feeling very 'Christmassy' in Dublin at the moment - days are getting shorter and the temperature has dropped.

Angie said...

I've had a similar experience since I moved to California where we do get changing seasons, but they are so mild compared to my native Oregon, that I feel 'lost' in the year as well (e.g., oranges growing on trees in Dec?). I can only imagine how that feeling would be compounded somewhere like Thailand with less distinct seasons and cultural differences.

Rebecca said...

it's funny because in Australia christmas is hot - but we get all these wintery Christmas images from the media - movies with snow and snowmen etc etc - and we often have a big HOT baked lunch on christmas day. (although it's becoming more common to have something more weather-appropriate!!)

And so when I spent a Christmas in London once the cold felt completely 'right'.

JJ said...

Pacha, you may be right about never getting used to certain things... I just wish my subconcious would know what time of year it is. The Thais decorate Christmas in the same way as the Argentinians then - fake snow, snowmen, etc, all in the baking heat!

Hellojed, well, I didn't know if it would make a blind bit of sense to anyone, but maybe I'm not the only one out there who's confused! I'm envious of the Christmassy atmosphere in Dublin, though.

Angie, as a Brit, your comment blows my mind away too. How can one country have such a variation in its climate? Madness.

Oh goodness, Rebecca, another experience. The cold felt 'right' because that's the message you'd been getting about Christmas? But does the hot Australian one feel wrong? Or because you're used to that, is that right too?


Carol and Chris said...

I know exactly what you mean!!

It didn't really hit me till my Gran said 'The clocks go back this weekend'.....I had forgotten all about that!! She was completely bemused when I then went on to ask her what month it was

C x

JJ said...

Yeah, I didn't even get onto Mother's Day, Father's Day, Guy Faulkes Night etc. Last year I completely missed Firework Night, ha, but not Loy Kratong - I didn't miss that and I bet you didn't either! ;-)


Carol and Chris said...

Nope and it was absolutely fab!!

C x

Angie said...

JJ, your comment made me laugh. When I traveled in Britain, I was amazed how quickly we could traverse a whole country by train in one day...I discovered Oregon is about the size of the British Isles...that explains it then!