Text read by Mary Peters

Oscar Wilde once said that people who talked about the weather had no imagination. But the British love talking about the weather? Do they lack imagination?

British weather has its reputation. It is generally mild and extremely unpredictable. Britain is an island; it is affected by the Gulf Stream and a cyclone on the east coast of Florida can influence the weather in Wales or even Scotland. So, when it comes to the weather, you never know what to expect.

Somebody came up with the statistic that 90 per cent of the British population have talked about the weather in the last 6 hours. So, over 50 million people will have talked about the weather in the six hours before you’re reading this text. It seems, being informed about this topic is critical for your next visit to the United Kingdom.

As a visitor, you are in a good position. Imagine you are at a railway station and a friendly person, standing next to you, says to you “cold, isn’t it?”. That person doesn’t even expect a full, analytical response. Just grunting in agreement will be enough.

But perhaps the other person wants to engage in conversation with you. Talking about the weather is really an icebreaker, a conversation starter. So, there are some hidden rules for you to observe.

Usually, the topic will be introduced as a question.

“Bit nippy today, isn’t it?”

You must agree, (even if you are an Eskimo and know far colder temperatures). Failing to agree is a serious breach of etiquette. If you did not, you would be seen as being discourteous. “How rude!”

The way you respond and how you respond will indicate to the conversation starter how, if at all, he or she should continue the conversation. For example, if on a hot sunny day, somebody says to you “it’s a scorcher, isn’t it?” and you say, “yes, that’s climate change for you!” the person may see you as a kindred spirit and the topic is set. If you reply with a witty sentence that makes the other person’s heart beat faster, it could lead to friendship or perhaps even love? Or, more likely, just a good smile and a good mood. Who knows?

You reply in a foreign accent gives the person another conversation developer? “Are you here for long? Where are you from? The possibilities are endless.

But, why on earth even talk to strangers? Especially in the twenty-first century? Actually, it can improve our mood, make travelling more pleasant, meet other people, improve our language skills.

So, why be so “unimaginative” as Oscar Wilde claimed and talk about the weather? Well, it is a safe topic to start with. And perhaps, there are still some of us who are not staring at a phone connected to the virtual world, oblivious to those standing next to us, in the real world, who could be even more interesting than we think.

People are, like British weather, unpredictable and full of surprises.

Lovely day today, isn’t it?

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