Friday, September 9, 2011

No one does a thing about, but everybody talks about....

Internationally, everyone discusses the weather.  It's that all purpose fluff topic that can be discussed with anyone, and is generally safe.  A discussion of the weather fills any lull in a conversation.  Furthermore, everyone has an opinion about it.  In France, everyone is completely confused when I explain how in the Summer it was usually about 95 degrees with 85 percent humidity, but the winter was 50 below with snow up to your armpits.  French weather, on the whole, is more regular and temperate.

Generally the climate here is what we always hear about in the Pacific Northwest.  Two winters was the coldest winter in about 10 years.  Where I was in Brittany, it never got below 20.  They never sprayed the saltwater on the roads, much less dumped sand and salt mixtures on every major highway.  It snowed twice or maybe 3 times since I've been here.  It was chaos.  Entire towns closed down.  Marseille got snow and had to beg Grenoble and Lyon to send snowplows.  All this, for about 2 inches of snow.  Summers though, are wonderful here.  It never got above about 85, outside of the day we chose to move of course.

Weather in general is a different beast here in France than in the US.  First and foremost, weather in the US is, while in France is makes or does.  In English, we would say that it is beautiful outside.  In France, il fait beau!  I still am not exactly sure how to discuss the temperature though.  In German, I just remember the standard line, wieviel grad ist es?  I have tried every approach, but I'm still unsure how to ask in France.  I always feel odd about asking.  It doesn't really matter, as Celsius was that system other people use. 

There's an elaborate system for converting between Fahrenheit and Celsius that involves dividing by 5/9ths and opening the portal to the first boss fight in Quake, but I just learned it this way.  Below zero is the approximate temperature that a baguette can be used as a weapon.  Zero to 10 degrees is when French people crack a window in their home or open a door in the lobby to smoke.  10 to 20 is when French people put on scarves.  20 to 25 French people wear decorative scarves.  25 to 38 means that you stay off any road that might possibly link to a beach, because it will be clogged.  Any higher and French people are in their houses with sparkling water and the blinds closed, because it's about too hot to move without sweating.

Another problem has always been making sure I use the right word for weather terms.  In general, when you see the weather on TV, French people call it la météo.  The forecast itself makes more sense to me as it's called la prévision.  when you're actually discussing the actual weather, though, it's "le temps."  After that, it's pretty much the same.  There's hail (grêle), snow (neige), rain (pluie), etc.  One kind of neat thing is freezing rain and sleet in English.  They are both classified as la neige fondue; melting snow.  I just think it's funny of how we look at the same thing and see it backwards.  Something I still get wrong to this day is making sure not to use pleurer (to cry or mourn) when I mean pleuvoir (to rain).  I would constantly say Il pleure (He's crying) when I meant Il pleut (It's raining).  There are other differences I'm sure I'm missing, but for now, I'll do my best to translate what I cannot change, the courage to correct myself when I can, and the wisdom to know the difference!

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