Brits seem to love nothing more than to complain about the rain. It seems to almost be a national pastime to moan about the wet and drizzling weather, but are they missing the point?
Yes, it’s true and there is no denying it. It rains a lot in the UK. The summers are short and briefly sunny and they are often filled with intermittent showers. The winters are grey and dreary and going outside always leaves you feeling damp and chilly. Mornings are misty and cool and evenings are accompanied by a steady rhythm of raindrops tapping on the roof.
From the sounds of all the complaining, it seems that many British people would love nothing more than to simply float the entire landmass of the British Isles out into the Atlantic and down into a latitude closer to the equator, perhaps on the same level as Spain or Portugal. Since they can’t do this, instead some Britons attempt to recreate the UK in their favorite Southern European holiday spots so that they can have a full English breakfast while sitting on their sun lounger in Benidorm.
If the UK did have a hot and sunny Mediterranean or Tropical climate, would it be the same? I’d argue that the weather is an absolutely essential part of the UK that we know and love. Without its particular climate, Great Britain would be so different it would be almost unrecognizable and it would lose many of the things that make it great.
What could be better than a steaming hot steak and kidney pie smothered in gravy and slathered in mushy peas? Or perhaps a warm and comforting Shepard’s Pie with a side of mashed potatoes?
If the UK were located in a hot climate zone, forget it. These recipes would not have even been invented.
When you look at the cuisines of different countries around the world, you tend to notice a trend. The food from countries with cooler climates is generally hearty, filling and bland and the food from hot climates is usually lighter and spicier.
There is of course a reason that the cuisine of the world evolved this way. As Lee and I have noticed when traveling in Southeast Asia, when the climate is hot you tend to crave fresh fruit and light meals because a heavy meal would make you feel uncomfortable. Also, the spices in the food cause you to sweat which cools your body down. People in tropical countries have learned over the years that spices make the food safer to eat because they kill the bacteria which grow faster in hot humid environments. If Britain were hotter, you can bet that the traditional cuisine would consist of fiery hot dishes and perhaps some tropical fruit for dessert.
In contrast, cultures from colder climates have developed recipes which are hearty, starchy and filling in order to warm them up from the inside out on a cold night and give them the energy they need to survive the dreary winter. And of course, what could be more British than a cup of tea, a drink which is perfect for warming your bones on a chilly day?
So next time you dig in to a glorious meat and potato pie from your local chippy, you can thank the rain for the pleasure.
The Green Countryside
William Blake described England as a “green and pleasant land” and it certainly is. Take a train through the countryside and you will see acre upon acre of verdant farmland and rolling hills. The bright green color of lush grass is truly something to behold. The entirety of the British Isles would look completely different in terrain if it were in a hotter climate.
Across the North Sea, Ireland also has a similar climate to the UK. The Shamrock, or the three leaved clover, is known as the symbol of Ireland and was used by St. Patrick as a metaphor for the Christian Trinity. Clover is a cool season crop and it thrives in wet and rainy climates. What would be symbol of Ireland be if it were in a hot climate? Wouldn’t it be strange if Saint Patrick’s day festivities featured hibiscus flowers or palm tree leaves instead?
Food and landscapes are not the only factor which would have been different in a perpetually sunny Britain. The architecture would have been completely different as well.
For example, picture the traditional British pub, housed in a old timbered building with thick rafter beams and featuring an enormous hearth with a fire crackling within it. These places were designed to offer a warm and welcoming respite from the dreary chill outside, which is what gives them their comforting feeling. In tropical Britain, the tradition would be less of drinking a pint of ale in a cozy pub and more like sitting on an open-air terrace sipping a light cocktail with a slice of fresh fruit. Lovely, but not the same.
Would the UK be the same with thatched-roof wooden huts, open-walled longhouses or even white-washed Portuguese style homes with large shaded porches rather than brick terraced houses, stone castles and wonderful old pubs?
Literature and Culture
The dreary wet climate is also so intrinsically woven into some of the best literature and other cultural works of Great Britain that it would not be the same without it.
Could you imagine the spooky and atmospheric mysteries of Sherlock Holmes taking place in a hot and sunny Mediterranean climate? The Emily Bronte novel Wuthering Heights almost makes a character out of the harsh and isolated Yorkshire moors of Northern England with their bleak, dark and misty hilltops. This barren, rain soaked and snowy landscape perfectly fits the desolate mood of the novel.
I could name many more examples of the rain and its role in British literature, but this is not English class so I won’t bore you too much.
Don’t Complain About the Rain – Embrace It
I know that after reading this, British people will probably still continue to complain about the rain. They can’t help it. Complaining about the rain is just as much an intrinsic part of British culture as the rain is. I guess it just drives me crazy when I hear people complaining about a country that I love so much.
Yes the rain might be depressing sometimes, but imagine the UK without cozy pubs, hearty meat pies, castles with big fireplaces, dark and brooding literature and all of the other things that people love about it. Like it or not, the UK would be completely different without the rain and the cold, so keep that in mind next time the constant drizzle is getting you down. If it is pouring outside, head to a lovely cozy pub on a hill overlooking the countryside, order a refreshing pint and a warm meat pie, sit by the fireplace, curl up with a Dickens Novel and enjoy!
(Featured Image: Regent Street, London in the rain, by Umezo KAMATA)